Sunday, November 19, 2006

Democrats Split on How Far to Go With Ethics Law

NYT After railing for months against Congressional corruption under Republican rule, Democrats on Capitol Hill are divided on how far their proposed ethics overhaul should go.

When it was Republicans raking in the money, they wanted to go all they way. But now that they see they might get rich, they are having second thoughts.
Democratic leaders in the House and the Senate, mindful that voters in the midterm election cited corruption as a major concern, say they are moving quickly to finalize a package of changes for consideration as soon as the new Congress convenes in January. Their initial proposals, laid out earlier this year, would prohibit members from accepting meals, gifts or travel from lobbyists, require lobbyists to disclose all contacts with lawmakers and bar former lawmakers-turned-lobbyists from entering the floor of the chambers or Congressional gymnasiums.
That is just for show. They need to make it a criminal act to insert an earmark into a bill.
None of the measures would overhaul campaign financing or create an independent ethics watchdog to enforce the rules. Nor would they significantly restrict earmarks, the pet projects lawmakers can anonymously insert into spending bills, which have figured in several recent corruption scandals and attracted criticism from members in both parties. The proposals would require disclosure of the sponsors of some earmarks, but not all.
They should not only disclose ALL earmarks, but they should make it more difficult to insert them (like maybe require a separate vote for each earmark).
Some Democrats say their election is a mandate for more sweeping changes, and many newly elected candidates — citing scandals involving several Republican lawmakers last year — made Congressional ethics a major issue during the campaign. After winning the House on election night, Representative Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader, promised “the most honest, most open and most ethical Congress in history.”
When she really means the most honest, most open, and most ethical Democratically controlled Congress in the 21st century.

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