Perhaps Tom DeLay should have been more circumspect regarding a trip he took to Russia eight years ago and who paid for it. But it should be clear that the Democratic leadership does not have its long knives out for DeLay because of outrage about ethics. This is about politics and power.
If Tom DeLay was an incompetent and ineffective fool, Democratic leaders Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi would be doing all they could to keep him around. There would be little interest in splitting hairs whether financing for a certain trip did or did not come through a non-profit organization or whether there is a problem that DeLay has family members on his payroll, a common practice by members of Congress.
What Reid and Pelosi hate is that DeLay is a highly effective conservative partisan and thanks in large part to his work, and sympathy from a large part of the American electorate for the values he represents, Democrats are the minority party today.
Certainly, DeLay will have no choice but answer accusations about alleged improprieties. However, we should not lose perspective about what we are trying to do. If what we want is better government, then arbitrarily designed and arbitrarily implemented congressional "ethics" rules certainly will not lead to this end.
If the federal government influenced a tiny fraction of our lives, then few would care if a contractor or businessman wanted to take a favorite congressman or Senator on a golfing trip. But when the federal government consumes one of every four dollars produced by the U.S. economy and congressman and senators significantly influence our social and economic reality, we care what they do.
We have seen many changes in congressional rules on "ethics" over the last quarter century. A couple of House speakers, among others, have been booted out. Yet, who would say that Washington today is a more virtuous, more ethical place than it was 25 years ago? With trillions of dollars at stake and outcomes dependent on the inclinations of politicians, it is a joke to think that arbitrary rules about how much can be accepted from whom and for what will change the game.
Nothing will change as long as we continue to turn a large chunk of our lives over to the whim of politicians of any party.
The Wall Street Journal ran an article this past week about some of the newest companies on the American business scene, all representative of cutting edge American entrepreneurship, that have been forced to open offices in Washington. These are companies like Starbucks, Google, Monster.com, Red Hat, Inc.