By Molly Ivins
AUSTIN, Texas—Either the so-called “lobby reform bill” is the contemptible, cheesy, shoddy piece of hypocrisy it appears to be ... or the Republicans have a sense of humor.
The “lobby reform” bill does show, one could argue, a sort of cheerful, defiant, flipping-the-bird-at-the-public attitude that could pass for humor. You have to admit that calling this an “ethics bill’ requires brass bravura.
House Republicans returned last week from a two-week recess prepared to vote for “a relatively tepid ethics bill,” as The Washington Post put it, because they said their constituents rarely mentioned the issue.
Forget all that talk back in January when Jack Abramoff was indicted. What restrictions on meals and gifts from lobbyists? More golfing trips! According to Rep. Nancy L. Johnson of Connecticut, former chair of the House Ethic Committee, passage of the bill will have no political consequences “because people are quite convinced that the rhetoric of reform is just political.”
Where can they have gotten that idea? Rep. David Hobson, R-Ohio, told the Post, “We panicked, and we let the media get us panicked.”
By George, here’s the right way to think of it. The entire Congress lies stinking in open corruption, but they can’t let the media panic them. They’re actually proud of NOT cleaning it up.
The House bill passed a procedural vote last week 216 to 207, and it is scheduled for floor debate and a final vote on Wednesday—which gives citizens who don’t like being conned a chance to speak. Now is the time for a little hell-raising.
Chellie Pingree of Common Cause said, “This legislation is so weak it’s embarrassing.” Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21 and a longtime worker in reformist vineyards, said: “This bill is based on the premise that you can fool all of the people all of the time. This is an attempt at one of the greatest legislative scams that I have seen in 30 years of working on these issues.”
Come on, people, get mad. You deserve to be treated with contempt if you let them get away with this.
I’m sorry that all these procedural votes seem so picayune, and I know the costs of gas and health insurance are more immediate worries. But it is precisely the corruption of Congress by big money that allows the oil and insurance industries to get away with these fantastic rip-offs.
Watching Washington be taken over by these little sleaze merchants is not only expensive and repulsive, it is destroying America, destroying any sense we ever had that we’re a nation, not 298 million individuals cheating to get ahead.
I’m sorry these creeps in Congress have so little sense of what they’re supposed to be about that they think it’s fine to sneer at ethics. But they work for us. It’s our job to keep them under control until we can replace them. Time to get up off our butts and take some responsibility here. Let them hear from you.
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