Thursday, July 27, 2006

Op-Ed: Ethics Reform: A Promise Unkept

It looks as though everyone is starting to realize they have been duped. The voters, as evident by the Reed defeat last week, are starting to realize it and now it appears the media is catching on.

The Republicans promised us real ethics reform. However, they have done absolutley nothing:


Back in January, when the snow was still fresh on the ground and the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal was exploding all over Washington, Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert named House Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier, R-Calif., to be his point man on the important matter of ethics reform. ''We want to deal with this issue and get it behind us as quickly as possible,'' huffed Rep. Dreier. Never mind.

As Congress prepares to leave Washington for the traditional August recess, there is no better example of a critical issue that has not been resolved than the failure to enact meaningful lobbying and ethics reform. Deadlines have been missed, promises of reform have fallen flat, and there is nothing to show the electorate. When it comes to fixing the way it does business, Congress has been sadly incorrigible.

`Disappearing act'

Early last month, Mr. Hastert and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist set a July 4 deadline for delivering a ''final package'' of reforms that members could vote on. ''Lobbying and ethics reform remains an important priority for Congress,'' they proclaimed. In fact, the leadership has repeatedly failed to deliver on pledges of timely and significant reform. The deadline was the latest of several, and it, too, has come and gone while the proposal remains locked up in a conference committee where it can be smothered by lobbyists and their congressional allies.

Not that the proposed reforms are anything to write home about. ''The great disappearing act'' is how Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has described ethics reform in this Congress.

Both Senate and House versions tighten some disclosure rules on lobbyists and allow greater transparency on ''earmarks,'' the spending mechanism that allows members to direct money toward their pet projects, such as the infamous, $315-million ''bridge to nowhere'' in Alaska.

But that is just window dressing. The proposals still allow Senate and House members to fly on corporate jets, take trips paid for by private groups and trade favors with industries and groups that they help with government contracts. They'll do little to slow funding related to earmarks, which increased from $23.2 billion in 1994 to $64 billion in fiscal year 2006.

The game is up guys! People know you are liars and that you have no intention of reforming ethics. That is pretty evident when John Boehner is your leader.

People are ready for change. Looks like you missed that memo.