Thursday, January 19, 2006

Lobbying Reform Won't Reform Congress

After being caught with their hand in the lobbying cookie jar, both parties are touting lobbying reform. Is it just me or is anyone else reminded of that scene in Finding Nemo where they run into three sharks who are trying to swear off meat? This lobbying reform movement is pretty much the same thing, except with congressmen and money rather than sharks and meat.

The truth is, you can’t keep money out of politics. No matter how many doors are shut, money will squirm its way in, if not through golf trips to Scotland, than through campaign fundraisers—that just happen to take place on Scottish golf courses.

Furthermore, we can’t forget that lobbying is a constitutional right. Petitioning the government is enshrined in the first amendment and so we have to be careful not to unduly restrain lobbyists.

Besides, lobbyists aren’t the real problem. It’s Congress that’s the problem. They can make a show of cutting the money off, but as long as they can be corrupted, someone will find a way to corrupt them. The only real way to stop the corruption is to scrutinize our elected officials more closely.

That’s why I think the most meaningful reform would be to create a system of much greater transparency. Every dime given to a congressman, whether it be a campaign contribution or a gift, should be clearly documented and published for the public to review. With all the bloggers and junior reporters wanting to find that next big story, I’m pretty sure the records will be closely reviewed and, if there’s anything fishy, we’ll find out about it.

Transparency won’t thwart those truly intent on being corrupt, but it would stem the kinds of casual corruption so common on the Hill. Ultimately though, it’s for the voters to decide whether a congressperson deserves his or her post. I heard an interview the other day with a voter in Bob Ney’s district. Upon hearing of Ney’s alleged misdeeds, the woman said, “That’s just awful. Something needs to be done about these corrupt politicians.”

Yeah. How about voting them out of office?

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