Thursday, May 04, 2006

Kline Is Not Serious About Reform, But Come November, There Will Be Consequences!

I was skeptical that John Kline wouldn't have the stomach for true reform when the candidate that Kline supported to succeed Rep. DeLay as majority leader had his own lobbying problems. Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, who won the job with John Kline's support, once passed out checks from tobacco lobbyists on the House floor. In addition, John Kline has received money from Boehner and his PAC!

I had hope that the scandals had become so blatant that Congress would have to do something meaningful. That hope was misplaced with John Kline and his corrupted cronies in Congress.

The U.S. House spent the last several weeks gutting the reform bill. Gone is any mention of an independent Office of Public Integrity, gone is a ban on accepting free private, chartered flights or other gifts from lobbyists, and gone is extending the time that former members have to sit out before accepting high paying lobbyist positions and returning through the revolving door to lobby their former colleagues.

It's hard to believe that members of Congress including John Kline, mindful of voters' diminishing respect, would attempt to con voters during an election-year. One Republican proponent had the gall to argue that we mustn't ''chill'' the right of lobbyists, the ultimate insiders, to petition government

The bill does promises to ban privately funded travel starting in November - but the ban expires in December. The G.O.P. leaders can't even marshal the courage to rein in the shameful use of corporate jets by pliant lawmakers!

It requires lobbyists to disclose fundraising events - but then defines fundraising events so narrowly (only events specifically billed "to honor" a member of Congress) so the provision is meaningless. As a result, lobbyists banned from paying $100 for a congressman's restaurant dinner would remain free to pay $25,000 or $50,000 to underwrite a fundraising party to "honor" the member. (What's that you say, there's no honor among thieves?).

About all the House bill does is slightly increase disclosure of lobbying activities and "earmarks" in spending bills. Instead of two times a year, lobbyist must file disclosures four times a year and will pay a larger fine for not doing so.

Earmarks (better known as PORK!) isn't banned but must be disclosed. Although there's been extensive talk about bringing special-interest earmarks under control, the bill merely makes it out of order for an appropriations bill not to include a list of such projects and their sponsors. And nothing is done about earmarks hidden in authorization bills.

Turns out it doesn't pay to bet on the honor of lawmakers like John Kline. He's used to getting paid by lobbyists who expect him to have none.

The fact that this bill was passed all but shouts to voters that the GOP is not serious about reform and that it values its ties to K Street more than the public's trust. One of the provisions is mandatory 'ethics' training for House members. I recommend that Kline attend at least twice. Still, come November, there will be consequences.

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