Opinion

Cleaning up congressional corruption

by Jim Hightower

Is it just me, or is the rancid stench of Washington political corruption a lot more malodorous than usual?
You might remember a decade ago when Newt Gingrich put forth his Contract with America, pledging that if Republicans took power theyd tidy up the place spick-and-span, turning it into an ethical nunnery. Well, since then, the GOP has taken total power the Congress, the presidency, and the courts but Washington these days is stinkier than a barroom spittoon. Take a whiff of such characters as Tom DeLay, Jack Abramoff, Duke Cunningham, Bob Ney, and so many more mugshots in the making.
Indeed, there is now so much corruption between lobbyists and lawmakers that the FBI has had to triple the number of corruption squads investigating them. For decades, only one squad was needed to handle such cases, but this year there are three with 37 full-time agents digging into the muck. And now the FBI official overseeing the mess says he wants to add a fourth, because so much wrongdoing is being uncovered.
The misdeeds are so deep and widespread that the leaders cant smell their own stink. Early this year, when some of the scandals were revealed, the GOP loudly promised to stop the selling of legislative favors. In September, however, when media coverage of the corruption had died down, the House cynically passed a sham of a reform, patted itself on the back, and promptly returned to taking lobbyist-financed junkets, using lobbyists to chair their fund-raising committees, and putting their spouses on lobbyists payrolls. Their reform was about as effective as tying an air freshener to the tail of a hog.
The only reform thatll actually do the job is legislation to remove the corporate money from politics by providing public financing of all congressional elections. To learn more about it, call Public Campaign at 202-293-0222.

Jim Hightower, author of Thieves In High Places: Theyve Stolen Our Country And Its Time To Take It Back, on sale now from Viking Press.

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