Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Reality Check

Politicians from across the political spectrum are scrambling to find new and unique ways to be on the “change” bandwagon. These politicians, and their handlers, all sense how the American public has soured on Washington, DC and politics as usual.

It would, therefore, be instructive to get a “reality check” on some of change agenda promised during the 2006 campaign and supposedly implemented, with great fanfare, at the beginning of the current Congress:

Reality Check #1 – Independent Voices
Numerous Democrats were swept into Congress in districts that usually voted Republican. Many of these Democrats got elected promising to remain independent and not to vote in lock step with Pelosi and the liberal leadership in Congress. Guess what, they ended up voting in lock step with Pelosi. But they found a wonderfully innovative way to disguise this fact. Every day these “independent” Democrats vote against the adoption of the previous day’s journal. This meaningless roll call vote on the Congress Record often serves as a quorum call to begin the legislative day. However, since it is a leadership initiated vote a “no” vote drives down a Member’s “party loyalty score”. I give The Washington Post credit for blowing the whistle on this scam. I hope voters remember it as the campaign progresses.

Reality Check #2 – The Ethics Reform Act of 2007
The era of lavish lobbyists “wining and dining” Members was over! Not really. Four days after the legislation was passed, Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) slipped some legislative intent language into the Congressional Record. This after-the-fact language allowed the House Ethics Committee to rule that lobbyists can still “wine and dine” Members at this year’s National Party Conventions if (1) they hold a reception honoring more than one Member, (2) their dinners and receptions are paid for through a third party, and (3) they are held after the convention adjourns for the day. In the last instance, wouldn’t a party normally be held after hours? This after-the-fact legislative intent intentionally created these loop holes in the law. It makes a travesty of lobbying reform and disclosure. We still have five months to demand an end to this sham.

Reality Check #3 – Campaign Finance Reform
Rules banning donations from corporations, unions, and large nonprofits being used to pay stipends to Senators and Congressmen. However, these rules do not ban such payments to spouses and other family members.
· The campaign Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) paid her son $320,409.
· The campaign of Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY) paid his daughter-n-law $306,718.
· The campaign of Senator Jim Bunning (R-KY) paid his daughter $138,933,
· The campaign of Senator Michael Crapo (R-ID) paid his wife $78,514.
· On the House side, 72 Congressmen funneled over $5.1 million in corporate and labor campaign donations to family members.
Efforts to close this major loophole were rejected in Congress without any media outcry.

Reality Check #4 – Lobbyist Influence
All three Presidential contenders have pledged to fight special interests and distance themselves from Washington lobbyists. However, lobbyists are key figures in the campaigns of Clinton, Obama, and McCain. On February 26, 2008, The Washington Post’s “In the Loop” section published a stunning list detailing millions of dollars being funneled by lobbyists and industry groups into all three campaigns. Most disturbingly, for all three campaigns, law firms, the backbone of the Washington lobbyist establishment, led the list of donors.

We have eight months before the election. That should be plenty of time for the media and the general public to demand an accounting of these and other lapsed promises before we vote for anyone.

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