mercredi, juin 21, 2006
How low can they go?
June 21, 2006
Razzle-Dazzle 'Em Ethics Reform
The House ethics committee, ever wondrous in its irresponsibility, is preparing to set itself up as the arbiter of one-stop, conscience-free junket approval for gadabout lawmakers. Last winter, as the stain of the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal spread, Speaker Dennis Hastert impulsively — and properly — called for a total ban on junkets financed by private favor seekers. But lawmakers, globe-trotting at the giddy rate of $10 million a year in free private excursions, rebelled. They killed the ban outright and substituted cosmetic panaceas for their promised ethics reform.
The end product would have the ethics committee — long a still-life study in Capitol dysfunction — snap into action to prejudge junketeering requests. This should be great for the lawmakers, who will be able to wave rubber-stamped in-House visas when faced with constituents' questions about how come their tours of global trouble spots so often hit Paris.
The ethics committee would, at least, have a great deal of expertise in its new duties. It turns out the 10 committee members and their aides have enjoyed 400 privately financed trips worth $1 million in a recent five-year stretch, according to a new accounting by the independent Center for Public Integrity. Leading the beneficiaries with 80 trips worth $245,000 was Representative Howard Berman, a California Democrat, a member of the International Relations Committee and one of the principals in giving a bipartisan patina to this latest evasion.
Clearly, lawmakers are gambling that the scandals nipping at their heels will pale by Election Day. Not so: as the new House rules were being cobbled together, David Safavian, a former White House aide, was found guilty of lying about his ties to Jack Abramoff. No less significant, Mr. Abramoff has reportedly received three additional months' grace before going to prison so that he can cooperate more fully with criminal prosecutors looking into the ethical misbehavior that finds Congress in deep denial. New York Times Wednesday, June 21
The almost incredible misbehaviour of this Congress isn't just an indictment of them...it's one for us Americans, too. When Senator Arlen Specter looks like a profile in courage for questioning the President's irregular and probably illegal eavesdropping program, and only a few voices in Congress dare to call for investigations into "fact-finding" trips to places like St. Andrews, Scotland, we all need to crawl on our knees to a local cathedral and ask for forgiveness. Then we need to give some of these sorry lawmakers the boot. Although I don't have a lot of trust in the corporate intelligence of the US public, I'd be thrilled to be re-inspired. Remember-we get the government we deserve. In November we'll see if we are willing to be perpetually abused, or if we have the sense of self-esteem to do a little better, next time.