One of the biggest ethical problems in Washington concerns the revolving door that currently exists in our nation’s capital. The American people need to find out about this door and how it affects taxpayers. When they do – what they find, they won’t like. Persons can go from working for the government to working for well-connected lobbying firms – and make a killing in the process. An example is Letitia White. Within two years, this former congressional receptionist’s lobbying fees had grown to over $3.5 million. The secret for Ms. White’s success is not too hard to figure out. Her last job on Capitol Hill was as a top aide to Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA), chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee. This is the committee that the disgraced lobbyist and confessed criminal Jack Abramoff used to call the “favor factory.” As a lobbyist, Ms. White became very good over night at getting her clients “earmarks” — government funds directed by lawmakers to specific projects or specific contractors. I wonder what special expertise this former aide suddenly acquired that made her such a successful lobbyist.
This is Congress, better known lately for corruption than legislating. A broken process has allowed lobbyists to channel campaign funds from their clients to lawmakers. In return, lawmakers earmark money to projects that benefit those clients. The losers are the taxpaying public, which gets stuck with the costs of these special favors. Well-connected industries and companies will hire persons who work for a senator or member of Congress and then put them to work with large salaries as lobbyists. Many Appropriations Committee staffers who become lobbyists, lobby their former committee and find immediate financial rewards. You have to wonder about their loyalties before entering the revolving door.
At the beginning of this year, GOP congressional leaders pledged to curb influence-peddling, including the use of earmarks. Their sudden interest and newly-found zeal was fueled by the Abramoff scandal, the bribery case involving Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-CA), and a few other scandals. Perhaps the latest chapter of the Abramoff saga was when Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH), agreed to plead guilty to federal corruption charges. I understand there will be more to come from the Abramoff investigation in the near future.
Source: USA Today
VOTERS HAVE WAY TO GAUGE HOW BIG BUSINESS MONEY INFLUENCES LAWMAKERS
Public Citizen has released some vital information to voters that will help them gauge whether their members of Congress represent them or the interests of Big Business. Information is now available detailing the amount of contributions from lobbyists, the value of privately funded travel accepted by the lawmakers, the amount of contributions from out-of-state donors, the percentage of contributions from donors who give $200 or less, and the amount of contributions from political action committees. It’s very important because of the corrosive influence money has on politics.
Campaign cash from Big Business and major industries flows into campaigns and into 527 committees working for candidates. The results have been downright shocking. One member of Congress – Randy “Duke” Cunningham of California – was jailed for corruption, and another – Bob Ney of Ohio – has entered a guilty plea to conspiracy to commit fraud and lying on disclosure forms about gifts received from Jack Abramoff. At press time, Rep. Ney was still in Congress. Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) is under indictment. Interestingly, DeLay is still being featured on right-wing radio talk shows pushing the GOP agenda. The FBI is reportedly closing in on Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA), in whose freezer agents found $90,000 in “cold cash.”
Most folks believe when lobbyists give members of Congress money, the lobbyists expect something in return. When the lawmakers take large sums of money, lawmakers have to know that. Obviously, many of them deliver – to the detriment of the public – and therein lies the problem. The reason that Congress didn’t do anything to ease skyrocketing gas prices is because a great number of members are beholden to the oil and gas industry. Do you wonder why we now have Medicare prescription drug legislation that won’t allow the government to negotiate the lowest possible price for medications? Do you ask why members of Congress get a raise while efforts to raise the minimum wage fails? The flow of money is directly responsible when efforts to pass consumer-friendly legislature get nowhere in Congress.
In addition to campaign finance reform, we need real lobbying and ethics reform in Washington. So far, this Congress has refused to pass meaningful reform to clean up its act despite public outrage over the scandals from Capitol Hill from the leadership down. Reform has not been enacted because this Congress is totally controlled by corporate interests and they won’t allow anything of consequence to get through both the House and Senate. Public confidence in the federal elections must be restored and for that to happen, the flow of big money must be stopped. I hope being able to get information about the candidates will adequately inform potential voters about who they should vote for on November 7th. Time is short – so get informed!
Source: Public Citizen
SHAME ON JOE BARTON
The refusal of House Committee on Energy and Commerce Chairman Joe Barton (R-TX) to move the Combating Autism Act (S.843) from his committee and bring it to the floor for a vote before the pre-election recess was a devastating blow to children with autism and their families. But, the fight for passage of this critical legislation continues. In his unwillingness to act on a bill meticulously crafted over 18 months and unanimously passed by the Senate, Rep. Barton has put politics before the welfare of the children who badly need this legislation. Hundreds of senators and members of the House of Representatives – from both sides of the aisle – have met with families impacted by autism. These legislators signed on in support of the Combating Autism Act. Rep. Barton, on the other hand, showed no concern for the millions of Americans whose struggles with autism are their everyday reality. His actions simply can’t be justified and his motives have to be questioned.
Autism is an epidemic that now affects one in every 166 of our children, yet federal funding for autism remains woefully insufficient. The Combating Autism Act would begin to address this inequity by authorizing $920 million over five years toward treatment and research into the causes — genetic, environmental, or otherwise — of the country’s fastest-growing childhood developmental disorder. If you agree that the fight must continue, let Chairman Barton know how you feel! Call him at 202-225-2002 and let him know that it is unacceptable for an elected official to put personal political interests ahead of the needs of families with autistic children.
The Combating Autism Act of 2006 builds on the provisions of the Children’s Health Act of 2000 and would authorize approximately $920 million in federal funds over five years to combat autism through research, screening, intervention and education. It should be noted that Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-IL), who now has his own set of problems, has refused to intervene on the children’s behalf. On his Web site, this is what the Speaker says: “At home we put children first, and Republicans are doing just that in the House.” Based on what we know now, that’s not at all true. After the Foley episode, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a change in the Speaker’s Web site. In any event, call the Speaker at 202-225-0600 and ask him to back up his statement and put S.843 on the House suspension calendar! He should do what’s right for a change. A good place to start is by helping children with autism.
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