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Real Ethics Reform
Posted by: McQ on Friday, January 05, 2007

One more time so even the tone-deaf can enjoy the music.

Ethics reform. Remember this? You have to have a program to know the players. In this case you have to understand what is smoke and mirrors and what is real ethics reform.

From Barak Obama in yesterday's Washington Post (pg A17):
I have long proposed a nonpartisan, independent ethics commission that would act as the American people's public watchdog over Congress. The commission would be staffed with former judges and former members of Congress from both parties, and it would allow any citizen to report possible ethics violations by lawmakers, staff members or lobbyists. Once a potential violation is reported, the commission would have the authority to conduct investigations, issue subpoenas, gather records, call witnesses, and provide a report to the Justice Department or the House and Senate ethics committees that — unlike current ethics committee reports — is available for all citizens to read.

This would improve the current process in two ways. First, it would take politics out of the fact-finding phase of ethics investigations. Second, it would exert greater public pressure on Congress to punish wrongdoing quickly and severely. Others have proposed similar good ideas on enforcement, and I am open to all options. We must restore the American people's confidence in the ethics process by ensuring that political self-interest can no longer prevent politicians from enforcing ethics rules.
That would be real ethics reform. What is being proposed?

Well, not that. In fact the reform the Democrats are proposing isn't even as tough as some state legislatures have imposed on themselves:
Several states, responding to the federal scandals as well as their own statehouse imbroglios, have already adopted more sweeping gift and travel bans, broader measures to end the central role of lobbyists or government contractors in financing campaigns and new public campaign financing intended to reduce lawmakers’ dependence on big donors.

To enforce their rules, about half the states have also created independent ethics watchdogs, outside the control of the lawmakers they police — something federal lawmakers have so far resisted. House Democrats recently said they would create a panel to study the idea.
You've heard of the "Bridge to Nowhere?" Well meet the "panel to nowhere". My guess is a few Democrats can make most of a career "studying" the idea. And, frankly, as long as Dianne Feinstein and the California delegation oppose it, well, my guess is studying the idea is about as good as it will get.
Senator Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who will oversee any proposal as the incoming chairwoman of the Rules Committee, for example, said she was opposed to an independent Congressional ethics watchdog. “If the law is clear and precise, members will follow it,” she said in an interview. “As to whether we need to create a new federal bureaucracy to enforce the rules, I would hope not.”
And then there is some pretty basic reform that you'd think everyone would find acceptable. Well, not everyone:
Two House Democrats, Representatives Chris Van Hollen of Maryland and Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, have proposed a measure they say would block a lawmaker from requesting an earmark that would benefit a company, group or lobbying firm that employed a member of the lawmaker’s family or a former member of the lawmaker’s staff.

“The rules would prohibit any kind of self-dealing,” Mr. Van Hollen said in an interview, acknowledging that his party’s support for the idea remains to be seen. “It will be something of an indication of how serious we are about reform.”

Mr. Obama called the idea “sensible” and said he supported it. But almost no one expects the Democrats to enact such a change, in part because many have close ties to former staff members or family members in the lobbying business.

Ms. Feinstein, for example, said she hoped to extend the Senate bill to require disclosure of all earmarks, including defense projects. But she said she would oppose a measure like Mr. Van Hollen’s because it would prevent her from directing funds to California cities because their lobbyists include former staff members.
David Sirota gives us a reality check:
Despite the fact that the New York Times reported that these moves “are not as comprehensive or far-reaching as changes already adopted by many state legislatures,” they nonetheless seem positively revolutionary to people inside the Beltway because creatures of Washington spend their lives swimming up and down rivers of K Street cash.
Hey, you know what, given I'm quoting David Sirota, here's one of those issues Democrats and libertarians can work together on. Real ethics reform ... not the Congressional Democrat kind.
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Previous Comments to this Post 

After the case of Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., call me skeptical. Given that he is now chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, the big "D" democrats have shown their hand.
Written By: Neo
URL: http://
This new independent ethics commission bureacracy would have the power to do what? This is more like sweet little well paying part-time jobs for retired political hacks and patronage jobs for the politically connected. We desperately need another layer of do-nothing paper shuffling bureaucracy on top of the do-nothing paper shuffling ethics committees. It may work as a job creation program, but it will accomplish nothing as an ethics improvement program.
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
Well Tim not necessarily... YES it wuld be made up of cousins and friends, BUT they wouldn’t be SITTING Legislators. It would be independent of the COngress, to an extent. It’s the difference between Jimmy Hoffa sitting in judgement on fellow mafiosi and retired wiseguys making the call. The retired ones, might be a little more detached and capable of saying, "No suh, fugeddaboutit."
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
If the Democrats are so worried about ethics, why have none said word one about Sandy Berger?

Written By: Bithead
URL: http://

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