Hastert’s Lesson:


The New York Times editorializes on Speaker [sw: Dennis Hastert]’s (R-Ill.) land deal:

Dennis Hastert, the speaker of the House, promised credible reform back when the stench of illegal quid pro quo dealings between lobbyists and ethically challenged lawmakers seized public attention. But nothing close to true self-policing is emerging from Congress. And now Mr. Hastert is the latest lawmaker in the limelight for the rampant pork-barrel practice of earmarking — the swift, debate-free inclusion in mass appropriations bills of small fortunes in government favors for special pleaders.

In the speaker’s case, his $200 million earmark to advance a road project known as Prairie Parkway back home in Illinois became an acute embarrassment after local news media and critics discovered Mr. Hastert netted a fast $2 million profit from dealing in land situated several miles from the proposed roadway. … But we can hope Mr. Hastert would see, at least in hindsight, the cloud that this activity has cast over Congress, which slipped 13,012 earmarks to passage this year worth $67 billion. That’s a tripling of the pork trough since the Republicans won control of the House in 1994.

Sometimes it seems as if earmarking is all this Congress knows how to do. Members have spent so few calendar days in Washington that they hark back to the “do-nothing” Congress excoriated six decades ago by President Harry Truman.