Apparently we are now living under a fungible ethics system. If you break the rules there’s a simple solution – change the rules. In Texas Tom Delay forced a redistricting plan through the legislature years ahead of the normal, census-directed redistricting. In the process of doing this he is said to have used corporate funds to gather support which is illegal in Texas. The answer? – change the law and make such funding legal. With respect to the House Ethics Committee itself now evenly divided between the two parties, Republicans want to change the rule so that ethics complaints require a majority vote to go forward and, in addition, make it harder to bring such complaints in the first place? Maybe in the end the ethics committee will come to be called something else, like say “The Select Committee on Power Politics.” And no-one seems to be pursuing the fact that Delay called on the Department of Homeland Security to track down Democratic legislators in Texas who were trying to avoid making up a quorum for a redistricting vote. And if chairman of the Ethics Committee, Joel Hefley, has the temerity to do his job without an overly partisan slant, just get rid of him and appoint someone friendlier to the House leadership.
And further in the “How’s-That-Again” department can someone explain why it was okay for Cheney and Scalia to go duck hunting together or why it’s not a problem for Clarence Thomas to accept expensive gifts from persons who may be bringing issues before The Supreme Court. “No problem” his spokesperson says –‘Thomas could simply recuse himself.’ When did receiving gifts become more important than performing one’s judicial function and recusal become just another way to avoid charges of ethics violations?
Likewise in the Senate the answer for handling problem areas — simply “change the rules.” Don’t like the filibuster? do an end around it by having Vice President Cheney declare it unconstitutional in the case of judicial nominees. What little hope remained for representatives of close to half the nation to prevent a far-right tilt from occurring in our courts would thus be erased with a simple procedural flourish.
Finally in more general terms with respect to Congress, someone said recently that pork is just the cost of doing business in Washington and that while some amounts may sound large to the average person they are in fact just a small part of the giant budget Congress passes every year. Of course this may be true, however, it may also be true that some of those millions, earmarked for some legislator’s pet project at home, could find their way into other worthwhile national projects. Maybe it would make sense to limit pork dollars to grants of say $50,000 or $100,000 to a max of $300,000 except for things that would benefit large swaths of the public such as rail or highway systems. Maybe, for example, it isn’t necessary to fund at the level of $3,000,000 a Grape Genomics Research Project in California or The Baseball Hall of Fame for $450,000, Wood Utilization Research for $6,285,000, or the B&O railroad museum restoration in Maryland for $5,000,000.And surely, we voters have a right to know what is happening with spending bills that should be broken out into their component parts not plastered together into some unwieldy, unreadable omnibus spending bills. Hopefully, those of us ‘out here’ will get active and find ways to get our voices heard.

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