Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Op-Ed: False Reform Marks Republican Deceit

I think the following op-ed regarding the Republicans and the so called "ethics" reform bill is right on target:

The Republicans who control the House listened to the people about lobbyists, big money and corruption. Then the GOP figured the issue was too complicated for the voters and tricked them.

The leadership knew it couldn't completely ignore the scandals that unhorsed its majority leader, sent a congressman to prison and has a third Republican on the brink of indictment.

The Republican bosses saw that superlobbyist Jack Abramoff and two former key House aides pleaded guilty to crimes and are helping prosecutors.

Simmering below the surface is a probe into lobbyists using prostitutes on Capitol Hill to smooth their way. Seems logical. With the Hill awash in money, promoters need to come up with something extra special.

Ties to Abramoff go all the way to the top. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., and three top deputies intervened for Abramoff's Indian gaming clients after the speaker raised money at Abramoff's restaurant. Republicans had to do something to make it seem as though things would change.

Enter H.R. 4975, the Lobbying Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006, introduced March 16, sponsored by Hastert, Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds, R-Clarence, and a dozen other Republicans.

It bans corporate-sponsored travel, but only until after the election, although a handful of Republican reformers wanted an outright ban because of corruption tied to expensive golf outings run by former Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, and others.

The bill continues the infamous "K-Street Project," where business organizations are ordered to name Republican cronies to lobbying jobs or face retribution from Republican leaders.

Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, D-Fairport, said the bill's Republican managers "rejected an amendment that would prohibit securities trading by [House] members and their staff based on nonpublic information.

"They vetoed a requirement that top officials report contacts they have with private parties seeking to influence official government action. They turned down a ban on gifts from lobbyists."
The leader of the outside reform groups, Fred Wertheimer, who heads Democracy21, said this after the House voted 217-213 to pass it:

"The . . . bill is designed to create the false and misleading impression that the House is dealing with its corruption and lobbying scandals, when the House is doing nothing of the sort.

"Representatives who voted for H.R. 4975 voted, in essence, to preserve the corrupt status quo in the House and to endorse convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff's way of life on Capitol Hill.

"The House-passed bill is an outright deceit that does not change the way lobbyists and House members take care of each other's interests at the expense of the American people."

Rep. David R. Obey, D-Wisc., said, "this bill is about giving Republican members a chance to run 30-second TV spots that say they voted for a "reform' bill. But it doesn't reform a thing."

The chutzpah of the Republicans is best pictured in a press release that the National Republican Congressional Committee, headed by Reynolds, issued about Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo. Higgins had cast a procedural vote against the widely denounced GOP "ethics" bill. The NRCC claimed Higgins "stood in the way of lobby reform legislation . . ."

The NRCC press releases were designed to frighten Democrats in marginal districts into joining in the Republican fakery. Eight Democrats caved in on the final vote, but not Higgins, who said: "Unlike the Republican bills that were written by the lobbyists, this one was written for the lobbyists."

Higgins voted against the spurious GOP bill, as did 19 Republican House members who found their consciences.

I am proud Congressman Ford voted against this weak and deceitful bill put forth by the Republicans.

As alluded to by the op-ed above, it is time for a change in Congress away from the do nothing attitude of John Boehner, Bill Frist and the rest of the Republicans.

Harold Ford Jr. represents a new generation of leadership that is dedication to finding real solutions to real problems. That is why he will be our next U.S. Senator!