Abramoff: Tip of the Ice Berg

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Folks over at Vote Out Incumbents for Democracy created their organization knowing Abramoffs and DeLays were at work and that they represent only the tip of the ice berg in regard to bribing elected officials for votes in Congress and policy in the White House. Other organizations too, like Common Cause have been warning Americans of the scandals that would come as a result of our allowing our government to be sold to the highest bidder. But, it is crucial that Americans look past the Justice Department's action, to the underlying problem: the relationship between lobbyists and politicians.

Yesterday, Newt Gingrich had something extremely valuable to say about this scandal. As Michael J. Sniffen, Associated Press Writer reports:

...Newt Gingrich cautioned Republicans they risk losing control of congressional majorities if they try to put all the blame on lobbyists.

"You can't have a corrupt lobbyist unless you have a corrupt member (of Congress) or a corrupt staff. This was a team effort," Gingrich told a Rotary Club lunch in Washington on Wednesday...

He is absolutely right. Lobbyist corruption in government requires willing politicians to take the money and accept the influence and expectations associated with it. One has to ask, why Pres. Bush and Speaker Hastert waited until after Abramoff turned state's evidence to announce they were donating Abramoff's "gifts" to them to charity. Is there any doubt they would have kept it had Abramoff NOT turned state's evidence?

Our laws regarding lobbying are themselves corrupt. Where in the Constitution does it say corporate entities, businesses, or unions should be entitled to lobby the nation's Congress with privileged access over individual American citizens? It doesn't. And this is the heart of the corruption. Regular adult Americans may lobby their Congresspersons by writing them a letter, or scheduling a visit to speak to their Representative. But, if a private citizen were to walk into a Congressperson's office and tell them, I need you to vote against the Patriot Act, and here is $69,000 to make it worth your while, the Congressperson would likely ask them to leave and call the FBI or Justice Department to report the incident. But, this is exactly the amount Abramoff sent to Speaker of the House, J. Dennis Hastert, in order to move legislation, and Dennis Hastert gladly accepted the money.

Only after the announcement that Abramoff was going to spill his guts to the Justice Department, did Hastert announce he was giving the amount of $69,000 to a charity. Now one has to ask, if Hastert had any remorse over taking the money from Abramoff, why did he wait until it was known his acceptance of this money so long ago, would be subject to scrutiny, before offering it to charity? One reason can be found in the fact that until DeLay's indictment last year, Hastert had conducted only 1 House Ethics meeting. Ethics were not a concern for Hastert, until he was implicated. Now, all of a sudden, the House Speaker is expressing concern over Congressional ethics. This is an extremely thin veiled sham by the Speaker of the House.

There will be dozens of Congresspersons implicated by Abramoff's testimony, and it is a good bet that Tom DeLay will be included, as if his money laundering indictments in the state of Texas weren't enough to cause him to resign. The fact is, this is very much like the Watergate scandal, in which politicians implicated are incensed by the thinking that, 'everyone else does it, so why am I being singled out'; a defense offered by Pres. Nixon in his abuse of executive power in spying on political opponents. But these men are charged with the responsibility for protecting and defending our Constitution and the laws that emanate from it. These are the very persons Americans vote to insure that government is not, and does not become, corrupt.

Below the water line of the Abramoff turning state's evidence plea bargain deal, is the vast volume of money which changes hands in Washington D.C. each year between special interests and politicians. And it takes many forms ranging from campaign contributions, donations to groups favored by politicians, and expensive vacations and trips sponsored by special interests under the guise of helping Congress person's become aware of issues near and dear to lobbyists pocketbooks. This vast berg of bribery amassed under the water line is a result of laws that permit access to politicians by wealthy special interests, magnitudes greater than the access afforded you or I as working non-wealthy Americans. And therein lies the heart of the issue and the spawning ground for this Abramoff scandal. It is appropriate lobbying for a spokesperson to visit a Congressperson with petition in hand containing thousands of citizen signatures. It should be illegal lobbying to visit a Congressperson asking for favor in one meeting, and in another handing the politician's campaign manager a check for thousands of dollars to their next campaign.

And make no mistake, this is not a Republican problem nor a Republican indictment. The money flows to where the power is, and Republicans are the majority power in Congress. This bribery has taken place just as fluidly toward Democrats when they were the majority party in Congress. So while many on the left will argue that it is Republican Congresspersons who are corrupt, the truth is, were Democrats currently the majority party, their members would now be standing in majority numbers as targets of the Justice Department, instead of Republicans.

To use this scandal to indict up two dozen Congresspersons for being caught does nothing to address the underlying problem; unequal access to politicians by the wealthy. Yet, the solution to permanently ending this source of government corruption is quite simple. Restrict lobbying access to a single spokesperson for groups and require that such spokespersons get in line with regular individual Americans to be heard, and finally, limit any and all contributions to politicians and candidates for office to an amount most working families could afford if they chose to contribute. The laws prohibiting a quid pro quo donation for vote, in other words a bribe for a vote, simply does not address nor constrain all the various means and ways of transferring wealth to politicians in exchange for favorable responses to the lobbyist.

The foxes are in charge of the Chicken House though. It will take a deep, widespread, and sustained public outcry to force politicians to make substantial changes in the law that will put a halt to this get rich, get reelected quick scheme, which Congress has created for itself. The outcry cannot just be in the media but, must occur at the polls in November of this year. To put it simply, the current incumbent politicians in Congress are responsible for this system which benefits them and subverts our democracy. The target of public indignation over this scandal must be incumbents. And the only way for us citizens to target them and hold them responsible for their actions is to vote for their challengers in 2006. With as many as 98% of incumbents reelected election after election, they have had nothing to fear from the voters, and no motivation to clean up corrupt government. Only when incumbents start losing reelection in large numbers, will their replacements in Congress be forced to change the laws and halt this corruption of our democracy.

Now you and I have lives to live, and cannot leave our jobs to put the pressure on Congress to change their ways. However, we can support those organizations which exist to do just that ethically; organizations like Common Cause and Vote Out Incumbents for Democracy. As citizens, the greatest thing we can do to take responsibility for cleaning up our government so that it can represent us, is to join and support one of these organizations dedicated to restoring democracy and responsible government to the American people. Do it today. Visit their sites, become a dues paying member, and they will work everyday to insure Politicians hear your demand without the greasing of palms taking place as Abramoff has done. And register to vote, and go vote, for the challengers, NOT the incumbents who will fight the changes needing to take place.

2 Comments

okay, let's say you'd like to learn about an actual political campaign to impeach the president ...

ah, none of this noise about a yearning for somebody to go do it ...

in addition, you'd like to learn about a game plan to snag Osama ...

if all the above meets with your approval, then click, somehow, on the following hyperlink:

http://hewhoisknownassefton.blogspot.com/2006/01/osama-and-our-president-dumass-botch_20.html

and get ready for a ride on a wild blog

toodles
.......\
.he who is known as sefton

oh, yes, the above was copied and then pasted by an actual human being, who visited your "PoliWatch" blog.

oh, one more thing, keep an eye on Pennsylvania's 10th Congressional District ... I'm trying to base my campaign on the three planks I nailed together in my platform ... "impeach bush" is the first plank ... the second is "impeach bush" ... and the third is like the second, "impeach bush".

There is a growing minority of Americans calling for Bush's impeachment. There are 3 avenues to impeachment. But, only one that has a chance. The House can investigate and launch impeachment hearings (ain't gonna happen). Petition signatures equalling something in the order of 7 million signatures (also, not likely to happen). The third and very real possibility is if a state launches an impeachment demand upon the Congress. That at least would have to be responded to by Congress with an investigation, and therefore is the most likely avenue. Wouldn't bet the farm on it though, not just yet.

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This page contains a single entry by David R. Remer published on January 5, 2006 12:59 PM.

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