Congress

Side Effects May Include Spinelessness

Here's a riddle: why would the Senate pass a bill that, on the one hand, makes it harder for people to import prescription drugs (they argue it's a safety issue), and on the other hand softpedals requirements to do ongoing safety studies of on-the-market drugs, and make drug studies public? USA Today hazards a gue$$.

 

Stalled, But Not Forgotten

Well it seems the initial wind has gone out the sails of the lobbying reforms Democratic leaders in Congress pledged to pass after the mid-term elections. Different versions of the bills in the House and Senate to regulate lobbying activity and promote greater transparency have yet to be reconciled and at the center of the debate is that sneaky arrow in the quiver of big money: bundling.

 

Spending and Lending

The Politico follows up on the report released last week by Common Cause on the escalation in political spending by mortgage lenders coupled with the rise in questionable lending practices (sub-prime and adjustable rate mortgages) that have hit low income families particularly hard. So, what does the mortgage industry have to say for itself?

 

House Repairs

Craig Holman of Public Citizen takes the temperature of Speaker of House Nancy Pelosi's promise to preside over "the cleanest Congress in history" in his article at TomPaine.com, giving the House and Senate credit for their efforts to date on lobbying and ethics reform, but urging they go further still.

 

No More Hold Ups

The Baltimore Sun joins in in calling out Sen. Mitch McConnell and his fellow obstructors for standing in the way of a bill to require Senators to file campaign finance disclosure forms electronically. Electronic disclosure would be a fast, inexpensive way to give voters better access to information about who was giving how much to their Senators (and whether they were getting anything in return).

 

Transparently Two-Faced

The Louisville Courier-Journal, no friend to Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), blasts the longtime opponent of campaign finance reform for saying one thing and doing another: praising campaign finance transparency as the corrective on money in politics, then blocking legislation that would create that very transparency. The Journal expresses its considerable displeasure...

 

Legal Tender

Bad behavior pays...lawyers, that is. Scandals and corruption investigations on Capitol Hill have fattened the wallets of more than a few legal firms, as politicians on the hot seat (like former Reps. Conrad Burns and Curt Weldon, and Reps. John Doolittle, and Mel Martinez) for everything from Abramoff to Foley seek counsel.

 

Dark Marks?

Congressional earmarks -- those add-ons to spending bills directed by individual Members -- have been the object of scrutiny as of late, and no wonder: Congress made over $5 billion worth in 2005 alone. Do you believe Duke Cunningham was the only one who used earmarks for personal gain?

 

Feeney, Fi, Fo, Fum

Looks like Re. Tom Feeney (R-FL) got a call from the FBI wanting to know more about his participation in the 2003 Scotland golfing junket arranged by lobbyist Jack Abramoff that has become a centerpiece of the influence-peddlign scandal has so far netted a handful of guilty pleas and convictions from Members of Congress and staffers alike.

 

$40K And a Round of Golf

That'll get you some decent favors in Washington these days. The former aide to Rep. Don Young (R-AK) and former labor secretary for the Northern Marianas Islands, Mark Zachares will plead guilty tomorrow to accepting a series of gifts, perks and bribes (totalling about $40K) from convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff in exchange for aiding Abramoff in his schemes in Guam and the Marianas.