Thursday, April 19, 2007

Bad day for Republican ethics

Yesterday was a good day for Republicans on the ethics front. Today, not so much.

First, you have Rep. John Doolittle, R-Calif., giving up his seat on the influential House Appropriations Committee after the FBI raided his house in connection with the Jack Abramoff scandal. His wife, a fundraiser, was on retainer to Abramoff, and also worked on Doolittle's campaigns.

That said, his action is classy compared to that of Democrat William Jefferson, who you may recall had to be kicked off the Ways and Means Committee after his house was raided -- a raid, admittedly, that has thus far produced no actual charges.

Over in the Senate, meanwhile, a gutless anonymous Republican blocked a minor campaign-finance bill for unknown reasons, with the assistance of Sen. Lamar Alexander.

Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), the lead sponsor of a bill that would end the antiquated practice of requiring senators to file their forms on paper, stood on the senate floor Monday and reminded members of a process that borders on the absurd.

Instead of filing forms electronically, as candidates for president do, senators print their reports and deliver them to the clerk's office. The staff scans them into a computer so they can be electronically transmitted to the Federal Election Commission. The FEC then prints the forms again and hires workers to type the data into a database so it can finally be made public online.

But before Feingold's bill could move forward, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) rose and announced, "Mr. President, on behalf of a Republican senator, I object."

The bill simply provides for senators to file their forms electronically like everyone else. Why anyone would object to such a common-sense measure -- much less do so anonymously -- is beyond me. There are only two explanations I can think of: the senator in question likes the lengthy delay the current inefficiency introduces between the filing of the report and its availability; or this is being used as leverage in negotations on another matter.

I suppose there's a third explanation: this is just part of a general GOP effort to gum up the works in Congress and make it hard for Democrats to claim any legislative successes.

That's a time-honored bipartisan tradition, but I'll be glad when the Senate ethics bill finally clears the conference committee and such holds become a thing of the past.

Update: And a day later, another Republican resigns a committee seat after another FBI raid:

Rep. Rick Renzi stepped down temporarily from the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday, after the FBI raided his family's business in connection with an ongoing federal investigation.

Agents took documents, the Arizona Republican said in a statement issued late Thursday night....

The Justice Department has been investigating Renzi for months, but the subject of the inquiry has never been made public. Media reports last fall gave conflicting versions, with authorities said to be looking into either a land swap involving a former business partner of Renzi or a Pentagon contract involving Renzi's father, a retired Army general.

Update II: The Sunlight Foundation has narrowed down the Senate hold culprit to 12 senators, and is calling all of them to try to narrow the list even further.

Update III: The Sunlight Foundation has now narrowed it down to three senators: John Ensign, David Vitter or Judd Gregg.

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Anonymous just6dollars said...

Anyone who's been paying attention should have seen this coming. This should be a wake-up call that the only way to prevent corruption is to get big money out of politics and return influence to the American voter through public funding.

4/20/2007 1:46 PM  

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