Liberally Conservative

"Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free....... ~Ronald Reagan~

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Culture of Corruption - Fox Guarding the Chicken Coop

It's the Democrats turn to clean up the "culture of corruption" now that they have claimed victory in the House and Senate. Of course campaign rhetoric and real solutions often collide when the dust settles.
Democrats never supplied the public with an agenda, they simply screamed foul at every turn claiming the Republicans were corrupt, which in many cases was true. But Democrats have dirt under their carpets and ghosts in their closets but keeping promises and acting on these issues creates a problem when the politician is called upon to deliver.
"This is an area where there is an opportunity to make the rhetoric of self-reform of Congress real by having the guts to set up an independent office," Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Connecticut).
Many on both sides of the aisle don't agree with Mr. Lieberman, they prefer to "police themselves." Resistence to tough investigative measures are falling under the guise of "unnecessary and expensive." Right!
Some ideas for reform and new ethics rules, reported in the Wall Street Journal, include:
.....bans on gifts and meals from lobbyists and lobbying organizations, and more frequent reports by lobbyists disclosing for whom and what they are working. In disclosure reports, which lobbyists currently are required to file with Congress at least once a year, they also spell out how much they have been paid for their efforts.
Former members who become registered lobbyists would be prohibited from seeking help on legislation from their congressional colleagues for two years and denied access to the House and Senate floors. Today, lawmakers-turned-lobbyists can mingle with their former colleagues inside the chambers during debates and votes.
The proposed packages in both the House and Senate would curtail, if not ban, travel paid for by lobbyists and organizations that lobby. House leaders say they would prohibit lawmakers from using corporate planes for official travel. Both chambers are expected to require members to identify hometown projects they insert into spending bills.
Changes would be welcome but enforcement must be rigid? How specific would rules be? How would enforcement take place? Currently neither the House or Senate proposals have an air of independency to monitor rules regarding their own actions, investigation or disciplinary.
Mr. Lieberman co-sponsored a measure earlier this year with Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), establishing an independent Office of Public Integrity that would vet Senate ethics complaints and conduct investigations of those it deemed serious. Under the proposal, the ethics committee would oversee the integrity office and could end a probe with a majority vote. The committee also would decide whether to impose penalties on a member.
xxx The Lieberman-Collins bill was resoundly defeated in a bipartisan landslide, 70-30. Among those opposing the office was incoming Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. This is no surprise coming from the ethically challenged Reid.
Business as usual and Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, has promised an ethics overhaul. Earlier this year Pelosi proposed enhancing the powers of Congress's inspector general's office to handle disclosure reports by lobbyists. The proposal didn't extend that office's jurisdiction to ethics allegations against members of Congress.
To be effective it will take massive action and reform to exclude privately funded travel for lawmakers and preventing lobbying groups and politicians to use loopholes at every turn to rationalize gifts and business interests including free "vacations" as methods to gain clout inside Congress. Each expenditure should be made public and new rules should be made clear and specific, otherwise it will be business as usual.
We're watching legislation on ethics closely and if change doesn't take place it will be a future campaign issue.

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