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Gosh, that was a refreshing respite that congress took from corruption, wasn’t it?
The first thing the new Democratic-controlled congress did in January was to pass long-overdue curbs in lobbyist-paid junkets, jet-travel, tickets to sports events, and such. Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared: This will be “the most ethical congress in history.”
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That pledge didn’t even last the month of January, however, as lobbyists and lawmakers quickly found the loophole in the law. While it’s true that influence peddlers can no longer fly a congress critter on a corporate jet to a private party at the Super Bowl – lobbyists can pay $5,000 each into the lawmakers’ political committees to jet them down to the Super Bowl blowout.
So, with the glow of reformitis still on their cheeks, members of congress have been staging all sorts of creative events for lobbyists to pay for and attend, thus continuing the pay-to-schmooze corruption that we were told the new law banned. Let’s see, for $5,000, a lobbyist could hang out at Disney World with Sen. Mel Martinez, or go snowmobiling in Montana with Sen. Max Baucus. Also, Rep. Mary Bono let lobbyists join her at a Who concert for $2,500, or, for the same sum, Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones spent quality time with lobbyists for a “Manicures and Muffins” Morning event at a Washington nail salon.
My favorite is Rep. Eric Cantor. Put $2,500 in his pocket, and you’re entitled to join him for coffee four times this spring at a Capitol Hill Starbucks. Golly Eric, what do you charge for a real breakfast?
Still, the special interests are happy to pay the price – as one puts it, “I have to have some personal contact to be a lobbyist.”
This is Jim Hightower saying… This is why tinkering around the edges of lobbying reform won’t work. To stop the corruption for good, we must have publically-financed elections so congress critters don’t need lobbyists’ cash.
“Congress Finds Ways of Avoiding Lobbyist Limits,” The New York Times, February 10, 2007.