Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Last Hope For Ethics Reform

We all know John Boehner is a terrible House Majority Leader. Earlier this year, he campaigned on being a "reformer", promising publicly that he would reform ethics and clean up Washington.

However, seven months later, nothing has been done. The following article gives on some insight why:

In January, Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill seemed preoccupied with two tasks.

The first was writing checks to charities to cover the costs of campaign contributions, trips or gifts they'd received from disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff and other Disgraced Formers under investigation or indictment for corruption.

The second task was rushing to the closest available podium to announce the toughest-sounding ethics-reform measure they could muster.

Unfortunately, it appears the early burst of energy left Congress all tuckered out. Both the House and Senate have passed measures significantly weaker than originally proposed, and negotiations needed to reconcile the differences between the bills have yet to begin.

Ethics reform is no longer a priority, despite upcoming congressional elections and continuing probes into the activities of Abramoff, former Rep. Duke Cunningham of California, defense contractor Mitchell Wade and others.

"There's a belief among my colleagues that our constituents are not concerned," Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., recently told The Washington Post.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said she initially worried that Congress would panic and rush a poorly crafted measure into law. "That fear seems ludicrous now," she said.

The loss of the enthusiasm isn't terribly surprising. It was clear early on that the House Republicans' point man in the effort, John Boehner of Ohio, didn't have his heart in it.

In his bid to replace the ethically challenged Tom DeLay as House majority leader, Boehner described himself as a reformer but signaled that he was willing to go only so far. At one point, he called a proposed ban on privately funded travel "childish." Meanwhile, according to The Post, he privately promised colleagues that he'd water down reform measures if he was chosen as majority leader.

And the measures certainly are weaker. The biggest change envisioned is a requirement for more disclosure reports by lobbyists. Gone are provisions that would have placed strict limits on --or even banned --lobbyist-funded gifts, meals and travel.

Perhaps McCain's assessment is correct, and his colleagues do believe that their constituents aren't concerned about the assorted scandals oozing around Capitol Hill.

If Americans do care, they should make it clear to incumbents -- and their challengers -- between now and November. Boehner may think that strict limits on freebies are "childish." Right now, however, a child's view of right and wrong would be a refreshing change of pace in Washington.

Our nation deserves better leadership than that of John Boehner and Bill Frist.

Anyone who suggests that ethics reform is "childish" does not need to be in a leadership position in Congress.

I am confident come this fall, the Democrats will take control of Congress and put this nation back on track.

That includes passing meaningful, "childish", ethics reform.