Thursday, December 07, 2006

Morris on Congressional Ethics Reform

Dick Morris offers his take on what ought to be included in Congressional ethics reform:

  • Ban spousal and family employment by campaign committees and PACs;
  • Ban immediate family members of senators or congressmen from lobbying Congress;
  • Restore the line-item veto and impoundment;
  • Require lobbyists to disclose the specific bills that they are lobbying;
  • Ban all privately paid travel by members;
  • Require electronic filing of all travel disclosures; and,
  • Require both chambers to work a full week.

There's not much here I quibble with. I'm not sure what the ramifications are of requiring lobbyists to list the specific legislation they are lobbying. As one who has filled out such disclosure forms, I list every cat and dog I can think of, to ensure that I haven't failed to disclose anything. I'm not sure that this would improve the situation.

And as for requiring both chambers to 'work a full week,' I would charitably describe this as silly. Members should be in Washington a sufficient amount of time to do legislative work, while allowing them to travel to their districts and elsewhere for other work. The outgoing Congress probably ought to have done more oversight and spent more time in Washington. I can virtually guaranteed that the incoming Congress will devote too much time to that. A requirement of five days is a campaign slogan - nothing more.

And glaringly missing from the list is an outside ethics process. Elected officials will never convince voters that they are squeaky clean, but they would do a lot better if they didn't have to answer for an ethics system where the judges seem to have their hands in the cookie jar as well.

Republicans have knocked Chris Shays as being 'too liberal,' but if they want to compete in the Northeast, they ought to pay more attention to a guy who knows how to do it. One reason he survived this year is that he is a genuine reformer, who is known for his support for an open ethics process. His idea for an Office of Public Integrity is a political winner, and one that is likely to trump the Democrats' attempt to brand themselves as the 'party of clean government' when the new Congress opens (since they show no inclination to accept it).

It ought to be on the GOP agenda.

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