Corruption

Here's Your Earmark. On a Completely Unrelated Matter…

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"The American people voted to restore integrity and honesty in Washington, D.C.," Nancy Pelosi declared upon become speaker of the House, "and the Democrats intend to lead the most honest, most open and most ethical Congress in history." How's that going? To be fair, Pelosi and her New Direction Congress® did adopt some reforms that sounded pretty good. A new House ethics rule, for example, forbade "any link" between campaign contributions and a congressman's official actions. That is quite a bit stricter than the standard for proving bribery, which requires clear evidence of a quid pro quo. But according to a report issued by the House ethics committee last week, "any link" requires more than a juicy earmark immediately followed by a big campaign contribution, or vice versa. Declining to pursue charges against seven representatives accused of buying contributions with taxpayers' money, the committee said, "Simply because a member sponsors an earmark for an entity that also happens to be a campaign contributor does not, on these two facts alone, support a claim that a member's actions are being influenced by campaign contributions." Earmark foe Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) says:

This will embolden members. In essence, unless you're caught on the phone with a lobbyist saying "Contribute or else you don't get an earmark," then you're fine. That's the clear message here.

NEXT: Government Workers Are Earning More than You. Sucker.

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  1. That SHOULD be the message here.

    The fact that it’s difficult to prove bribery does not mean that we should adopt rules that, for all practical purposes, invalidate the rights to speech and political association.

    By waxing indignant about this, you help support the liberal mindset that says that it’s OK for the state to dominate the economic lives of individuals, but that if individuals trapped in that situation organize to try to be the eaters and not the meal, it’s “corruption”.

    How about we just establish limits on what the Congress can do, instead of trying to punish the people they talk to before they do it?

    1. “How about we just establish limits on what the Congress can do…”

      Isn’t that what the Constitution does?

      1. No. See the “general welfare” clause.

    2. “How about we just establish limits on what the Congress can do…”

      Isn’t that what the Constitution does?

    3. I am fond of saying that the problem is not that politicians can be bought, but rather that they are worth buying. If the Constitution had been followed as intended there would be little need to purchase favors from Congress as it would have none to give.

      1. ” If the Constitution had been followed as intended…”

        There simply is no single “intended” way the Constitution was to be followed — for instance, Madison and Hamilton had entirely different ideas on what “following” the Constitution meant.

  2. A new House ethics rule, for example, forbade “any link” between campaign contributions and a congressman’s official actions. That is quite a bit stricter than the standard for proving bribery, which requires clear evidence of a quid pro quo.

    Frankly, I don’t see much difference, other than pure PR vapor/fluffing.

    What’s a link? How do you show it? The more you pick at this, the more it turns into clear evidence of a quid pro quo.

    “Simply because a member sponsors an earmark for an entity that also happens to be a campaign contributor does not, on these two facts alone, support a claim that a member’s actions are being influenced by campaign contributions.”

    Even a rule that says, presumptively, that Congressscum are prohibited from sponsoring an earmark for anyone that contributes is easily worked around – Get your buddy to do your earmarks, and you’ll do his.

    There is no way around the Iron Law:

    Money and power will always find each other.

    The only way to reduce the damage is to reduce the power side of the equation. Even in the poorest countries, the Iron Law holds, and enormous damage is done because enormous power is wielded.

  3. Any link means at least one link, which means one link is sufficient. Not two, one. Even a narrow reading of link does not require a recorded phone conversation of quid pro quo. I would go to the dictionary here, but the plain meaning is obvious and people should apply some common sense (think about the strict reading of the rules in the school drug case blogged below). Campaign contribution followed by earmark, especially if the time between the two is not substantial = link.

  4. “Somebody else would have awarded that contract, anyway; I might as well get the credit for it.”

  5. Does offering a Cnngressman’s brother a federal bench seat count?

    1. I can’t believe this guy is so brash.

  6. How about “recusing” oneself? If it’s good enough for the Judicial Branch, it’s good enough for the Legislative Branch. Of course, the perpetrator (bribee) could get his or her buddies to vote.

    This would all be resolved IF Congress were REQUIRED to bring a bill back to their state for discussion BEFORE they are allowed to vote on it. Citizens are MUCH wiser and MORE honest.

    1. ”’
      Citizens are MUCH wiser and MORE honest.
      ”’

      Oh, horse shit. That’s about the dumbest comment on this thread.

      How many “citizens” routinely vote based on their perception of how the thief they’re voting for will effect their ability to feed at the trough?

      Citizens are no more honest than the people they elect.

      Note, you could have been sarcastic there, and I missed it. If so, sorry.

    2. “Citizens are MUCH wiser and MORE honest.”

      These are the same citizens who made American idol a hit?

  7. “and the Democrats intend to lead the most honest, most open and most ethical Congress in history.”

    I’ve heard this before somewhere, but I can’t put my finger on it…

  8. The corruption in DC needs to stop.

    Charlie Rangel….resign NOW.

  9. the liberal mindset that says that it’s OK for the state to dominate the economic lives of individuals, but that if individuals trapped in that situation organize to try to be the eaters and not the meal, it’s “corruption”.

    535 guys living in a swamp believe they can control every aspect of individual life, from smoking, to transfats, to how our money is spent, what stream of money is to be dedicated to savings, our relationships with our doctors and healthcare providers… the list goes on and on and on and on. It will never stop.

    1. The deeper problem is a supermajority of the people think that’s a Good Idea.

    2. The biggest problem is they don’t *all* want to regulate *every* aspect of our lives, but for any given aspect there is a (mostly changing) subset who are willing to give it a go.

  10. To bribe a public official requires you to make a payment to that individual for their own personal benefit.

    Congresspersons can’t spend campaign funds on their personal lives.

    If the state is going to take upon itself the power to hand out trillions of dollars in economic benefits, in a free country people have to be allowed to organize themselves politically to seek those benefits out.

    Overtly saying, “Let’s arrange to support the campaign of a representative who will steal for us,” is a perfectly legitimate activity once you have empowered the legislature to steal. Trying to pass a rule that says, “We will expel any member who votes benefits for his constituent supporters” violates the rights of those supporters, and also violates the Constitution:

    The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States, and the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature.

    No Person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the Age of twenty five Years, and been seven Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen.

    That’s all the Constitution has to say about who gets to serve in the House. That’s it. Making up other requirements to serve in the House [“ethics rules”] violates the rights of the voting public.

    1. Yup. No mention of murder here so I guess these guys can kill people with impunity and still remain seated.

    2. “Congresspersons can’t spend campaign funds on their personal lives.”

      Not exactly. They can use that money to hire family members and friends to cush do nothing campaign jobs and accomplish the same thing. It only takes so much money to run a good House campain. Once you go above that, you can then hire your friends and family and recoup some of that money.

    3. And of course you can always get your wife and kids cush jobs in return for earmarks. you just have to be smart about how you do it.

    4. Congresspersons can’t spend campaign funds on their personal lives.

      They can and they do, they just have to launder it.

      I find it amusing that Rostenkowski went to jail for the post office stuff, when he was laundering campaign contributions for years in a brazen fashion.

      He’d have his campaign lease office space in a building he owned, and then charge his campaign rent four and five times the market rate of such a lease and pay the rent out of campaign funds.

      Most folks aren’t so brazen as to try that (which is why we learned about that), but, particularly when you’re a lawyer, there’s really no end to the ways campaign funds can wind up in your pocket.

    5. The money is for their campaign to get elected – you think they don’t benefit personally from getting elected to congress?

  11. “Any link”? Huh? How is that even possible? Are you not allowed to vote on any legislation that might affect some person who contributed to your campaign. Is a vote not an “official action”?

    1. Heh – all representatives who took contributions from any health-care related business or individual or any recipient of Medicaid or Medicare must recuse themselves from voting on Health Care legislation. This has potential…

  12. Congresspersons can’t spend campaign funds on their personal lives.

    The benefits bestowed by incumbency make that campaign contribution an excellent proxy for direct personal gain.

  13. Repeal the 17th amendment. Return to state appointment of Senators. Limit the term to one six year term.

    Senators will no longer be at the campaign contribution trough. Congressional Representatives will still be subject to campaign contributions but who will be willing to contribute under these conditions? Rent seekers will be unwilling so long as they cannot game the system in both the house and senate.

    This also returns the balance of power to the condition it was before the 17th amendment altered it.

    Mark Sherman

    1. My problem with the idea is this: If the Senate were limited to a single 6-year term, who would be worried about losing the next election because of a vote on health care? No one.

      It’s that fear of losing that is keeping this help up right now. Take it away, and the thing might just pass.

      I once supported term limits, but no more. We should build something into the system to compensate for our own idiocacy at not voting the bums out.

      1. That should be we “… shouldn’t build something into the system …”

  14. We have free speech, which includes money, which creates corruption in the political bsiness.
    Why not require whovever or whatever donates money for a political cause must register it on the internet, also any politician who receives money must registure that on the internet.
    I’m sure that someone will qjickly determine who is bribing who. There could be a pretty stiff fine for not registoring. Problem would be legal and solved.

    1. Problem with this is that a group like the NRA will give a lot of money to Congresspeople who support their ideals. So the NRA probably gives a lot of money to McCain. And McCain votes pro-gun the majority of the time.

      Is that a shared outlook, or a bribe? Its not nearly as cut and dried as you might think and I don’t think its as blatant and rampant as you might think. And that is exactly why we should ignore those hystericals about Citizens United.

      Not to mention that if businesses could just bribe off government do you really think OSHA and the FDA would exist, and assuming you think they provide the framework for corporate dominance, do you really think Microsoft would have let the antitrust action against it go forward?

  15. Ethics rules will work only when the folks responsible for enforcing the ethics rules are ethical themselves.

    ‘Nuff said.

  16. This makes perfect sense: the Dems support McCain-Feingold because they don’t want corporations to gain control over Congressmen, and they also support Congressmen that do things for corporations and other lobbyists and then getting payed for it. See? No contradiction here…

    1. Heller: Ise suuports peoples who cans wreit english as wells as “Congressmen that do things for corporations and other lobbyists and then getting payed for it.”

  17. The problem and power of Congress is spending OPM (other peoples money). My modest proposal….

    1. Representatives get one proxy vote for each person that voted for them. All votes are by proxy vote.

    1. Representatives can only spend the tax revenue from the people who voted for them. (NOTE, not from all of their district). For regular bills is at the Reps discretion how much (if any) of the money in his revenue account to spend.

    2. Compulsory Spending Bills (CSBs) that compel an equal percentage of each Reps revenue account also apply to the general revenue fund from those not represented. CSBs require a vote representing 2/3 of all taxpayers.

    3. CSBs that result in deficit spending for any representative or the general fund require a 90% proxy vote.

    4. Unspent revenue for each Rep is returned to their voters proportionately to the tax paid by each voter at the end of the fiscal year. Tax revenue to the unrepresented that has not been spent in CSBs is also refunded proportionately.

    1. However bad the current situation is, there is always a reform that could make things worse.

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