Honest leaders needed

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 21, 2006

Earlier this week in our nation’s capital, Republican and Democratic leaders from the House and Senate proposed rules to tighten regulations on lobbyists.

These proposals have arisen following the Jack Abramoff political corruption scandal.

Abramoff, a once-powerful lobbyist, is at the center of a far-ranging corruption investigation. He pled guilty this month to fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy to bribe public officials in a deal that requires him to provide evidence about members of Congress.

It is good to hear that both parties are responding to the scandal with such zeal.

Unfortunately, it took a massive political scandal for our elected leaders in Washington, DC to tackle the issue of lobbying reform.

In an effort to take the lead in this ethical bonanza, both parties are trying to out-do each other in their attempts to paint themselves as reformers.

Rather than limiting the value of a gift to $20, as House Republicans are considering, Democrats would prohibit all gifts from lobbyists. There is also talk about limiting or banning trips by members of Congress that are paid for by lobbyists.

Another proposal will require lawmakers to publicly disclose negotiations for private-sector jobs and require lawmakers to wait two years after leaving Congress before they can take jobs as lobbyists.

Democrats hope to end some of the legislative practices that have become established during the past 10 years of Republican rule in Congress. The Democrats are determined to end what has become known as the K Street Project, which basically consists of Republicans in Congress pressuring lobbying organizations to hire only Republican staff members and contributing money only to Republican candidates.

Does anyone think if the Democrats regain control of Congress they would do any different?

The Democrats are also proposing a plan where House and Senate negotiators who are working out final versions of legislation will be required to meet in open session and with all members of the conference committee. The legislation will have to be posted publicly 24 hours before congressional consideration.

There are plans to better regulate what is known as no-bid contracting.

What is overlooked in this stampede of new ethics’ rules is the real tragedy; that these measures are needed in the first place.

The outcry during every election about voter apathy is well-founded, but is it any wonder many Americans become apathetic?

Most people consider corruption in Washington, DC status quo and the Abramoff scandal only adds fuel to this fire. Many Americans believe that unless you have a former legislator or a former high-powered congressional staffer lobbying on your behalf, your voice will not be heard.

However, as citizens of the United States of America, we still control who is elected to our legislative bodies (with the exception of the 2000 Presidential race of course).

We must elect legislators who are honest and who are there to represent the interests of their constituents.

Too many members of Congress are consumed by raising campaign money in their effort to stay in Washington and their relationships with special interest groups with deep pockets have become too cozy.

Trips to Scotland for golf and expensive dinners paid for by lobbyists should be illegal, but we should elect leaders who would not take these &uot;kick backs&uot; in the first place.