Two Other Authorities Expose So-called Ethics Reform

Posted: Aug 15, 2007 12:01 AM
Two Other Authorities Expose So-called Ethics Reform

I have not spoken recently with Paul Jacob. Years ago he was a leader of the movement to establish term limits for elected officials. Jacob is one of the most honest men in Washington. I always listen to what he says.

Writing for last week, Jacob provided more information on S. 1, the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007, a copy of which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) recently waved in front of the Capitol. She declared the bill, which passed the House by a 411-8 vote on July 31, to be "momentous." The Washington Post called the lobby-reform legislation "a landmark bill."

The usually taciturn Senator Harry M. Reid (D-NV) said the legislation was "the most sweeping ethics and lobbying reform in history." Reid claimed the legislation would produce "a government as good and honest as the people it represents." Reid also stated that he would transform a rotten Congress into a "good and honest" one. Jacob asked in reply, "Does any sane person really believe this?"

Senator Tom A. Coburn (R-OK), the one senator who exposed the lack of transparency in the earmark process when the Senate was marking up the reauthorization of the Transportation Bill in 2005, called the lobby-reform bill a "landmark betrayal." He would know. He is the most consistent opponent of pork in Congress.

Instead of exposing and eradicating secretive pork-barrel spending the bill has created new ways to hide that spending. The bill, Coburn said, makes earmark disclosure voluntary, not mandatory. Also, the requirement of 67 Senate votes to suspend the earmark disclosure rule was changed to 40 votes - less than a majority.

The language prohibiting a Member or staff from promoting earmarks from which that individual personally would benefit was eviscerated completely. So was the provision prohibiting a Member from trading votes for earmarks. Coburn was also angry that the provision requiring a Member to disclose earmarks on the Internet 48 hours before a vote was changed to "as soon as practical." Other provisions of the bill were weakened as well, limiting the quantity of disclosure and transparency required of politicians and defeating the original purpose of the bill.

The Washington Examiner editorialized that the bill failed to address the core issue of corruption caused by earmarks. Coburn said that earmarks have been at the heart of recent scandals which have sent Members of Congress to prison and brought others under investigation.

Coburn, Jacob points out, is a citizen legislator. Hence, the content of the bill angers him. This bill allows politicians to deceive their constituents. It is little wonder that the bill passed by an overwhelming majority. There are few Members of Congress with a good conscience such as that of Coburn. If Congress had more Members like him it could enact serious anti-corruption and ethics reform legislation.