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Saturday, March 04, 2006 

Senate Rejects Independent Lobbying Oversight

Jeff Birnbaum of the Washington Post has the details here.
The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs voted 11 to 5 to defeat a proposal by its chairman, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), and its ranking Democrat, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (Conn.), that would have created an office of public integrity to toughen enforcement and combat the loss of reputation Congress has suffered after the guilty plea in January of former lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Democrats joined Republicans in killing the measure.
Interest groups on both the left and right see this move as Congress backing off its promises to get tough on ethics reform. There are many ethics bills floating around, including one from the Rules Committee. The Rules Committee bill features the following...
Another serious restriction, approved by the governmental affairs committee, would slow what has been called the revolving door between government and the K Street lobbying industry. The provision would double to two years the time during which former lawmakers and former top executive branch officials would be barred from lobbying their ex-colleagues. It would also ban -- for a year after leaving their Capitol Hill jobs -- former senior congressional staffers from lobbying anyone in the chamber in which they had worked. Currently, staff members are prohibited from lobbying only their former offices during their one-year "cooling-off period."
I really don't see this as being effective. So you've put another year between the time that former lawmakers and senior staffers go from the Hill to the lobbying firm, so what? The lobbying firm doesn't have to hire Congressman X. They can hire Congressman X's good friend. There's not much you can legislate about that. Imagine a Congressional bill that attempts to define the scope and nature of "friendship". I'm sure they'd love to give it a try though. This kind of regulation will just be expanded year after year, because firms can always take advantage of degrees of association and friendship. Any sort of office or agency that tries to regulate anything as expansive and nebulous as social relations is going to balloon in size and power. Also, that agency is essentially government policing itself. Once it gets captured by partisans (and it will), it's worthless yet still very costly for the taxpayers.

There is a solution to this corruption problem, but you won't find much support for it in either party (although there is a section of one party that still believes in it). You can reduce government corruption by reducing the size and power of government. You back a truckload of money up to Congress and expect them to spend it solely on necessary programs for the taxpayers? If you believe this, you probably haven't been around human beings very long.

When politicians have access to huge amounts of money and vast powers to legislate (unless the Roberts Court gets serious about Commerce Clause restrictions), they are going to abuse it. Why not take money to build an unnecessary bridge to a sparsely inhabited Alaskan island? Why not buy some buses in Atlanta? Why not buy some gym equipment for a Pennsylvania YMCA? Why not send some money to the Paper Industry International Hall of Fame right here in Wisconsin? While we're at it, the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center in San Diego could use some money too. These seem like important federal projects, don't they?

As long as Congress is given the power and the money, they'll spend it. They're going to spend it on their friends, their campaign contributors, their homestate pet projects, and anything else that they want.

I also think term limits would help. I came to the conclusion of term limits for this reason. People will always complain that we need to throw the bums out. Yet, in their inside voice they say, just not my bum. Then you need REAL representatives with some spine, not the squishy politicians we have now. What's the old saying? You get the Government you deserve?

People also need to stop looking at these government pork news stories as something to laugh at. It seems like people hear "Congress spent $250,000 for the Country Music Hall of Fame" and then think "Oh those rascals...". Nothing ever comes from it. We need to demand better.

We are in total agreement there.

Making the situation even more pathetic, now the U.S. government plans to spend $500 million to fight political corruption around the world -- and not a penny of it for corruption here. See http://ThePeacockReport.com for more.

Give them the money, and they will spend it.

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