Many of the suggestions that have been proposed by the Democrats so far are quite encouraging. Before discussing these improvements, however, it must be said that Speaker Pelosi is making a serious mistake by prohibiting Republicans from meaningful participation in the reform process. In doing so, the Democratic majority is losing an opportunity to work together with Republicans to make a positive change, they are missing an opportunity for constructive Republican input, and they are being unduly partisan and unfair. Some will respond that Republicans have been similarly unfair. At the Center for a Just Society we have consistently argued that it does not serve the public interest to point one's finger across the aisle and say, "They did it first." This juvenile approach to lawmaking must stop. The Speaker of the House should break the cycle by setting a new example.
In substance, many of the Democrats' proposals are quite helpful. According to The Hill, the new rules will "ban all travel paid for by lobbyists or organizations that employ lobbyists, require the ethics committee to pre-approve travel paid for by outside groups, enact a total gift ban, and require lawmakers to pay the market cost of flying on a corporate jet..." These changes make sense. Successful lobbying should result from persuasive arguments, not expensive gifts.
There are other proposed changes as well, many of them having to do with disclosure. For example, lobbyists may be required to disclose the "earmarks" for which they have lobbied. Legislators currently have the ability to earmark federal funds for pet projects, and lobbyists often work hard to ensure that they get as much of that "free" federal money as possible. These earmarks are generally off the radar screens of most voters, even though they are extremely expensive for taxpayers. It is currently unknown which lobbyists push for which earmarks. If forced to disclose who's been lobbying whom for earmarks, congressmen may be less likely to throw their support behind projects that do not serve the common good.
The American people should send a clear, unmistakable message to their lawmakers: no more corruption! Goodness knows there are temptations all around, and as a result, corruption abounds. If Nancy Pelosi can lead Congress into an era of less corruption, she will have performed a valuable service to her country.
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