When the Rep. Mark Foley sexual predation scandal broke last week I thought that this would just be another sex scandal. The member resigns in disgrace, end of story. However, Foley’s Internet advances on teenage pages revealed an institutional corruption created by a leadership that favors protecting electoral majorities over protecting children from predators. The House leadership also is shown to have a disdain for pursuing investigations of any kind. This scandal continues to show that unethical behavior has not been pursued by the leadership for fear of losing their slim congressional majority.
<p class="MsoNormal">Forgive me for slacking off on the blogging this week. I’ve spent the last three days “inside” a new database – and you’re going to like it when it’s released in a couple of weeks.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">Okay, I’ll admit to being a little weird when it comes to databases. I’ve always enjoyed digging into data, and for someone with such propensities there’s no greater thrill than the feeling that you’re looking over information that no one else has ever seen before. It’s like laying down a fresh set of footprints on an island or a continent that nobody knew was there. Well, except the “undiscovered” people who lived there before.</p>
So, on Sept. 14, the House passed a rule that aimed to bring some transparency to the earmarking process: Members names would have to be attached to the earmarks they sponsored. While the goal is worthy, it seemed to me that this particular rule was fairly modest at best, and potentially even counterproductive; since then, we've learned just how modest a reform the rules change is--it doesn't apply to earmarks already inserted in 10 of the big appropriations bills.
In the 2004 Presidential election Ohio was a crucial battleground state, its electoral votes deciding the outcome. The surge in GOP activism and the excitement in the party have since subsided due to a series of high profile corruption scandals resulting in guilty pleas by the Governor, a chief Bush fundraiser, and a sitting congressman. All of these scandals will likely depress Republican voter turnout in a state with a toss-up Senate race, an open governor’s mansion, and four close House races. Local corruption issues, just like national ones, look to have a big impact on the midterm elections in important races.
I've noted before that the original bete noir of the anti-earmark movement, the Alaska Bridges to Nowhere, were alive and well and still receiving federal funding. Today Matt Volz of the Associated Press reports that in May 2006, the Alaska state legislature approved spending $93 million in federal money on the Knik Arm Bridge (the official site for the bridge authority is here), and then, a month later, the board of the bridge authority voted, in a closed-door meeting--some fairly large pay raises for its top executives:
It comes as no surprise that the House GOP is set to meet with 250-300 lobbyists tomorrow at the Capitol Hill Republican Club. Larry called it chutzpah, and it's true they have a lot of that. While this meeting takes place under the cloud of the recent guilty plea by former Mayor of Capitol Hill Bob Ney and the January guilty plea by the now infamous Borsalino-donning Jack Abramoff the last meet-and-greet-and-beg-for-help came as these powerful, and now-jail bound, men began tumbling down the hill.
Campaign finance stories are often difficult to tell in print, let alone on television. You often need charts and graphs to illustrate where the money is coming from, you need to explain the rules of the system and then the ways to get around those rules, and generally you end up with far more correlation than causation: special interests give money to politicians who favor their agendas, but absent quid pro quos, you end up with politicians avowing that contributions had nothing to do with their votes.
That's one reason, I think, why election coverage often focuses more on the horse race and the superficial issues than on more substantial issues, like why are particular interests or industries donating thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars to a particular candidate? Who are the folks packing rooms with 30 or 50 or 100 people all writing $500, $1,000 or $2,000 checks to the candidate? And what will these people want come January?
Rep. Dennis Hastert and the rest of the Republican leadership, according to Roll Call, have called a "come to Jesus" meeting for Washington's lobbyists. The message is pure and simple: give now to Republican candidates or regret it later. Larry excerpts part of the breathtakingly candid comments here.
So I want to know who's coming to the meeting? Call Rep. Hastert, Rep. Roy Blunt, Rep. Eric Cantor, or Rep. Deborah Pryce and ask them to release the list of those invited and those who have RSVPed. Let us know what you find out.
I was lucky enough to be invited to the bill signing ceremony for S. 2590, the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006, at the Old Executive Office Building this morning. President Bush's remarks are here; Glenn Reynolds has a post here; and Mark Tapscott previewed the event this morning. It was nice to meet the two of them in the flesh, as well as a fair number of the folks who are part of the Exposing Earmarks coalition.
Well, you can’t accuse them of lacking chutzpah. In the waning days of the 109th Congress – a Congress marked by a notable lack of accomplishment – the GOP leadership has set aside time this coming Thursday not to pass the long-stalled lobbying reform bill, but rather to meet with friendly lobbyists and warn them that giving to Democrats is bad business.
A story in today’s Roll Call – GOP Brass to Meet Lobbyists – has all the details:
“This is a straight-out appeal to [lobbyists] to contribute to Republicans — to remind them what Republicans do not only for their specific industries but for the whole business community,” said a GOP leadership aide. The aide added that the leaders would emphasize that “reports of the Republican majority’s demise have been greatly exaggerated, and we’re coming back.”