We think the USA Today editorialists have got it right: the new ethics laws haven't meant the end to the perks or ways for lobbyists to curry favor with lawmakers. We never really expected it to (I mean, we weren't exactly born yesterday...). You can't legislate good behavior. And that's why Sunlight's work urging full transparency for the work of Congress and its members is so hugely important.
Today's edition also includes an opposing view op-ed from Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid where he attempts to make the case that he and his fellow Democrats have delivered on their promise to end the status quo environment of corruption in Congress. Watchdog journalists have shown how lawmakers and lobbyists have conspired to get around travel restrictions and gift bans. Plus, when the Senate passed the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act, the practice of earmark abuse was preserved by a slight of hand by Sen. Reid and his fellow senators, putting anonymity back in the process.
Even with the most comprehensive reforms, the public will still need to be their own watchdog. Citizens, journalists and bloggers have to have their own tools to shine a bright light on what lawmakers do and who they do it for. In some cases, the spotlight will stop bad things from happening. In others, the light will help root out corruption. Still in others, it will inform citizens more about Congress and its members. Sunlight's work is about putting a flashlight into every citizen's hands and pointing them in the right direction.
Note: For one day only, on the SunlightFoundation.com website, we have a new Halloween theme for the popup politician icon. Props to our Labs staff for getting the code in place. (You may have to hit Control-Refresh / Command-Refresh to see the new image.)