It's All Just a Little Bit of History Repeating

An analysis by the Post's Jeffrey H. Birnbaum explores "A Growing Wariness About Money in Politics." In the story, an expert is quoted as saying "that every 10 years or so there is an episode" of serious handwringing over the corrupting influence of lobbying on politicians.

Seems to me these periods happen more like every 12 to 16 years, and coincide rather neatly with midterm elections. Going back to the early 1960s, ethics take center stage every few midterms.

1962 -- At President Kennedy's urging, Congress enacts P.L. 87-849 in October to get rid of redundancies and inconsistencies among existing governmental ethics laws. (See Title 18, Chapter 11 of the U.S. Code.)

1978 -- In the wake of Watergate, Congress passes the Ethics in Government Act of 1978.

1994 -- Newt Gingrich leads his Republican revolution, relying heavily on accusations that Democrats had been corrupted by four decades in the majority.

2006 -- Democrats charge corruption has already overwhelmed Republicans -- after barely one decade in power.

In each case, there's a lot of talk but little substantive change -- never enough to put a stop to the delicious perks members of Congress and their staffers get from lobbyists -- then the furor dies down, usually by late November.

Editors at The Olympian newspaper in Olympia, Wash., see the potential for that to happen with the current lobbying reform legislation, versions of which have been approved by the House (narrowly) and Senate:

... one provision in the bill would temporarily ban privately funded travel for members of Congress, an area that has been rife with abuse.
Guess when the ban expires?

Hoping for serious oversight to reign in the influence of campaign cash? The Post's editorial board says, "Don't hold your breath." But something is better than nothing, according to the Low on the Hog blog: "in a take-what-you-can-get mode, it ain't half bad."

What do you think, Debaters? Have we resigned ourselves to "a take-what-you-can-get mode"? Would you say that's a healthy attitude for citizens of a democracy in which representatives must consider countless interests? Is the need for reform blown out of proportion? (Before you answer that, you might want to make sure you're up to date on the latest developments in the Jack Abramoff scandal.)

Are we looking at some seriously watered-down legislation, as John McCain suggests? Is the whole reform exercise merely political theater? Is it all just little bits of history repeating?

By Emily Messner |  May 8, 2006; 10:59 AM ET  | Category:  National Politics
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Finally, a new topic. This should be good.

Look, if ANY politician relies on the advice of a paid and paying advocate, then the advice is going to be skewed in some direction.

The current administration has spent 6 years, in conjunction with partners in crime (see Exxon Memo), destroying science and, more importantly, the understanding of the scientific method and how research is done. If the science doesn't agree with the's "junk science"!

Now, take this new found disrespect for science and the scientific method and you get policies developed, manufactured and produced (in the most Hollywood sense) to drive an agenda for the group of people who stand to benefit enough to drive them to fund said production with their own money. Tax cuts, healthy forests, Iraq War, etc, etc, etc...all manufactured policies developed by "think tanks" funded by those who want to shape policy for THEMSELVES instead of the country. And yes, on BOTH sides.

Unfortunately, facts have a liberal bias.

Add to that the invention of the professional politician and you have the recipe for disaster. Yes, the professional politician. You know, the one that "majored" in "political science". What the hell is that? I think the Founding Fathers never envisioned such a thing.

For the pro pol, politics is just a game...a zero sum game because in the end, you are either elected or not. Therefore, all policy is driven the same way. No comprimise...only a winner and a loser. The problem is that winning politically doesn't translate to a win for the people of this country.

It's not how to solve the problem (or even addressing a REAL problem), but rather having YOUR (read your favorite lobbyist's) policy win so you can collect more money from the same lobbyists in order to win reelection.

Then you can pander to people's fear about butt-sex and war and then blame the "other" guy for not being able to actually act on what you say.

Forget campaign finance, if you want to clean up Congress pass the following laws:

- Upon election ALL corporate assets will be sold at regular income tax rates and placed in a US Bond fund until such time that service is complete.

- Absolutely NOTHING may be bought, paid for or given to an elected official except information. And, all that information must be made available for peer review.

- Upon retirement of lost election, any representative or employee of a representative may NOT work for any company that does business with the US Government (direct contracts) for 5 years. Get a real job will ya.

Instead of making politics a stepping stone to greater success, make it a sacrifice.

Posted by: AfghanVet | May 8, 2006 12:11 PM

Case in point:

Frist and Hastert Let Vaccine Industry Write Its Own Multi-Billion Dollar Giveaway

Last December, Senate Majority Leader Bill First (R-TN) and House Speaker Dennis Hastert inserted a provision in the Defense Appropriations bill that granted vaccine manufactures near-total immunity for injuries or deaths (even in cases of "gross negligence") caused by their drugs during a viral pandemic, such as an outbreak of the avian flu. The legislation was "worth billions of dollars" to a small group of drug makers.

The provision was inserted in the dead of the night, after House and Senate conferees had agreed the provision would not be included in the bill. According to Roll Call, the brazen move was completely unprecedented.

A new report from Public Citizen reveals that vaccine-industry lobbyists essentially wrote the provision themselves. This morning's Tennessean reports:

Vaccine industry officials helped shape legislation behind the scenes that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist secretly amended into a bill to shield them from lawsuits, according to e-mails obtained by a public advocacy group.

E-mails and documents written by a trade group for the vaccine-makers show the organization met privately with Frist's staff and the White House about measures that would give the industry protection from lawsuits filed by people hurt by the vaccines.

Posted by: AfghanVet | May 8, 2006 12:36 PM


May 8 (Bloomberg) -- Republican lawmakers, facing the prospect that their power to cut taxes may soon be curbed, plan to extend breaks that mostly benefit the wealthy and Wall Street at the expense of reductions for middle-income households.

Six months before elections that may return a Democratic majority in at least one house of Congress, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee and House Speaker Dennis Hastert of Illinois are focusing on extending the 15 percent rate on investments and repealing the estate tax. They won't push extensions of lower rates for all taxpayers and expanded breaks for married couples and families with children, which expire after 2010.

``In politics, timing is everything; you do what you can when you can, and this is what's queued up right now,'' says Arizona Senator Jon Kyl, the No. 4 Republican in the Senate. Given the federal budget deficit, it would ``be hard to generate public support overnight'' for making permanent the other tax cuts, he says.

Democrats say the Republicans are favoring tax breaks that do little for middle-income Americans; 50 percent of all U.S. households earn between $26,859 and $120,100, according to the Tax Policy Center, a nonpartisan research institution in Washington.

``Even in an election year where they are losing popularity nationwide, they've chosen to pander to their base of rich donors and leave the middle class behind,'' says Representative Charles Rangel of New York, the senior Democrat on the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee.

Posted by: AfghanVet | May 8, 2006 12:40 PM

Afgan Vet,

I have to agree with you about the reforms that are needed. It makes no difference which party your affiliation as long as you will vote for the legislation the corporations want passed then the money and freebies the lobbyists are willing to pass out for the corporations are to be had by all in congress.

I said a while ago that I am suprised that there has not been some kind of talk about a citizens revolt anywhere on the net dealing with this fact of corporate pandering to our lawmakers. What is really needed is true reform. If these crooks need this money for their campaigns then I figure that it should all be placed in one big pot and it should be used to fund all candidtates who wish to run for office. This way they aren't individually benifiting from the money and also it helps fund the political process without directly buying a candidates vote. That way maybe we can start getting somekind representation for the people and not who has the most money to line the politicians pockets.

Posted by: Lab Rat | May 8, 2006 12:49 PM

Given the premise that every politicians job rests on his ability to get re-elected, and that re-election requires cash, it only makes sense that a politician requires corporate sponsorship to get the cash required to run for office. This was a lot bigger issue before the internet, where hundreds of thousands could be raised just with emails, but before, when corporate dollars funded a campaign, OBVIOUSLY they funded a campaign for a reason.

In other words, our whole system of campaigning is based on money. Don't see us gettin' around that anytime soon.

Posted by: ka69 | May 8, 2006 01:02 PM

Can anyone discuss WHY we must allow corporations to make donations? Is it a First Amendment thing or a Taxation thing or both?

Why not $1000 per entity for political donations et al?

Posted by: AfghanVet | May 8, 2006 01:25 PM

'The Love Of Money Is The Root of All Evil, and Americans love money!

I suspect that we will not see radical change in America until the people are willing to change, themselves. We have too many greedy, dishonest, self-centered, wreckless individuals in America (including clergy), and keep in mind that the politicans come up 'out of the sea of people'. They will not be any better than we are!

We also have some systemic problems in America that need to be addressed, however, most Americans have been conditioned to believe that the system is perfect and the best of all of the rest, so why tweek it?

Having said that, too many individuals want the system to stay as it is, given their own personal aspirations, i.e., mostly to acquire wealth. Too much emphasis is placed on wealth acqusition and our current system in its current permutation, lends itself to just that!

Posted by: Rev. C. Solomon | May 8, 2006 01:28 PM

Nah, it's beyond reform. This Dem/Rep scandal cycle goes every ten to twenty years. The pols get funny money from the lobbyists. The lobbyists get a thousand times return on investment thru follow on legislations. Hard to beat that on either end.

The Dems tax and spend. The Reps a bit shrewder borrow and spend. The Dems may be a bit more scrupulous in not screwing the working class too conspicuously. The Reps don't care who they screw as long as it's not themselves and their rich buddies. And they both screw future generations.

In the developing countries corruption is in the executive branch and thru the enforcers of the law. In the more sophisticated developed world corruption is now built into the lawmaking process. Why bother with the petty thefts when you can make it all legal and much more rewarding?

You won't do any worse if you just randomly select 535 legislators every four years.

A balanced budget admendment where two third of Congress is needed to borrow money for emergency spending may help. May.

Posted by: MI | May 8, 2006 01:42 PM

two parties at odds over this issue.

there was one group that wanted to control the economy and country for the affluents, at the exclusion of the common or unlanded


one group that wanted representation for all...

as I said earlier, if you want fairness in Congress, you need to have them respect the laws of the country at all level by enforcing them against the congress and judicial and executive system...

enforce ment ofall laws against Congress, if they don't obey them, they don't get to pass them.


Posted by: the very roots of the foundation of our country have | May 8, 2006 01:56 PM

I've always agreed with the (possibly apochryphal) quote from Ben Franklin about "a republic - if you can keep it!" The only real answer to a systemic poltical problem in a republic (or a democracy, whatever that is) is for the voters to not only kick the scoundrels out, but serve notice to their replacements that a repeat of the behavior will not be tolerated. This is, after all, what the founding fathers had in mind: citizens temporarily engaging in public service, no 'factions' (parties), active voter participation - just read the Federalist Papers sometime.
But, more and more, I find myself (generally progressive politically) tending to agree with conservative pundit George Will that only enforced term limits for all elective offices would serve any real purpose.
Problem is, of course, that the same scoundrels would have to legislate the term limits - probably sometime after the Devil wins a gold medal in figure skating.
My wise old father has always (only half-jokingly) stated that he intended to vote 'anti-incumbent.' Maybe, for just a few election cycles, we need a grass-roots movement to do just that.

Posted by: Judgito | May 8, 2006 02:22 PM

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

That to secure these rights,

Governments are instituted among Men,

deriving their just powers from the _consent_ of the governed.

That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

Declaration of Independence,

The leading draftsman was Thomas Jefferson, assisted by John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Robert R. Livingston, and Roger Sherman.]

The Declaration, which explained why the Colonies (now States) declared their independence, was adopted by the Continental Congress July 4, 1776

Posted by: in case you've forgotten | May 8, 2006 02:28 PM

"If virtuous, the government need not fear the fair operation of
attack and defense. Nature has given to man no other means of
sifting the truth, either in religion, law, or politics."

Jefferson to George Washington, 1792.

Posted by: and the government need not fear being questioned | May 8, 2006 02:47 PM

While we're at it:

"Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard."
-H. L. Mencken

Posted by: D. | May 8, 2006 02:48 PM

"If we suffer ourselves to be frightened from our post by mere
lying, surely the enemy will use that weapon; for what one so cheap
to those of whose system of politics morality makes no part?"

--Thomas Jefferson to John Sullivan, 1805.

Posted by: regarding Karl Rove or Geo H.W. Bush or Rumsfeld or Cheyney or Negroponte' | May 8, 2006 02:50 PM

"If we suffer ourselves to be frightened from our post by mere
lying, surely the enemy will use that weapon; for what one so cheap
to those of whose system of politics morality makes no part?"

--Thomas Jefferson to John Sullivan, 1805.

Posted by: regarding Karl Rove or Geo H.W. Bush or Rumsfeld or Cheyney or Negroponte' | May 8, 2006 02:51 PM

by having Peter Brookes "online," to selectively answer questions as_if he were an unbiased opinion.

which he is not, he worked for George H. Bush............he's a yes man with a hand in the pants of this administration.


Posted by: nice to see the Washington Post supporting president bushs' view of reality | May 8, 2006 03:29 PM

"...Before coming to Heritage, Brookes served in the Bush administration as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (DASD) for Asian and Pacific Affairs in the Office of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld..."

Posted by: for your viewing pleasure.... | May 8, 2006 03:30 PM

"...ould you say that's a healthy attitude for citizens of a democracy in which representatives must consider countless interests? Is the need for reform blown out of proportion?..."

"Democracy" is the game for elites. 90% of the "citizens" are nothing but wage slaves whose primary function is to watch tv and follow orders.

Posted by: Emilio | May 8, 2006 04:28 PM


A number debate topics ago you conceived a topic called "Iraqi Bloggers Blame their Leaders". The topic was supposed to be about why politicians always seem to act in their own interests instead of the public interest. You even challenged the debaters with this sentence:

"Any thoughts on how to purge either government of politicians who act more often in self interest than in the interest of their constituents and their country? (If any Debater has a workable answer to that last question, I might just send you a present.)"

Not that I'm interested in getting a present, but I have a proposal along those lines that might help to bring more public interest to the U.S. political arena. Certainly this proposal would have to be a part of a larger effort, but I think it alleviates a certain dynamic that has a great impact on the current policy priorities of our elected leaders.

Influence in our political system is overloaded toward those with money. There are many responsible, intelligent, civic-minded people with great experience that have chosen paths in life that don't give them access to large quantities of disposable income. This fact should NOT exclude them or minimize their influence in our political process! There needs to be a way to allow people like these - teachers, police officers, engineers, blue collar workers, and countless others - honest people that work hard and contribute to society, and therefore deserve as much of a say as citizens that can afford $1000/plate dinners. Simply stated, wealthier citizens can buy their way into political connections that skew public policy priorities in their direction. Isn't it likely that wealthy people will tend to have different priorities than the majority of the citizens in the U.S.? Of course there will be overlap, but the wealthy will tend to think far more with their wallet and bank accounts than the majority of Americans. This isn't necessarily bad, but the process we have now throws the balance of influence toward the wealthy so that their priorities take precedence over other citizen's priorities.

How can this be remedied? We want to maintain our capitalist system and we don't want to arbitrarily remove the influence of the wealthy citizens in this country just like we don't want to arbitrarily give average citizens extra influence in an artificial manner. Campaign financing is needed. Part of the political contest involves garnering public support through fund raising that fuels the advertising and promotion of ideas in efforts to persuade the people to give their votes on election day. We need to develop a way to bring balance to the level of political influence citizens have in this country without destroying the fund raising contest. Another factor to consider and protect is to safeguard our freedom of expression. This has been an argument used against campaign finance reform. Whatever method used to even out the influence should not inhibit freedom of expression, but it should bring about a greater level of equal opportunity for all American citizens. After all, one of the founding principles of our nation is that "all men are created equal." We all know that does not mean equal in terms of skills, strength, abilities, physical stature, or mental capacity. We all have varying degrees of these things. Instead, in the ideal form of the society we believe in, we all have equal opportunities to apply our varying levels of ability toward gaining success as we each pursue our own form of happiness. Influence in the political arena should be no different.

So how should this be structured?

Consider this:

One idea that has been floated is the public financing of campaigns. One objection to public campaign financing is that it impedes the contest for support leading up to an election. Also people that want to exert their freedom of expression by contributing to a campaign are obstructed from doing that because candidates are obliged to limit their intake of funds to those that are provided through the public financing, and the public campaign funds are apportioned equally among the candidates. For these reasons public campaign financing has not fully replaced traditional campaign financing.

What if public campaign financing could be merged with the traditional campaign financing elements that promote freedom of expression, and preserve the contest for building support for a candidate in the months leading up to an election?

I propose that each citizen eligible to vote, be allocated 1000 "campaign points" that can be "spent" any way that citizen might choose. Citizens can contribute any number of those points to any candidate of their choosing (local, state, or federal). The candidates would then turn in the point receipts to the agency monitoring public campaign financing funds. The points convert through a formula into dollars from the total fund. Citizens could also have the option of turning some or all of their points over to registered organizations such as the NRA, Unions, Christian Coalition, or the Sierra Club. Those organizations could then turn their accumulated points over to candidates of their choice (this could be presidential candidates, Senators, Congressman, Governors, State Legislators, or local politicians). The registered organizations would not be given any points of their own, they would instead depend on people to donate their points to them in whatever quantities they choose. This approach will even out political influence among all citizens, providing greater equality of opportunity without blocking freedom of expression. It preserves the contest of gaining influence with voters and competing for their contributions in months leading up to an election day. Contributing points in no way obligates a person to vote for the person(s) they contribute to, and they will be able to contribute their points in small chunks over time if they wish up to a predetermined deadline. Also, citizens could be granted a separate set of points for primaries vs. final elections.

An overall amount of public funds will be assigned to each election race. The amount doesn't matter. It can be determined by the U.S. Congress, the state legislature or county/city council, whichever is appropriate. The public funds will be provided to the candidates in 3 evenly spaced distributions (beginning of election race window, 1/3 of the way through the window and 2/3 through). The distributions to candidates will be based on the proportion of points received for each candidate in relation to points received for all candidates per race. Unused points will be treated as if they do not exist. All the distributions will be based on this approach. This way if a candidate is behind in fund allocation after the first distribution, but that candidate has a good message, there are periods of time between the distributions for that candidate to make up ground in the contest for gaining points and therefore money.

Each year a citizen will receive a new 1000 points. There will be no rollover of points from year to year. People will have the ability to spend their own points at any time during an established window of time for each election. They can divvy up their points as they choose between any set of candidates in any election participating in the process - from presidential to local school board, including both primaries and final elections (they are treated as separate elections). It could be that in a presidential election year or other heavy election years citizens might get more than 1000 points so they have more flexibility.

The citizens will be issued a PIN # associated with a point account (with account number) of 1000 points renewed at the beginning of each year. A citizen will have the option of using a series of linked internet sites (participating states will run their own sites for their own state elections, and local election boards will set up their own sites, with state assistance, if needed) to transfer points to any candidate of their choosing. Each record of point transfer will be tagged with the citizen account number, PIN, and date so the transactions can be traced back to citizens for verification in case of fraud. A citizen will be issued a transaction receipt through the internet much the same as when you register your car over the internet. The other point transfer option will be to transfer the points through an 800 #, also using the account number and PIN. Of course a very high level of security precautions will be needed and database redundancy so if a site is hacked, the compromised server can be shut down and a new uncompromised server can be switched in ASAP.

The logic behind this whole approach is to find a way to allow people to express themselves through indirect financial support to candidates of their choice in an equal opportunity format, avoiding the creation of conflicts of interest that are so prevalent in our current process.

There are many details that I could continue to think up and describe such as web site design, methods of protecting against and investigating fraud or illegal selling of points, and other issues, but I think there are answers for all those things. Not all those answers could be discovered until the program was piloted somewhere.

In the research I've done on this topic, I've discovered that public campaign financing has been used and is being used on a regular basis in various places in the nation. In all instances that I have seen, however, it is based on an equal allocation of funds to all eligible candidates. To me this is a fatal flaw. If someone like David Duke could qualify as an eligible candidate (and I believe that anyone that can meet the signature and registration requirements should be allowed to run), I certainly don't want him getting the same amount of campaign financing funds as the mainstream democrats and republicans, or even the libertarian or socialist candidates. Others may differ in their view about how our tax dollars are allocated among the candidates. This approach gives us all a say about how to allocate funds to be used for the campaign, prior to the actual election. As I stated before, no one has to vote according to how they spent their points. This proposal will not solve our entire problem of citizen disenfranchisement, but it may be a good step toward giving a large segment of the U.S. population greater influence in the political process.

Some additional considerations:

 Precautions would need to be taken to prevent people from selling their points.

 A possible concern that people could squander their points or give them up too easily to candidates that are unstable, unqualified, or fly-by-night. This possibility would seem to increase since the points have no value outside the political arena. This can be a pro and a con. People will be more willing to contribute their points since it isn't taking food out of their kids mouths. Hopefully this would get more people involved and paying attention early on. The flip side is that with no other value besides the political one, the points will be used carelessly and given to fly-by-night candidates and charletans. This could be avoided by making those eligible for the public funding, register with some minimal qualifying standards.

 This will not solve issues related to "unaffiliated" organizations such as and Swiftboat Veterans for Truth creating and airing their own commercials. Laws regulating those types of organizations need to be reviewed, possibly revised, and strictly enforced.

 Creation of an expensive bureaucracy - As one site I examined that advocates public campaign financing stated, the cost to citizens may well be offset by a reduction in giveaways to corporations, unions, and special interests.

 Lack of interest - people not spending their points - In all likelihood the percentage of people participating in the point distribution will be similar to the percentage that vote. The percentage doesn't really impact the distribution of funds, since the distribution of funds is based on percentage of points received per candidate in relation to percentage of points spent in a race (not total available points).

 Fraud from hackers, people stealing account numbers and PINs, and people selling their points to the highest bidder. - I have alluded to some security measures including firewalls, transaction receipts (provides a paper trail), redundancy of data servers separate from application servers, frequent backups, stiff penalties for hackers or others trying to cheat the system.

 Use of points for candidates outside your jurisdiction - I would have no problem with people spending their points on any candidate that impacts them (e.g. anyone in the country could contribute to any House of Representative or Senate candidate, anyone in a state could contribute to any state legislature candidate, but someone in one state could not contribute to a candidate for another state legislature)

I would suggest that this idea is not so far off from the ideas incorporated into the U.S. Constitution that require electoral votes for electing the president to buffer the effects of population differences between states. That and the upper house of Congress being composed of 2 Senators per state regardless of population, as opposed to the House of Representatives basing number of representatives per state on state populations. These provisions were the result of hard fought battles during the Constitutional convention. Those battles centered around the influence that small states would have versus big states. Is it so different for less wealthy people to want an increased amount of influence in their government?

Well that's the proposal - I'm interested in any comments people might have.

Posted by: DK | May 8, 2006 04:34 PM

Congress people to the same standards that you do for any

ordinary person to work at the CIA, FBI, NSA, or Interpol...

you'd not be getting a lot of people in Congress that were dishonest at that rate...

they'd become lobbyists...

do that, and change the United States into a democracy.

Posted by: I still believe that if you hold | May 8, 2006 04:36 PM

It's far more than the corrupting influence of corporations and rich people seeking to get richer than is the problem. Money drives the ability of small ideological groups to bypass democratic institutions and get "their" interests and agendas adapted. And like in other eras when things were really bad, the corruption goes past Congress to state legislators, judiciaries, and Governors.


1. A small movement of wealthy gays is using their money to lobby greedy politicans to push gay marriage and the gay agenda.

2. Public employee unions have used their money and influence to ensure little performance accountability exists for the state of public schools, municipal services, and push for special laws for full pay "lifetime disabilities" and pensions far more generous than average citizens doing the same work in the private sector get...all off the radar screen.

3. Jews and Cuban exiles found they could dominate US foreign policy for their purposes by use of money and threats of punishment to influence US politicians to vote their way and against broader American interests. Indians and Chinese immigrants have taken note and formed their own lobbies for pushing H1-B expansion, increased technology transfer, and other measures intended to improve India and China's global strength.

4. NGOs seek to bypass democracy for specific mandates or judicial appointments obtained like prizes without public involvement - that advance the NGO's agenda. The citizens of Lewiston, Maine had no vote in the 10,000 Muslim Somalis that showed up over 4 years. That was foisted on them by a regional consortium of Christian activists who found the Muslims of Somalia as especially worthy of "saving" after their charity efforts in Somalia...just not in their posh NYC, Connecticut, or Boston suburbs. Lewiston Maine was poor enough and remote enough for dumping...The NGOs are critical in how Americans wake up to find they are paying for mandates for unlimited foreign language translators, special ed with no budget limit, sudden laws requiring registration of firearms, husbands determined guilty until proven innocent in "family court", rural tax dollars diverted to dysfunctional cities in the same state, free medical for illegal aliens, and so on. Backed by the activist judges that the NGOs advance for appointment.

5. Increasingly, the wealthy and powerful of both Parties, the NGOs, the legal system - are coalescing as a "Ruling Elite". They live in the same neighborhoods, kids attend the same schools, they see one another at the same charity events, and while summering on Martha's Vineyard or at NGO Conventions at Davos or Athens in the winter. Regardless of affiliation, they believe in common things - like national borders and law being silly vestiges - and open borders, EU law, the primacy of the UN are worthy goals.


Solutions? Things have to go really wrong. Conditions are approaching how bad they were in the Reformist counter-reaction to the Robber Baron age, the cleanup FDR had to do, the barely successful Gingrich Revolution that quickly fell to a "replacement corruption"....but we are not there yet because we have too big an artificial partisan split where activists dominating on both sides blame the other Side for being unspeakably evil, while the general public only sees little difference between the Parties. And a general public that perceives a President as more bumbling than ideologically at fault.

My guess is it will take a crisis that the current system of wealth and imposed stasis on government except to work for the interests of a few over the many causes a national emergency over:

1. Energy
2. Health care
3. Economic collapse due to deficit spending and trade imbalances.
4. Government fails to do basic core responsibilities after a major attack or natural disaster..and the people see those in charge only interested in their special interest groups welfare.


But when solutions start:

1. Mandatory term limits of 12 years in Congress, 15 max if splitting time between House and Senate. But to succeed where Gingrich failed, the seniority system also has to end with Committee and leadership spots done by election. The Gingrich system failed because seniority remained intact, it was voluntary thus breached by both Parties members, and the perks of power Gingrich failed to reform were just too enticing to ignore.

2. 2 years for House elections means a perpetual election is on for Reps. Legislating and governing are entirely secondary to fund-raising and campaigning. Like the Senate is still responsive to the will of the people by staggering Senate elections every two years, a six-year House term would allow an end to the eternal campaign House members are trapped in.

3. Transparency. Right now the dodge on corruption and influencers subverting Democracy is that they have "privacy rights" as "ordinary constituents" to keep all public knowledge of their specific requests, threats to punish, and quid pro quos walled off. I would like to know what the CEO of BP has to say to Sen Diane Feinstein behind closed doors, or what the head of the teachers union says to the head of the Florida Appropriations Committee. I want to know the evolution of earmarks. Who initially requested them. I want ANY conversation made on behalf of a foreign nation or corporation on the public record. Or the Katrina contract-seeking companies meeting with Gov Blanco or the HUD secretary after a consortium they formed saw fit to donate thousands to Blanco or the Bushies. I'd like to see in notes and annotations any calls made that influenced a vote if Senator Spectors Chief of Staff took a call from a lawyer-lobbyist representing 22 environmental NGOs that threaten to destroy the Senator unless he votes against ANWAR.

The corruption is so bad I don't see how all the backroom stuff can be shielded much longer by claims of "constituent privacy".

Maybe true transparency is impossible, but for now, all the real action behind the scenes is off the record, and should be known to the public as much as possible and "privacy" of people seeking to bypass democracy is just an excuse, not a real concern for the privacy rights of of the Governor's brother-in-law or NARAL's steering Committee.

4. We have to get rid of potential corruptors like dual citizenship. The practice of politicians "rain-making" business for law-firms with no money attatched, but implicit "future favors owed".

5. And money is less important in re-elections if the system does not easily reward donors so much through legislative refrms...and new technology makes heavy donors and blowing money on uniformative 15 second exorbitant MSM "sound bite" ads less prevalent.

Like Dean or not, what I found very refreshing is his making the power of a fatcat trial lawyer, the power of a big corporation, the power of a "Top Feminist Spokesperson" less important through use of an Internet base of distributed small donors. Who define the issues and legislation they most want. In past iterations, direct mail or telemarketing gave the "power" to the fatcat running the mail or telemarketing operation. Dean's structure avoids that..

And media technology has changed. Before, it was absolutely prohibitive for a local, state candidate to spend enough to get 1 hour on TV going over platform and critical issues. Leaving attack ads and sound bite ads, or the hyped debate where both candidates follow the media format of "mano-a-mano" speak in generalities and dream of "the opening where the killer 5 second riposte can be made". Now for the cost of a single statewide 1 minute ad, a 1 hour DVD campaign movie full of positions, charts, bells and whistles, tossing in love of the family dog and hugging a crippled kid can be produced for the same price - then burned at 18 cents a copy, jacketed for 4 cents, and handed out or mailed for 50 cents apiece to targeted voter demographics. Or downloaded by anyone with fast internet access for free.

When money becomes less important, where we go with issues and various new media formats becomes more so, and the power of heavy donors and the MSM less so.

Posted by: Chris Ford | May 8, 2006 05:13 PM

Chris, interesting. Not one attack, just rational discourse.

Your examples are all skewed from the perspective of the right, but that's okay because it goes both ways. For every Senator being called by an Environmental Group, one is being wisked to a Golf Club by a Big Oil firm. So, you're right in a way.

The question becomes one of Freedom of Speech. Why is it not okay for a group of individuals to use whatever communications tools available to get their message out? Being well-funded is not a crime...correct? The question should be, how do we hold those communicating accountable for the VERACITY of what they are saying? Apply the same standards we have for truth in advertising to poltical ads and we might see some interesting affects.

Which is worse/better...the money collected from the many or the money collected from the few?

The biggest hit for you is Transparency. Amen brother. THAT alone would negate all the money BS. Let the "studies" and conclusions of the various lobbyist be subjected to critical, structured peer review. Hell, if it is being presented, it should be made available to all.

But, then we would have to hold our reps accountable for going against the rational findings of peer reviewed information.

"There is no ill of freedom, which cannot be cured by even more freedom."

Posted by: AfghanVet | May 8, 2006 05:37 PM

I do have a question:

How exactly is a small cabal of "gay" people pushing the "gay" agenda? Please cite your references. I mean, how exactly is getting a ban on gay marriage helping the "gay" agenda? Focus on the Family...working on the "gay" agenda?

Oh, and exactly WHAT is the "gay" agenda? I've always wondered what that means. Please inform me.

Posted by: AfghanVet | May 8, 2006 05:40 PM

DK - A few comments:

1. Most people are apathetic, but since points are "free" likely a good portion of the public would sign them over to the best manipulator or their favorite "cause group" - rather than see them (which are ultimately a drain on those who do pay the taxes) "wasted". So we could see Jesse Jackson revived as a "points collector" in the black community, or someone with celebrity & regular access to MSM media or radio, folks like Rush Limbaugh, Jerry Falwell, BIll O'Reilly, Chuck Schumer, Arnold, George Clooney grubbing for people's "free points".

It would end up the same as the "direct mail" scheme, where they that run the direct mail contribution operation are the power brokers that get the lobbying power, not individual donors.

In short, much of the same, except that you diminish the clout of private corporations and wealthy people - but transfer that same lobbying power over to select celebrities, NGOs, religious leaders, famous race-baiters, MSM luminaries instead. I like the Dean approach better.

2. A national distribution of your points system only encourages national groups or Parties in the most powerful, most populated states to accumulate points and target select state people. The "points" of 38 million Democrats in California could go a long way towards making all Senate and House candidates in population 800,000 Montana follow California Democrats dictates. Or, nationwide Gay Vegans collect all their points and put it all into fielding candidates in Vermont declaring they will submit bills in Congress to make Vermont "meat-free" and "Astroglide friendly". Already we have a problem with national special interest groups declaring "war" on certain Congressional candidates that they object to, and pouring money in from out of state to defeat them despite the Congressional candidate getting by far the most funds from his or her actual constituents. "Points" would worsen that.

3. "This will not solve issues related to "unaffiliated" organizations such as and Swiftboat Veterans for Truth creating and airing their own commercials. Laws regulating those types of organizations need to be reviewed, possibly revised, and strictly enforced."

I would just add we have to be very careful restricting the free speech and rights to assemble and petition we give to groups like the VFW, the NRA, retirees, families organized seeking a cure for diabetes or seeking specific things like tariffs or immigration control. A considerable amount of US politics happens outside the Parties. The Parties must never get exclusive franchise over our political fates.

4. I agree on the "equal funding of all parties" being as much pie in the sky as the "equal vote" between nations of 8,000 people and 1.1 billion people at the UN. Giving the Gay Vegans, New Black Panther Party, Republicans, Greens, Naderites, Democrats, Libertarians, New White Socialists, Communist Party USA 50 million each with no private donations allowed is preposterous. But public funding limited to the "Big Two" perpetuates their monopoly. And funding based on the last election results for the next election helps perpetuate the past with taxpayer dollars. And even minimums of public funding for splinter Parties encourages the creation of more splinter parties not serious about office, but in using their taxpayer funds as clout to lobby more credible political forces.."Look, Republicans...give us a deal on eminent domain promised after the election and we will help you win by only campaigning against the Democrats in this election..."

Posted by: Chris Ford | May 8, 2006 06:08 PM

boots and too-tight pants when he goes to gay bars...the chrissy boyy...

his anger at the gays is being bypassed when he goes out for some action...

can this fellow be any more ludicrous?

perhaps, let's wait and see.

Posted by: this is a guy that wears cowboy | May 8, 2006 08:06 PM

to confront Congress people about their lack of honesty,

because they _have to_ be who they say they are to work for the government...

so should your congress people as well as those in the Exective and Judicial office...

they should _all_ have to pass the same degree of examination of anyone that works for the

armed forces,

security agencies,

or federal police forces.

as a minimum...

answering statements that can be used to file perjury charges later if there is dishonesty, and having a background investigation to prove that they can be responsible in ordering their lives, and so protect the American citizens from bad decisions...or making choices based solely upon personal needs...they are acting for the country, according to the premise of what their office means...

I doubt Negroponte could pass.

Posted by: it's really pretty comfortable for most Washingtonians | May 8, 2006 10:24 PM

The fundamental problem with the "points" proposal is the same as with voting. The choice is limited to voting "for" someone (perhaps therefore, by proxy, voting on an issue as well, although not reliably so). Through the two-party system the array of choices is so predigested and narrow that there is often only a distinction without a difference.

I propose becoming more flexible and having the ability to the vote "against" anyone, negating an offsetting affirmative vote. It maintains the idea of equity of voting power at the individual level, but the dynamics are entirely different making it much more precarious for the incumbent's attitude of winner take all.

Posted by: On the plantation | May 9, 2006 08:37 AM

There is only one meaningful way out of this ethical morass: Public Financing of political campaigns coupled with stringing prohibitions against outside, non-local influences on state and local campaigns.

The present system encourages and incentivizes the nationalization of all politics. At the local level, out-of-state interest groups can effectively neutralize the influence of the local citizenry on their own elections and raise to the fore issues that are more national in scope.

And, we have all seen the corrosive effect that money has on our political system. We need action now to get this dirty money out of the system. We need limits similar to the limits imposed on political campaigns in Canada and Europe. And, the only way we are ever going to get true reform is to have public financing of national campaigns and prohibitions of outside special interests meddling in local and state campaigns.

Posted by: Jaxas | May 9, 2006 10:49 AM

I will make you all a bet. Notwithstanding all of the complaining, low poll numbers and beyond obvious malfeasance and incompetence that has characterized conservative republican political dominance over the past several years, and notwithstanding a ringing call for change, very little will come of it. Why? Because the American voter has become so uninvolved and unconcerned, and so pathetically disinformed by talk shows and pundits, they will ultimately end up re-electing the very same gaggle of incompetents and charlatans that they have been complaining against.

That tells me that our Republic has already fallen into a state of complete disrepair and is no longer salvageable, save for a second American revolution.

Posted by: Jaxas | May 9, 2006 10:59 AM

Let's start from the premise - and the reality - that corporations are NOT people. They can't go to jail, they can't be frogmarched off wearing orange jumpsuits, and they can't be tortured in Gitmo even when they're citizens.

And most of them don't even pay ANY federal taxes.

Posted by: Will in Seattle | May 9, 2006 11:46 AM

Chris I must congragulate you on a very good piece, as afgan vet put it a right sided slant but right on the money, and put that with Jaxas's notion of the voting public not taking the time or intrest in the political system and doing the research needed that spells out exactly what changes need to be done. I agree 100% with Ford that I too want to know what is said on those phone calls, who placed the earmark on the bill, what was said during an imprompto office visit. I want to know who was on that airplane ride you took and what was said exactly, what was discussed at that round of golf, over dinner & drinks, who was responsible for the fundraising dinner held in your honor, who is the people behind the group that no one has ever heard of before that sent you that big campaign finance check (Was it the DNC or the RNC ect.) these positions of power should not be allowed to sheild any information because the potential for abuse and influnce peddling is so great as has been shown repeatedly. As I stated before not until americans are totally fed up and we have another revolution and clean house all the way around will our government become a functioning democratic government again!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: Lab Rat | May 9, 2006 12:28 PM

Will in Seattle,

Is this a true statement within the current legal structure? I may be mistaken, but I believe current case law gives freedom of speech status to corporations because they are indeed taxed (whether or not they pay is a DIFFERENT issue).

Any tax law people out there?

Posted by: AfghanVet | May 9, 2006 01:37 PM

You are right they are taxed but most end up paying much less taxes than what you would expect because of loopholes in the tax code.

Posted by: Lab Rat | May 9, 2006 01:52 PM

Lab Rat,

Agreed, but different problem.


Are you suggesting a Constitutional Amendment to cover election financing and speech? If not, most of what you suggest is not new and did not make it through the courts.

Now, creating a new Amendment is not a bad idea if crafted appropriately.

Posted by: AfghanVet | May 9, 2006 01:58 PM

"Chris I must congragulate you on a very good piece, as afgan vet put it a right sided slant but right on the money...," enthuses Lab Rat.

Indeed, just as everyone thought Chris's primary forte was indecent propositioning other male debaters, he somehow came forward with a sound argument on money and politics.

Posted by: Emilio | May 9, 2006 02:26 PM

The Rat continues: "As I stated before not until americans are totally fed up and we have another revolution ..."

You want to change the constritution?..
Fine. But if you talk about destruction,
you know, you should count me out.

Posted by: Emilio | May 9, 2006 02:33 PM

New topic, anyone?

Posted by: Emilio | May 9, 2006 02:44 PM

How to invite a lawsuit?

HUD secretary's blunt warning

Alphonso Jackson says deal was scuttled after contractor admits not liking Bush

Posted by: AfghanVet | May 9, 2006 03:05 PM

The fundamental problem with these debates is that they falsely assume the choice is between tighter rules and corruption. However, the problem is structural and the average person is actually the cause of it. More importantly, the rules usually tend to only exacerbate the problem while the necessary structural changes are ignored. The proliferation of interest groups, and their ability to hijack the legislative process, is what we should really be concerned about -- not whether a lobbyist files a complicated quarterly report. If we really wanted to curb their influence, why doesn't Congress pass rules allowing committees to craft legislation in closed session? In one fell swoop, we would eliminate much of a lobbyist's job because they would not be able to pressure a specific Member and hold him or her accountable for specific line-item in a bill. The obstacle, however, is that we wrongly assume that we need transparency at all costs in everything Congress does, and as a result, we cripple the system by making it susceptible to the very influences we complain about.

The same is true about the influence of money in politics. I am a campaign finance lawyers and I can tell you that all campaign finance rules are a monumental failure because they are premised on the wrong assumptions. The rationale for all campaign finance laws is that we need to resuce the influence of money in elections, to keep the wealthy from controlling the system.

The problem is that by limiting contributions and restricting their sources, we create perverse incentives for candidates. Now, money is all they are worried about because they have to spend all their time raising it in such small increments. And as for the corporations and wealthy donors the rules are designed to address, their influence is actually greater. These are the people who are able to put together fundraisers and mailing lists to net the millions of dollars that candidates need. The campaign finance laws have actually created an entire cottage industry of fundraising professionals, specialized lawyers (like myself) and consultants.

I think its significant that in the 30 years of camapign finance reforms (post-Watergate), people are more repulsed than ever by politics and campaigns. They believe it is still all about big money, which it is. By that standard alone, any form of campaign finance "rules" are monumental policy failure.

I think if we really wanted reform, (which we don't), it would mean giving up the unrelenting pursuit of transparency, access, and our insistence that politicians do the right thing for the greater good, except when it affects our favorite cause.

Tighter rules will simply add to our problems.

Posted by: Frustrated Observer | May 9, 2006 05:03 PM


Most interesting article. Clearly, the level of corruption perpetrated by the Bush Administration pales in comparison to Emily's other cited instances of graft.

There is no precedent for the total lack of ethics, conflicts of interests, improper sole sourcing of government contracts, (Duke shot down in flames is only one example), shameful spinning of the truth, torture, and just plain stupidity and failure we have seen under the Bush Administration.

My observation is that Bush appointees are so unqualified for their positions that they DO NOT KNOW what the laws and regulations are for their responsibilities and they do not act for the "common good" but only for Republican political/power purposes.

It is shameful if it weren't for the fact, that they are so clueless (which makes this sort of funny) that they will make material adverse statements in public as the HUD Secretary alleged made in the cited article which invalidates and makes protestable the entire contract competition and should get them fired.

Comments, or am I off base that you cannot award a government contract based on political affiliation. Now I know it's done all the time, but you can't say that out loud.

Posted by: Richard Katz | May 9, 2006 05:17 PM

Leave it to Emily Messner to prescribe a bandaid when surgery is needed. This blog does better when her pablum is ignored and the rest of us take a more serious approach towards a serious problem such as the collusion of money and politics which is running our country into the ground.

Posted by: ErrinF | May 9, 2006 07:51 PM

For some reason, if you try to post here with a link, it considers it 'comment spam' and blocks it from going through. Pretty weak that you can't even write a post with links in it here.

Posted by: ErrinF | May 9, 2006 08:30 PM

New topic? How about the fact that Dana Milbank and Richard Cohen are pathetic careerist morons masking as journalists? Typical MSM lapdogs that are derelict in their watchdog duties.

Posted by: ErrinF | May 9, 2006 08:32 PM

Here's a link to an online discussion wherein Dana Milbank behaves like an obnoxiously unfunny loser who is obviously still nursing the wounds Stephen Colbert inflicted the other week:

Posted by: ErrinF | May 9, 2006 08:33 PM

And here's a link to nebish Richard Cohen continuing to behave like a persnickety whiner about the whole Colbert affair:

Posted by: ErrinF | May 9, 2006 08:34 PM

And for those who haven't seen Colbert's performance, it's still available at the CSPAN website. Here's the link:

Enjoy! : )

Posted by: ErrinF | May 9, 2006 08:35 PM

Splitting up the links seems to have bypassed the problem.

Posted by: ErrinF | May 9, 2006 08:37 PM

Posted by: ErrinF | May 9, 2006 08:50 PM

using all of her credibility up to support Hayden...

saying that NegroPonte wants to suppress Rumsfeld.

What the eff is that about?

Anyone that has google can see the connection between Rumsfeld and well as Bay of Pigs, Watergate Break-In, Cheyney, Nixon, and most of all George H.W. Bush....

these people are all part of the PNAC defense department/oil cartel...

that Bush Sr. has been working on for 50 effing years....come on.


It's so interesting to see DANA PREIST...who received a pulitzer for simply reiterating what was fed to her...

somehow fail to make the link, at the same time

Mary Cheyney is all over the front page to show you that this government and Cheyney are not one said they were, it has been stated by several cogent posters....


that they _use_ chrissy does when he gets his but t kicked by everyone, and starts cryin.


heh heh heh.............ewwwwwwwwwwww.


Posted by: regarding a CIA shill..... | May 9, 2006 11:37 PM


May 9, 2006 -- First they came for the Muslims and the Arabs . . . then they came for the illegal Latinos . . . and then they came for the Irish. Yes, the Department of Homeland Security under Obergruppenfuhrer/chief Kapo Michael Chertoff has decided to sic his Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents after illegal Irish bartenders and waitresses who mostly work in New York City Irish pubs and who have overstayed their visas. Also being rounded up in the DHS sting are U.S. citizens of Irish descent who have facilitated the entry of the Irish workers from Canada through such entry points as Buffalo and Rochester. Since he became Homeland Security Czar, Chertoff has menaced Arabs and Muslims, Latin Americans, African-American survivors of hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast, and now Irish pub workers. Chertoff's actions against Irish bartenders and pub keepers has increased anti-American feelings in Ireland and among New York's large and influential Irish-American community.

"Kapo Chertoff's" new enemies: Irish bartenders in New York City. Chertoff is out to catch Osama McLaden.

One group Chertoff will definitely not touch is the non-documented organized crime syndicates from Russia, Ukraine, and Israel, some with provable financial links to "Al Qaeda," which operate mainly out of Brighton Beach in New York, Miami, and the greater Los Angeles area. Chertoff's financial and religious ties to these groups may explain his reticence in seeking their deportation.

Posted by: che | May 10, 2006 07:08 AM

Lack of clarity brings this:

NEW YORK -- Former National Security Agency director Bobby Ray Inman lashed out at the Bush administration Monday night over its continued use of warrantless domestic wiretaps, making him one of the highest-ranking former intelligence officials to criticize the program in public, analysts say.

"This activity is not authorized," Inman said, as part of a panel discussion on eavesdropping that was sponsored by The New York Public Library. The Bush administration "need(s) to get away from the idea that they can continue doing it."

Since the NSA eavesdropping program was unveiled in December, Inman -- like other senior members of the intelligence community -- has been measured in the public statements he's made about the agency he headed under President Jimmy Carter. He maintained that his former colleagues "only act in accordance with law." When asked whether the president had the legal authority to order the surveillance, Inman replied in December, "Someone else would have to give you the good answer."

But sitting in a brightly lit basement auditorium at the library next to James Risen, the New York Times reporter who broke the surveillance story, Inman's tone changed. He called on the president to "walk into the modern world" and change the law governing the wiretaps -- or abandon the program altogether.

"The program has drawn a lot of criticism, but thus far former military and intelligence officials have not spoken up. To have Adm. Inman -- the former head of the NSA -- (come) forward with this critique is significant," said Patrick Radden Keefe, author of Chatter: Dispatches From the Secret World of Global Eavesdropping, who sat on the panel with Inman and Risen. "Because of the secrecy surrounding this type of activity, much of the criticism has come from outsiders who don't have a firm grasp of the mechanics and the utility of electronic intelligence. Inman knows whereof he speaks.",70855-0.html?tw=wn_index_2

Posted by: AfghanVet | May 10, 2006 09:51 AM

I thought Cohen's article on Colbert was spot on. Easy to "Speak Truth to Power" when you have nothing to lose and being in bad taste these days seems to be acceptable. Pity Cohen had to suffer the onslaught of BDS sufferers....liberals will often eat their own.

Whole thing is just fun to watch.

Posted by: D. | May 10, 2006 11:17 AM

like your cushy seat down at the congressional lobby...

yeah, I'd find it in bad taste if I couldn't hide my agenda to eff over the consumer by getting the simpletons to vote for my medical tripe too...

don't let the seniors by drugs from Mexico or Canada, we "BIG PHARMA" need the money more than they do....ha ha ha ha....



Posted by: oh, I see, if you have something to lose.. | May 10, 2006 01:35 PM

I'm afraid it will require more than legal reform. It will require a million more years of evolution before the upright monkey over comes the urge to grab up all the goodies it can. I suspect the people who created the Lascaux cave paintings sat around and shook their heads over the fact that Clan Head Ugg let that b@stard Ogg get away with murder because he slipped Ugg an extra slice of elk liver every day.

Do I find the idea of elected officials selling themselves to the highest bidder deplorable? You bet. Can I say I would act any differently? I dunno. Give me a million bucks and see what happens.

The only reform I can think of is to make the penalties for political prostitution so extreme the elected official runs when the lobbyists come calling. Of course the EOs would have to pass such a law. And even the death penalty does not prevent murder...
Evolution it is!

Posted by: Cy, NC | May 10, 2006 05:39 PM


come closer.


Posted by: gotcha | May 10, 2006 11:04 PM

all you'd have to do would be require your congress people to adhere to the same standards of behaviour that require any

BELTWAY worker to hold a clearance....most people that work in DC and the surrounding metro area, Northern Virginia, Maryland have to hold a clearance...

you get a background investigation, answer questions, references, credit history, and if you're Top Secret, which isn't that high you may get a poly

that's normal if you work in military, DOD, or anything to do with services for agencies...heck you may have to have a clearance to work in banks when you alter or provide software services...

that is so that you as a citizen are protected...

now, these people pass laws, vote on wars, allow NSA to listen in on you, and regulate the agencies...

is it alright that they couldn't get a clearance and they can still out Valerie Plame and claim executive privelege?

I don't think so....I think they should be arrested, don't you?


Posted by: actually CY... | May 11, 2006 01:12 PM

I'm fascinated by the discussions, so I thought I'd put in my two cents worth.

Laws I'd like to see:

1. 100% public financing of elections: Seems to be working well in the three states that have it. The whole campaign contributions thing turns on one premise, I think, and that is that money equals speech. I'm not so sure that's true.

2. That the vote of every legislator, Federal on down, include a statement that s/he has read the legislation that the vote is cast on. No more "I didn't know that was in there!"

3. That any legislation can deal with one, and only one, stated subject. No 'omnibus' bills; no highway bills with public health subsections or similiar silliness.

4. Any supplemental budgetary legislation must require at least 50% of Members of Congress to swear to a statement that they had no idea of the requirement more than 30 days in advance. (If that doesn't put paid to the idiocy of not including the Iraq and Afghanistan costs into the budget, I don't know what will! )

5. Re-institute the draft. And I say that as an Air Force vet, a 30 year Navy wife, an Army mom, and someone who just picked up my nephew, coming home from Iraq, this morning. We do, desperately, need for our citizenry, and especially our young people, to become more aware and involved in the political process. While the unprecedented use of the reserve forces is 'spreading the experience' somewhat, the fact is that the majority of the population simply feels they have no connection to what is happening to our political process. I hate to say it, but the threat of the draft hanging overhead will concentrate the attention wonderfully.

Posted by: psyctutor | May 12, 2006 05:50 PM

On how to fix it....I just have one suggestion to add to a goodly number of good suggestions already offered.

Cut it short. Primaries in July-August. Conventions in mid-Sept., followed by 5 week campaign. That should cut costs in half and take less time for campaigning and leave more time for legislating. As it is, a two year House term is tyically 8 months campainging,16-recesses actually working.

Posted by: Cayambe | May 13, 2006 03:22 AM

Cayambe, that suggestion alone qualifies you to walk around wearing a shirt that says "Pure Genius".

Personally, I'm going to have one made that says "If you think three days a week is "full time" you must be in Congress."

Posted by: psyctutor | May 13, 2006 08:12 PM

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