Congress

Outsider Ethics

In a move both symbolically significant and indicative of a grudging willingness to change, the House of Representatives has voted to create an independent ethics office composed of six nonpartisan officials tasked with fielding ethics allegations and reporting out to the public on what allegations have merit.

With an eye towards the public mandate to do something about corruption on which this Congress was elected, the House has taken another step forwards towards scrubbing out Jack Abramoff's footprints on the Capitol steps:


Change for Congress

Lawrence Lessig, a law professor at Stanford who has spent much of his career focused on copyright law is taking up the cause of cleaning up Congress. His new project, change-congress.org will track the positions of congressional candidates in this year's elections on a number of reform proposals and allow people to direct donations to candidates based on their support for these proposals.

Porky Politics

March 1st may be the first hint that spring is soon upon us, with barbecue and bikini season soon to follow, but for Congress 'tis the season to raise big money -- coincidentally right about the time earmark requests come due. Roll Call asks around about connections, real or implied, between late-night fundraisers and daytime spending decisions (sub. req. to read whole article).

Subcommittee Of His Peers

On the heels of Rep. Rick Renzi's (R-AZ) indictment on 35 counts of conspiracy, fraud, money-laundering and much else the House has formed an ethics subcommittee to conduct its own investigation of the Congressman's dealings.

Catch Up, Senate

The Senate has some 'splaining to do for lagging behind their counterparts in the House on two important ethics bills. The New York Times chides them for dragging their heels. While the House has voted in favor of banning the use of campaign contributions to pay spouses of House candidates, and files campaign finance disclosure reports electronically the Senate has approved neither of these simple, sensible reforms.

Quid Pro Faux Pas

Support for spying just doesn't pay like it used to. Paul Kiel at TPM Muckraker notes that for all that several Republican members of Congress have done to protect telecommunications companies from paying the price for their role in the warrantless wiretapping brouhaha the telecoms aren't giving enough money to their campaigns. Outrageous! Don't they know how Washington works?

Coming to a Theater Near You

Fresh off his Oscar win for best documentary, Taxi to the Dark Side director Alex Gibney is turning his attention to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Gibney's next release, slated to come out later this year, will profile the Abramoff scandal and "give viewers a greater understanding, in a blow-by-blow way, of how the political process works, particularly with regards to lobbying."

Keep Your Caps On

Laura MacCleery of the Brennan Center for Justice challenges a recent proposition in Roll Call to deal with the largely unregulated activities of independent "527" committees in elections by loosening campaign contributions limits, suggesting that a much better alternative is a robust full public financing program for federal elections.

The article, which is available in full only to subscribers gives some perspective to the immense amount of money being spent this election cycle:

Renzi Indictment Frenzy

Rep. Rick Renzi (R-AZ) has just been indicted on 35 counts, including money laundering, wire fraud, and extortion stemming from a land deal wherein Renzi used his official capacity to get people to buy land from a partner, who then filtered some of the money back to Renzi -- there are also separate charges related to Renzi possibly embezzling money from a side business to fund his congressional campaigns.

Bad Congress, No Money for You

That sound you hear? The death rattle of the "campaign contributions don't buy policy" argument courtesy of this article on the decision by the National Association of Home Builders to stop giving campaign contributions to members of Congress because they didn't get the provisions they wanted in a recent bill.