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The Federal Election Commission might as well be re-named the Federal Execution Commission, for it repeatedly and ruthlessly takes election reforms down a dark hallway in its building and executes them.
The latest hit by the FEC was on a reform that the senate passed in response to the Jack Abramoff scandal. Abramoff, the ultra-sleazy ubër-lobbyist of the Bush years, used the corporate jets of his favor-seeking clients to create “Air Abramoff.” At a moment’s notice, he could provide a luxurious, super-convenient shuttle service to key lawmakers who needed a ride to fundraisers or other political events. Congress critters paid only a token amount for these VIP jet rides – during which Abramoff and other influence peddlers got invaluable private time with their grateful passengers.
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Even by Washington’s rotten ethical standards, this high-flying coziness was too stinky to defend, so senators voted in 2007 to require that any members taking a corporate ride had to pay the prohibitively-high rate for chartering the entire plane, effectively stopping the practice.
However, the FEC has now gutted this reform by autocratically and erroneously declaring that the reform law allows senators to pay only the token rate when they are traveling on behalf of party committees. You don’t have to be smarter than a senator to see that lawmakers and their lobbyist buddies could fly a 747 jumbo jet through this mammoth loophole, which makes a mockery of reform.
To have an ounce of ethical credibility, senate leaders of both parties must quickly overrule the FEC and revive the ban on accepting corrupt, cut-rate corporate travel. And, while they’re at it, lawmakers need to overhaul the FEC itself, freeing it from the iron grip of party hacks. For more information, contact Common Cause at 202-833-1200.
“Fly the Sleazy Skies,” The New York Times, November 27, 2009.