WHAT HAPPENED TO LOBBYIST REFORM?

When congress says it's going to reform itself, we peasants should, (a) laugh uproariously, (b) run for the hills, or (c) replace the reformers as soon as possible.

When congress says it’s going to reform itself, we peasants should, (a) laugh uproariously, (b) run for the hills, or (c) replace the reformers as soon as possible.

Before answering, let’s review the situation. Only a few weeks ago, in the wake of the scandals of supersleaze lobbyist Jack Abramoff, nearly every congress critter was hot for reform. Responding to public disgust, they howled in unison: “Clean up the corruption!” Several serious reforms were mentioned – such as an independent agency to police the relationship of lawmakers and lobbyists and an outright ban on both lobbyist-financed junkets and the use of corporate jets to ferry lawmakers around.

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As seasoned members and veteran lobbyists know, however, a bit of time will cure any reform fever. The Bushites bought them some time by having Abramoff’s trial postponed – and, sure enough, the media focus drifted, congressional interest waned, and congress’s reform packages have been watered down so much that only water remains.

For example, the call for an independent office of public integrity was killed in a senate committee. No need for outsiders to get involved in enforcing ethics, argued Republican Senator George Vionovich, for our self-policing ethics committee “is already doing those things.” Oh, yeah, George, that committee of insiders is as effective as a marshmallow firewall.

As for banning the lobbyist-paid trips and the use of corporate jets (a ride that always comes furnished with the corporation’s lobbyist) …well, that would interfere with the need for members of congress to travel outside of Washington, claimed the lobbyists. So congressional leaders, apparently unaware that commercial airlines now fly to many places, quietly dropped this reform, too.

This is Jim Hightower saying… Laughing at these so-called “reformers” can be therapeutic, but replacing them is the only effective path to change.

Sources:
“Beware of What is Sold as Reform,” The New York Times, March 8, 2006.
“2 Top Senators Seek an Agency Policing Ethics At the Capitol,” The New York Times, March 1, 2006.
“Ethics Office For Hill Rejected,” The Washington Post, March 3, 2006.

“Battling the bastards is about as much fun as you can have with your clothes on.”

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