Thursday, January 04, 2007

Congressional Ethics in the Spotlight

NY Times - Ethics Overhaul Tops the Agenda in New Congress
Democrats, who campaigned relentlessly last year on the theme of a Republican culture of corruption, introduced the proposed ethics rules as part of a week of choreography designed to deliver the message that they did not intend to do business as usual in Washington. In some cases, like restrictions on the use of corporate jets, the rules on gifts and travel by lobbyists go further than what Democrats had pledged earlier.

Another part of the Democrats’ package called for detailed disclosure of pet projects or special-interest tax benefits that individual lawmakers insert into major bills. On Wednesday, President Bush jumped into the debate on such spending projects, called earmarks, urging that their number and cost be cut in half this year, a proposal that Democrats immediately rejected.
. . .
But the ethics rules do not address the most valuable gifts that come from lobbyists and others interested in legislation: campaign donations. And the Democratic Party’s fund-raising machine — revved up by the advantages of being in the majority — continued apace this week with individual members inviting lobbyists and other contributors to a host of events.
I'm glad to see that they are at least planning to make an effort toward ethics reform. I'm not really fond of earmarks, but I'm also aware that they are an integral part of how elected officials get things done for their home states and how they get re-elected. I'm not naive enough to believe they will, or even can, ever go away. I do feel like full disclosure is a step in the right direction.

I do wish that they were more willing to do something about campaign finance reform. The problem is that no one really wants to bite the hand that feeds them. Elected officials want to get re-elected. Money makes the world go 'round. It is a sad but true fact that it is easy to criticize those in charge and say that changes should be made when you are not the ones in charge. It is much harder to actually change things once in charge, especially if it requires changing the very thing that helped you get there in the first place. That is true of campaign finance and electoral rules, and probably many other things in politics as well.

No comments: