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Thursday, January 18, 2007

Reich: Superficial Ethics and Lobbying Reform from Democrats

Robert Reich tells Democrats their proposed ethics and lobbying bill is toothless:

Keeping Up Appearances, by Robert Reich, American Prospect: Democrats are eager to show they're serious about reforming the way Congress does business. So they're pushing a new ethics and lobbying bill that will ban gifts, meals, and free trips from lobbyists and their clients, and require that the legislative sponsors of all earmarks for pet projects be identified in the legislation.

But calling these reforms is like saying you've cleaned the house when all you've done is taken out the garbage.

The real scandal in Washington is the ... campaign contributions given for legislative favors -- a particular provision in this or that bill, an amendment here, an earmarked appropriation there. Lobbyists orchestrate this contemptible process. And members of Congress keep it going because the money ... keeps them in power.

The system is out of control. It cost the average candidate three times more to run for Congress in 2006 than it did in 1990, adjusting for inflation. Members now devote most of their time to fund raising...

The number of lobbyists in Washington has doubled over the past ten years. Now, there are 60 of them for every single member of Congress. They spent $2.4 billion last year. ...

Banning gifts, meals, and junkets won’t make any difference to this everyday exchange of campaign money for legislative favors. And disclosing who sponsors what earmarks won’t reduce the amount of taxpayer dollars going to special interests because the incentives to make the deal are still there, on both sides. Under these circumstances, a disclosure is like an advertisement -- look what I’ve done for my contributors! Ten years ago, there were 3,000 earmarks. Last year, there were 14,000, costing taxpayers over $47 billion...

The only way to stop the system of legalized bribery is to cut it off at its roots. Require television and radio networks that use the public airwaves to offer candidates free time. Give public financing to candidates who agree to strict limits on fund-raising. And ban earmarks altogether. There's no good reason why taxpayer money should be appropriated for any special interest.

The Democrats took over Congress a few weeks ago on a tidal wave of public outrage about the way business is done in Washington. But their ethics and lobbying bill won’t change the way business is done in Washington. It will only change the way it appears to be done.

    Posted by on Thursday, January 18, 2007 at 02:55 AM in Economics, Politics | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (8)

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