Monday, May 28, 2007



Virtually all the significant growth in California is hours away from the big cities, most of it in Southern California's Inland Empire. There phenomenal rates of growth are registered year after year in Riverside and San Bernardino counties. There is virtually no Democratic Party infrastructure in these counties and, politically, these areas have been left to rot in a red, red hell. San Bernardino and Riverside counties are divided between Buck McKeon (CA-25), David Dreier (CA-26), Jerry Lewis (CA-41), Gary Miller (CA-42), Joe Baca (CA-43), Ken Calvert (CA-44), and Mary Bono (CA-45). Baca, a Latino, is the only Democrat rep in the area. He is also the only moderate and one of the only members of the congressional delegation from the area who didn't wind up on CREW's list of the 20 Most Corrupt Members of Congress in the U.S.. Of the 20 most corrupt, San Bernardino and Riverside have the biggest concentration of ethical sleaze in the entire country, boasting advanced corruption investigations for Jerry Lewis, Ken Calvert, and Gary Miller.

This is especially interesting in light of the prediction by CBS correspondent Gloria Borger (on yesterday's Chris Matthews show) that there will be "mass resignations from House members who are now saying they can’t afford to live here unless they’re bought and paid for by lobbyists; they're going to leave." Friday the House overwhelmingly passed a bill that will make it more difficult for members of Congress to trade favors for financial support from lobbyists employed by wealthy companies.

Zack Space, who replaced Republicrook Bob Ney, convicted last year of corruption and currently residing in a federal penitentiary in West Virginia, ostensibly spoke for 396 members who voted for the legislation, when he said "It is absolutely imperative that we break this circle of deceit that exists, that has existed, between lobbyists, their wealthy clients and this legislature." I say "ostensibly" because many of the most corrupt members of Congress felt compelled to support the bill, not just the aforementioned Gary Miller, Jerry Lewis and Ken Calvert and 2 crooks whose papers were recently seized by the FBI [Rick Renzi (R-AZ) and John Doolittle (R-CA)] but also K Street darlings from both sides of the aisle like Rahm Emanuel (D-IL), Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Denny Hastert (R-IL), Brian Bilbray (R-CA), John Boehner (R-OH), Virgil Goode (R-VA), and other ethically challenged members like Tom Feeney (R-FL), Doc Hastings (R-WA), William Jefferson (D-LA), Heather Wilson (R-NM). Patrick McHenry (R-NC) and Paul Gillmor (R-OH).

At least Don Young (R-AK), one of the most corrupt members of the House-- on a level with Jerry Lewis and John Doolittlee-- was honest enough to vote against the bill. H R 2316, Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007, now moves on to the Senate, where it is viewed as being weak and unthreatening enough to pass.

Friday's Washington Post refers to the weeks of yeoman's work it took to convince some of the more corrupt Democrats-- particularly Emanuel and Hoyer-- to go along with the bill. The Post conveniently glosses over the success the K Streeters had in weakening the final bill.
Party leaders and new lawmakers worked until the day before the vote to sway some longtime members who had balked at the proposals. It took weeks of persuasion by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other key lawmakers to convince recalcitrant Democrats -- among them some members of the speaker's inner circle.

The new proposals, which in the end passed overwhelmingly, would expand the information available about how business is done on Capitol Hill and make it available online. They would provide expanded, more frequent and Internet-accessible reporting of lobbyist-paid contributions and sponsorships, and would for the first time impose prison terms for criminal rule-breakers. They would also require strict new disclosure of "bundled" campaign contributions that lobbyists collect and pass on to lawmakers' campaigns. Yesterday's legislation passed 396 to 22...

The House in January passed rules banning gifts, meals and travel from lobbyists. The rules also require sponsors of pet spending projects, known as earmarks, to identify themselves and certify that they have no financial interest in them.

Many of the most corrupt members deeply resented DCCC Chair Chris Van Hollen's anti-bundling measure and there were rumors on Capitol Hill that his insistence on the inclusion-- with backing from Pelosi-- came close to rupturing his relations with his DCCC predecessor, Rahm Emanuel and with the House Majority Leader, who is every bit as corrupt and unscrupulous as Emanuel (and GOP leaders past and present), Steny Hoyer. "The bundling reports, filed quarterly and posted online, would mean 'much more visibility of conduct that has typically occurred undetected because current law doesn't cover it or the FEC has been spotty in its enforcement,' said Kenneth A. Gross, an ethics attorney at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. On the floor yesterday, the bundling provision survived a Republican vote to send it back to committee when lawmakers passed an amendment making the bundling rule apply to political action committees."

Good government types see it as a tiny step in the right direction although it just tinkers with a thoroughly corrupt system around the edges. While the Republican leadership and slimy Democrats like Emanuel and Hoyer were fighting against even these modest infringements on their "right" to plunder, good government types like Mike Capuano (D-MA) were furious that the legislation didn't go nearly far enough. The bill doesn't even start to address the real problems undermining American democracy-- "the millions I have to raise to run for office."
"They've started to drain the swamp, and we commend the Democratic leadership and the freshmen members of Congress who pushed hardest for this," said Bob Edgar, president of Common Cause. "But there's still a lot of work to do to prove that this Congress is serious about cleaning up Washington."

A story in today's NY Times, about where the pols of both parties get their dough, goes a long way towards proving that it isn't that serious.

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