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The Swamp


Fri, Dec 22nd, 2006
Posted in Commentary

Democrat Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker to be, promised to "drain the swamp" of ethical corruption if the Democrats captured control. They did and the back tracking by the old bulls of the party has started all ready.

Here are some quotes published in the national press, primarily The New York Times and the Washington Post. They are all from Democrats, usually powerful members of Congress.

John Murtha, soon to be the chairman of the House subcommittee on military appropriations, "ethics reform is crap".

Senator Patty Murphy, incoming chairman of the Senate transportation subcommittee was the most honest. She said (in reference to earmarks), "what's good for the goose is good for the gander."

Senator Inouye, incoming chairman of the Senate subcommittee on defense appropriations concerning earmarks and ethics reform, "I don't see any monumental changes (needed)."

Tom Harkin in blaming the Republicans for all the ethics lapses said the scandals of the 109th Congress were "about the K street project for the Republicans."

Representative Barney Franks echoing Harkin blamed the Republicans and since many were voted out of office sees no need of ethics reform said, "There is an understanding on our side the Republicans paid a price for a lot of the abuses that evolved."

Senator Diane Feinstein opposed an independent congressional ethics watch dog, "whether we need to create a new federal bureaucracy to enforce rules. I would hope not."

None of the Senators were up for reelection and the Representatives were all in safe districts. It is obvious they are looking forward just as much to the spoils of victory as they are the opportunity to enact their agenda, govern, and serve the common good of the entire country.

Ethics and ethical are defined always with the term moral. Ethics being the system of moral behavior and ethical as the adjective applied to the person of moral persuasion. It is also defined as separate from religious contexts and simply the virtue of distinguishing between right and wrong. In a perfect world we wouldn't need rules for those we elect and, if all people were moral and virtuous, rules and laws would be unnecessary. If people are not virtuous, moral and ethical rules and laws without enforcement will be useless. Hence we need new ethics rules and unbiased independent enforcement similar to the Inspector Generals of the executive branch.

The new rule should address the subject of earmarks and pork. Pork is the term for tax money given to undeserving individuals, corporations, or communities by designating in appropriations bills the amount and destination of the money (earmarked).

It is obvious the new rules must address lobbying, trips and gifts by lobbyists, and reporting contacts by lobbyists. The lobbyist, the politician, and the politician's staff should all have to report all lobbying contacts. The revolving door where defeated politicians and their staff become lobbyists and have access to congress people even in the halls of Congress must be stopped. Extend the waiting time to two years. Require immediate reporting of attempts to secure or attempted recruitment of congress people or staff to lobbying jobs.

Eliminate the floor privileges of former congress persons who become lobbyists and allow no special access to congressional members in government buildings that are not allowed the ordinary citizen.

Outlaw travel paid for by anyone other than the politician and the government itself. If a trip is important enough to make, it is important enough for payment by public funds. It is apparent looking into someone's eyes is not always the best indication of sincerity or compatibility. In this information age most information gathering can be done without tropical junkets.

Transparency is the key. All reports must be open for public viewing. All ethics investigations should be done in the open and available to all, not like the Foley ethics fiasco. The committee made a big deal meeting while others were in recess. In a Congress that had two and a half day work weeks, and not many of those, it was the only thing of which to be proud.

Earmarks should be published and available to all. The internet would be fine because bloggers and the main stream media would disseminate the information rapidly. Publication should precede action on the bills by enough time for constituents to make their interests known.

We in SE Minnesota cannot vote out the people quoted above. We have to find some way to convince them there is an end to our patience and that we know ethical means much more than just barely legal. And those who voted for change, it is incumbent on you to make sure the change is not just a change in who gets the pork and under the table perks.

Robert Sauer lives in Preston.

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