Tags: Lobbying | Reform? | Get | Serious

Lobbying Reform? Get Serious

Wednesday, 26 April 2006 12:00 AM

How dumb do they think we are?

Dumb as doorknobs is the answer when it comes to lobbying reform.

The House is about to take up a bill that is an insult to you and me and every other American who was horrified by Jack Abramoff's machinations and actually believed, even for a minute, that the scandal might lead to some real change.

Forget it.

How about this one: The bill suspends privately funded travel until Dec. 15, so everybody can take golf trips right after the election.

Are you fooled?

Supposedly, the Ethics Committee, known for doing nothing, will be thinking about coming up with recommendations, which everyone can consider when they get home from golfing in Scotland.

Or what about this? Lobbyists can't fly on corporate jets with members of Congress, but the CEO and every other corporate officer who isn't a lobbyist can.

Clever, huh? And you can still provide the plane for the politicians' convenience at a bargain fare.

Not that they would be grateful for that or anything. And that's just the beginning of the fun.

Lobbyists can't buy a steak for a member of Congress, but they can spend tens of thousands of dollars hosting an event to honor the congressman at the national party convention, or host a fund-raiser for him, or collect checks for him. Be serious. Who needs the steak?

No such thing as a free lunch. How about a free event at the next party confab?

As for gifts to members of Congress, no change in the law. Keep the giving going ...

The name of this travesty is the Lobbying Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006. It's being carried in the House by Majority Leader John Boehner and the chairman of the Rules Committee, David Dreier.

What it is, really, is the Big Lie.

Focus groups say "accountability" is big this year, so that's in the title. But this Republican baby is about maintaining the status quo, not accountability. The Senate bill was weak, but this one is just ridiculous.

Republicans are losing to Democrats on ethics issues by as much 15 to 20 points in the polls. You'd think that they'd be moved to do something about it, rather than pass a bill that insults the intelligence of the American people.

With Tom DeLay, the former majority leader, facing charges for money laundering, two of his former aides having already pled guilty to charges of corruption and former Rep. Randy (Duke) Cunningham facing an extended stay in prison for bribery, you might even think this would be one of those golden moments for reform.

Think again.

Not that Democrats are viewed in a much better light.

The fastest growing political party in America, according to poll results presented today at the Milken Global Conference by Doug Schoen of Penn, Schoen and Berland, is none of the above. Between 35 percent and 40 percent of the electorate now identifies itself as neither Democrat nor Republican, which suggests that the group we think of as swing voters is growing.

While the data points to real gains by the Democrats in the midterm elections, the public doesn't have a very high opinion of either party, or a very strong sense of where either stands. That might portend the emergence of a third party, were it not for the enormous burdens, both in terms of election laws and the financial barriers, that such a party would face.

Which may be why Republicans think that they can get away with a phony ethics bill. Maybe they figure people just don't care enough about so-called process issues, or will take the "plague on both your houses" approach of holding both parties equally culpable for the mess in Washington.

Or maybe not. The usual rule in congressional elections is that however much people may say they hate Congress - and it's a lot, this time - they still remain loyal to their local representatives. Bills like this one give voters a good reason to forsake any such loyalty. If this is the best your congressmen or women can do, then they don't deserve your vote.

They think you're a fool. Are you?

COPYRIGHT 2006 CREATORS SYNDICATE INC.

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How dumb do they think we are? Dumb as doorknobs is the answer when it comes to lobbying reform. The House is about to take up a bill that is an insult to you and me and every other American who was horrified by Jack Abramoff's machinations and actually...
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2006-00-26
Wednesday, 26 April 2006 12:00 AM
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