Monday, June 19, 2006

Republicans Fail Once Again On Ethics

Well folks, it looks as though our great Republican Congress has once again failed the American people.

As the following column suggests, the Republicans are still unwilling to take the necessary links to make a real difference on ethics:

Red-faced and reeling last winter over a growing bribery scandal, Congress vowed to crack down on ethics.

But the message from Capitol Hill this spring has sounded more like the punch line of an old "Saturday Night Live" skit: "Never mind."

The House of Representatives and the Senate passed lobbying reform bills as promised. The Senate's is slightly tougher than the House version, but neither has the brass knuckles that lawmakers said were needed back in January after Jack Abramoff, once a major lobbyist with close ties to the Republican leadership, pleaded guilty to influence-peddling.

A committee of House and Senate members will take up both bills to find a compromise, but reform advocates aren't optimistic that tough new rules will emerge.

"The great disappearing act" is how Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., described the weak ethical guidelines that eventually emerged.

Senators and House members still can fly on corporate jets, take trips paid for by private groups and leave Congress for plum jobs with industries and groups that they helped with government contracts and other favors.

"Too many members are addicted to the financial perks and benefits they receive from lobbyists and other influence-seekers and have been unwilling to give them up to address corruption," said Fred Wertheimer, the president of Democracy 21, a nonpartisan congressional watchdog group.

Both bills tighten some disclosure rules on lobbyists, requiring that they file reports on their Capitol Hill contacts quarterly instead of twice yearly.

And both shed more sunshine on earmarks, which allow lawmakers to set aside money for certain projects anonymously.

"There is no question that this bill, no matter what people say about it, represents progress," Rep. David Dreier, R-Calif., who managed the legislation, said during the House floor debate last month.

Critics, however, said Congress had misread the public's mood for change after learning that Abramoff had accompanied lawmakers on golfing trips to Scotland and other locales, treated them to luxury seats at a Washington sports arena and plied them with costly meals at his restaurant near Capitol Hill.

"We missed an opportunity," said Rep. Kenny Hulshof, R-Mo. "The bill was inadequate. We need to continue to push forward, not just because of what might happen between now and the election, but because it's the right thing to do. We should hold ourselves to a higher standard."

I can't say I am surprised about this. With do nothing leaders like Bill Frist and John Boehner, did anyone really expect them to get tough on ethics?

This should be a non-partisan issue, however, the Republicans have made it partisan because they are the party that is unwilling to do what it takes to clean up Washington.

Thank goodness they only have about 6 more months in power.