Sham, Joke, Illusion…Integrity?


Those are all words used to describe the current lobbying reform bill that the House Republicans will bring to the floor for a vote later this week. The Washington Post editorial page slams the bill, giving their editorial the title “Sham Lobbying Reform”:

Do you remember, back when the spotlight was on Jack Abramoff, how House Republican leaders pledged to get tough on lobbyists? Well, you may; apparently they don’t. The House plans this week to take up the Lobbying Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006, a watered-down sham that would provide little in the way of accountability or transparency. If the Senate-passed measure was a disappointment, the House version is simply a joke — or, more accurately, a ruse aimed at convincing what the leaders must believe is a doltish public that the House has done something to clean up Washington.

USA Today goes the comic route, running side-by-side editorials, one written by Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) in support of the bill and the other calling the reform effort a “snow job”. Boehner writes:

This week, the House will consider comprehensive changes designed to re-establish the sense of trust between the people and their government by reforming Congress and bringing greater transparency, disclosure and accountability to government. This measure focuses on bright lines of right and wrong and stiffens penalties for breaking the rules. … Effectively communicating our Republican vision for the future requires that we rebuild trust and change the status quo in Washington. We are committed to restoring that trust and ensuring all members uphold the highest standards of integrity.

Running next to Boehner’s glowing appraisal is the paper’s take on this reform bill:

The sorry record of this Congress cries out for real reform, not a toothless sham. One member has been sent to prison for extorting bribes from lobbyists and favor-seekers. Former House majority leader Tom DeLay is under indictment on political money-laundering charges, two of his former aides have pleaded guilty to corruption charges, and he’s quitting because he fears the voters’ backlash. At least a half-dozen other members, from both parties, are under investigation by various federal agencies on everything from bribery to insider trading.

Not coincidentally, polls show public disillusionment with Congress at the highest levels in more than a decade. This is fueled in part by the lobbying and corruption scandals that show special interests and self-interest trumping the public interest.

If the self-righteous incumbents can’t do better than this outrageous substitute for needed reform, they will deserve to be defeated in November.

Passing this so-called reform bill would be like lighting a match in the caves of Lascaux, when a spotlight is needed to see what’s around you.