December 7

Suggestions for the incoming congress

3  comments

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Dick Morris has some pretty reasonable suggestions for the incoming congressional members. Reasonable, that is, if they want to do more than simply pay lip service to the reduction of corruption in government.
I’ve never been able to understand why it is that when agents of an American corporation give gifts, services, and even money to members of foreign government administrations it is called bribery and is punishable by fines and incarceration, yet when American corporations provide gifts, services, and money (in the guise of payments to family members) to our own members of congress, it’s called lobbying and is business as usual.
Morris would like to see it stopped. So would I. So would all the members of congress while they’re on the campaign trail. Let’s see if the new players will put their money where their mouths were prior to November 7.

If Congress Is Serious About Reform, Here’s What It Looks Like
By DICK MORRIS
December 7, 2006 — Just in case the incoming Democratic majority is serious about real ethics reform, here are a few ideas for its members to consider:
Ban spousal and family employment by campaign committees and PACs.
This is not a new phenomenon. Sen. Harry Truman hired his wife, Bess, to work on his public payroll at a $2,500 salary (this when senators were paid $10,000). Worried about media criticism, he urged her to “only just drop in and do some signing of letters. It helps all concerned.” Truman was right to be concerned. It was wrong then and it’s wrong now.
Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) opened the floodgates to the latest version of this abuse when he secured a ruling from the FEC allowing him to hire his wife as a fundraiser on his campaign payroll. In his case, his wife was an experienced campaign aide. But now 30 members have employed their wives or other family members on their campaign or PAC payrolls.
Whether these people are competent or not is beside the point. Campaign contributions are not bribes because they are not personal income. But when the campaign money flows to a spouse, the contributions become income for the member. This thinly veiled way to launder campaign contributions so that they add to the family income should be banned. Hiring of other family members should also be prohibited.
Those who have hired spouses and family members include: Reps. Richard Pombo (R-Calif.), wife and two brothers; Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), husband’s law firm; Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), wife and step-daughter; John Doolittle (R-Calif.), wife; Ralph Hall (R-Texas), daughter-in-law; Pete Stark (D-Calif.), wife; Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), wife; Ron Lewis (R-Ky.), wife; Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), wife; Jim Costa (D-Calif.), cousin; Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), wife; Dave Reichert (R-Wash.), nephew; Chris Cannon (R-Utah), three daughters; Lincoln Davis (D-Tenn.), sister-in-law and daughter; Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), wife; Tim Bishop (D-N.Y.), daughter; Bob Filner (D-Calif.), wife; J.D. Hayworth (R-Ariz.), wife; Bob Inglis (R-S.C.), wife; Elton Gallegly (R-Calif.), wife; Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.), wife; John Sweeney (R-N.Y.), wife; Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), wife; Ed Pastor (D-Ariz.), nephew; John Shadegg (R-Ariz.), son; and Howard Berman (D-Calif.), brother Michael’s political consulting firm; Sens . Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), son; and Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.), son and daughter during vice presidential race; and ex-Reps. Bob Ney (R-Ohio), wife; and Tom DeLay (R-Texas), wife and daughter.
Ban immediate family members of senators or congressmen from lobbying Congress.
An only slightly more removed form of family enrichment is the increasingly frequent hiring of the wives or children of congressmen or senators as lobbyists. House Speaker Dennis Hastert’s (R-Ill.) son, for example, closed his music business in Illinois and moved to Washington where he was eventually hired to lobby for Google. Incoming Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) son and son-in-law are lobbyists. The wife of House Republican Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) is a lobbyist who hawks for tobacco companies, one of the congressman’s biggest contributors. While legislators piously maintain that family members do not lobby them and some even bar them from communicating with their offices, their status as family members of key legislators is well known to their colleagues, who cannot avoid feeling pressure to give them special advantage.
Restore presidential power to line-item veto earmarks in appropriations bills and reverse the anti-impoundment legislation passed during the Nixon administration.
It is only by letting the administration police appropriations bills that the massive conflicts of interest inherent in the earmarking-for-campaign-contributions scam can be stopped.
Proposals to require public reporting of who has inserted what earmark will not be effective since most members are quite proud of their earmarks and would not only not mind public disclosure, but would actually likely welcome it.
And finally :
– Require lobbyists to disclose the specific bills that they are lobbying for or against on the lobbying registration forms.
– Ban all privately paid travel by members, including use of corporate jets.
– Require electronic filing of all travel disclosures for private and government travel.
– Require both chambers to work a full week, instead of the two- to three-day schedule they’ve had for the past few years.
– Don’t hold your breath waiting for these reforms, but they do represent what Congress should do if it wants to come clean.

I’m with Dick. Don’t hold your breath.


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  1. It’s actually not enough, but I agree that very little reform will be seen. I’m all for getting rid of the lobbying system all together. The airwaves belong to the American citizenry and should be used when it’s time to campaign. There should be public financing of legitimate candidates, and media corporations would be obliged to give free airtime, since they make billions off of the public with the constant marketing they put on OUR airwaves.
    I believe it’s Australia that allows only a two week window before an election to give speeches and run ads. That way, candidates and interest groups don’t interfere with the actual running of the government. The need to be constantly trolling for campaign financing is at least as detrimental to governing as the corruption that is being unveiled every time we turn around.
    As to the journalists I read on a regular basis, for the quick and dirty there is buzzflash.com, cursor.org, truthout.org, truthdig.com. This is were I start looking. For individuals there’s Sidney Blumenthal, Juan Cole, Sy Hersch, Mark Crispin Miller and Steve Gilliard at stevegilliard.blogspot.com –he’s the journalist who’s every prediction about Iraq has come to pass. Standouts are Paul Krugman for ecomomic analysis, and Greg Palast. He’s a journalist for the BBC who studied directly under Milton Friedman for his graduate work, and then became an incredible investigative journalist. See gregpalast.com–you’ll recognize his books when you visit the site. Relatively new to me are Glen Greenwald at glenngreenwald.blogspot.com, a litigator, and americablog.blogspot.com, who are a group of Beltway consultants–there’s inside info!
    I hope Dr Mike, that you’re already acquainted with http://www.scienceblogs.com. Lots of people interested in both science and politics. You may recognize Chris Mooney, the young science writer who wrote the book, “The Republican War on Science” a very interesting read. He makes the point that almost all administrations have tried to manipulate the sciencific messages of their day, but that this administration made a quantum jump in interfering with scientists themselves.
    It’s a good thing that I’m a speed reader and I start very early in the morning.
    Hi LCforevah–
    Thanks for the list. Some I was familiar with, others I wasn’t. I especially appreciate the referral to the science blog; it looks tremendously interesting.
    Just to pass my own recommendation on, I recently finished Andrew Sullivan’s book, The Conservative Soul, which I found to be one of the better books I’ve read this year. His last chapter is a masterpiece. The title doesn’t begin to describe what this book is really about. I’ve always considered myself a libertarian/conservative, but have been unable to articulate beyond that what my gut feelings really are, especially since the Bush disaster. Sullivan’s book put them into words for me. I have a few tiny quibbles here and there, but name me any two people whose political philosophies are identical. I wish he had not used the term ‘conservative’ in the title because it turns off people who don’t consider themselves conservatives, but would get much from the book. The book has been savaged by all the Theocons and Neocons, which recommends it well. It even has nutritional implications. The first chapter defines fundamentalism, which, I didn’t realize until I had read this chapter, fingers all the carbs are holy group and makes their hatred of the low-carb diet at least understandable.
    Thanks again for expanding my reading horizons.
    Best–
    MRE

  2. Don’t forget:
    1. Term limits
    2. Campaigns should only publicly funded
    3. Salary of $100/year, then we know they are there to do work for the people, not to get rich trying.
    Hi David–
    If only…
    Cheers–
    MRE

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