Among the reforms being considered by the Democratic leaders of the incoming 110th Congress is an independent ethics oversight panel, an apparent acknowledgement that Congress is no longer able to police itself. Yet, despite this interest in investigating new ethical breaches no major overhaul is being considered that would mitigate existing conflicts of interest.
Jack Abramoff and his many friends in Congress grabbed most of the scandal headlines this year and provided the rationale for the small changes being considered by Congress, like travel bans and new disclosure requirements. An independent ethics panel is another in a list of reforms that focus on the problem side, rather than the solution side. Where is the reform that will allow legislators to separate themselves permanently from the conflict of interest inherent to a system where those with wealth have access the rest of us don't to influence policy? In short, where's the talk of reforming our campaign finance system so that a politician's survival does not depend on whether or not he's willing to compromise his ethics to reward campaign contributors?