Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Op-Ed: Ethics Reform A Long Shot

Even after the sentencing of Jack Abramoff and Duke Cunningham along with the announcement of the resignination of Tom Delay, John Boehner and the congressional Republicans still plan on doing nothing on ethics reform.

The following op-ed reports that while the scandals may have gotten their attention, the Republicans still have no interest in reform ethics in Washington D.C:

Politicians do curious things in election years. It's especially important for them during these crucial periods to appear as if they are serving the public. That need is even more urgent as scandal scents their chambers.

Last week, former lobbyist Jack Abramoff was sentenced to prison in a federal corruption probe. Former Rep. Randy ''Duke'' Cunningham, R-Calif., has been convicted of taking bribes for favors. Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, (a good friend of Mr. Abramoff) is under investigation. Senators and representatives worry about what voters might do if Congress doesn't clean up this mess.

At least the Senate seems somewhat worried. Last week, the senators overwhelmingly voted, 90-8, to tighten lobbyists restrictions — but not too tight. It's an election year, after all, they need money to run their re-election campaigns.

So, the senators improved things (a good thing and better than what we have in Pennsylvania) but not so much that it will hurt. Or not hurt at all. One of the things the Senate refused to do was create an independent Office of Public Integrity to enforce the tougher standards and do a better job than congressional ethics committees have traditionally done in holding members accountable. Teeth like that could really bite.

Still, the Senate bill takes some steps in the right direction. It would bar members of Congress from accepting gifts and meals from lobbyists. It would require lobbyists to disclose which lawmakers they approach on what business and to report quarterly about their activities, instead of twice a year. It would also increase from one year to two the length of time former members of Congress would have to wait before they lobby former colleagues.

And, while it doesn't bar lawmakers from accepting private flights from lobbyists, it does require lawmakers to pay for those flights and prevents lobbyists from accompanying lawmakers on travel. It also requires lawmakers to disclose who would benefit from budgetary ''earmarks'' to prevent lawmakers like Rep. Cunningham from trading them for all sorts of goodies.

But, lobbyists still may raise funds for members of Congress — as long as it's reported.

Whether any of this becomes law isn't settled. The bill was sent to the House, which has been considering its own reforms. However, the House doesn't even want to consider a ban on gifts and dinners.

Come election time, though, members of the Senate can claim they tried to do something. It's been a decade since Congress updated its lobby laws. It took the Abramoff scandal to get members to do even this much. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., one of the eight nay votes, says ''the good news is there will be more indictments and we will be revisiting this issue.'' He isn't joking

Clearly, it is time for a change...even Tom Delay saw that.

Even though John Boehner has said he is against ethics reform, the change has to take place.

The people of this nation deserve it!

Read about Congressman Ford's actions on ethics reform here! (1 , 2, 3)

Read about John Boehner's views opposing ethics reform here!

Read about John Boehner's broken promises regarding ethics reform here!