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First, the good news: in response to voter disgust with the corrupt, money-soaked ties between lobbyists and lawmakers, speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi has pledged that the new Democratic majority will deliver “the most honest, most open, and most ethical congress in history.”
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Now, the bad news: even as Pelosi was pledging, some other Democratic leaders quietly began weaseling. They’re saying, hey, ethics reform is a nice political issue… but let’s not let it get in the way of doing business. So, instead of stout reform, the initial package put forth by the Democrats is more “reform lite.” It bans members from going on lobbyist-paid junkets, taking gifts from lobbyists, and getting freebie trips aboard corporate jets. It also requires lobbyists to report all contacts with members, and it puts restrictions on former-members who become lobbyists. All good things.
But effective reform – reform with real teeth – requires an independent watchdog to enforce ethics rules and, most importantly, it requires public financing of congressional campaigns to sever the corrupt link between big money and lawmakers. This is where several of the Democrats are balking. For example, Sen. Diane Feinstein, who will chair the committee overseeing reform proposals, dismisses the idea of an independent ethics watchdog: “As to whether we need to create a new federal bureaucracy to enforce the rules,” she says, “I would hope not.”
Hope, however, is not action – and voters made it clear on November 7th that they expect action from the new Democratic majority… or else Democrats will become a minority again.
This is Jim Hightower saying… Back to the good news: nearly all of the newly elected Democrats – along with such incumbents as Senators Barack Obama and Dick Durbin – are pushing for real reform. To help push, call Common Cause: 202-833-1200.
“Democrats are divided on ethics overhaul,” Austin American-Statesman,” November 19, 2006.