When Club Med Freezes Over (2001)
In their styes with all their backing
They don't care what goes on around
--"Piggies," The Beatles
From today's VOA News:
Democratic leaders, such as the new Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, have put ethics and lobbying reform at the top of their legislative agenda. The first act of this new congress: a ban on gifts and meals and travel from lobbyists. They say voters sent a strong message for change after a string of mostly Republican-related scandals erupted over the last year.
Brian Pallasch is a lobbyist for the American Society of Civil Engineers, and president of the American League of Lobbyists. He says the proposed legislation is an overreaction to past abuse.
"In one sense the system is working in that we are finding people who are not following the rules and they are being punished for not following those rules. So we would focus first on the fact that you need to enforce the current rules."
But Joan Claybrook, President of Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group says ethics reform is needed. "I think that it is very important to have the robust engagement of debate that lobbying involves. What isn't good is to have lobbyists give, you know, entertainment tickets free of charge to members of Congress, to take them out to endless dinners -- $200 to $300 dinners -- and supply them, to take them on their private corporate jets to different places where they have to go to travel."
Claybrook not only supports the ban on gifts and travel but also supports the creation of an office of Public Integrity to enforce the rules, and ultimately public funding of elections to dilute the influence of large corporations in political campaigns. These issues will be considered later in the year.
Pallasch is correct only if Congress is diligent about targeting, investigating, and punishing violators. Let's take a trip down memory lane and recall just how ethics inquiries were handled by the recently ousted Republican former majority. From Bloomberg.com (11-17-04):
Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives changed their rules so that Majority Leader Tom DeLay could stay in power if he's indicted by a Texas grand jury.
The rules change is designed to protect DeLay after three of his political associates were indicted in Texas on charges related to fund-raising for state political campaigns. DeLay, a Republican from Texas, denied any wrongdoing.
On a voice vote, the House Republican Conference changed a rule that required party leaders to step down if indicted for any crime that carries a prison sentence of two or more years. Now other Republican leaders would have 30 days to review a felony indictment and make recommendations to all House Republicans about whether the person should step aside.
Obviously, cough cough, Republicans can be trusted to rigorously police themselves.
Still, I'm with Speaker Pelosi. Let's make absolutely positively sure lobbyists are not sending our legislators off on an anti extraordinary rendition weekend to Club Med. Back off Abramoff. Looks like the
Republican party ing's over.