Thursday, September 29, 2005

In Everyone’s Backyard

Is anyone in this country who votes and has a college education surprised at all with the Tom DeLay mess? And am I the only one who wonders how Texans have time for this nonsense right now? I thought they are supposed to be busy trying to convince the rest of us Americans, except for those next door in Louisiana, how badly they need help, a/k/a federal money, from the other states to recover from hurricane Rita? C’mon guys, get your scripts straight and stay on point!

All Politics is Local
First, let’s admit that US Representatives are about the most “normal” national-level politicians of the lot. They have to convince you every two years to let them go back to that hellish job they said they wanted, “representing” you in our lower Congressional house. Sort of like paying to be allowed into a kindergarten free-for-all every two years.

In the pecking order of Presidents, Senators, and Supreme Court Justices, these Representatives are most definitely the least polished, most unvarnished of the political breed. Everybody knows the seamy stories about US Reps from their district. All politics “is” local, and the same “constituent servicing” goes on in every district in every state in the country.

So What Else is New?
So I was bemused to learn that Tom DeLay allegedly was explicit in trading his support of a colleague’s son for a House seat, in exchange for the colleague’s vote on the medicare prescription drug benefit. This was evidently only one of a handful of times that the House “ethics,” and I use the word very loosely, committee has spoken out on Mr. DeLay’s actions.

I’m reminded that Texas has been most generous in delivering this type of political comedy to the nation. Remember Jim Wright’s heavily accented, “I will comply” with the House’s ethics committee’s demand that he come clean on his infamous book-buying-cum-campaign-financing scandal? Or Bobby Baker’s vegetable oil hoax?

By now, I'm old enough to consider the phrase "House Ethics Committee" an oxymoron. Who are they kidding? It's a political club with which to bash the other party's most effective leader.

We Get What We Deserve
Seriously, though, I think the true lesson in the Tom DeLay affair is the continuing stupidity in Washington with respect to campaign finance “reform” and regulation. When will we voters learn that these guys and gals we elect are just using our money to try to hamstring each other with so-called “campaign finance reforms” as they attempt to remain in office forever?

Let’s just admit that money is fungible. What DeLay and his colleagues evidently did seems perfectly sane and reasonable, given funding regulations. They took donations which were apparently illegal in Texas, sent them to their National Committee, and received funds back from said Committee. It may be laundering, but I can’t see how you could possibly write legislation that would make all and only such transactions illegal. If the people we elect to the House and Senate weren’t this clever, would we even want them there in the first place?

A Better Idea
You and I, as taxpayers, would be far better off if the pols we send to Washington would rescind all the current campaign finance laws and replace them with one. It’s a great idea which I read in the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal during the Clinton years. Simply require that any funds donated to a campaign must be publicly reported, both at an electronic/internet site, and in a paper-based document, within 24 hours. The information required would be the amount, the donor, and the donor’s contact information. Then let the press have at it. I frankly don’t care if the head of the Chinese army donates money to Bill Clinton (wasn’t that rumored during his campaigns?), Tom DeLay or John Kerry. I just want to know about it. It would say far more about the candidate than many of his or her words and actions ever could.

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