Bringing Down the House?

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The occassion of Rep. William Jefferson's indictment has reignited discussion of what must be done to clean up Washington, cut down on opportunities for corruption, and rehab the image of Congress amid a steady stream of scandal.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer wastes no time in calling for Jefferson's resignation. No doubt fresh in their mind are the travails of former Rep. Bob Ney who held onto his office for months following his own indictment as part of the Jack Abramoff scandal. He hedged on questions of his future plans for a while before announcing he wouldn't seek re-election, then resigning. Is it better for Congress, and for the people of Louisiana if Jefferson resigns now, even before he is tried? Can he be an effective advocate for his district if he's waging an epic legal battle?

USA Today, consistently critical of a Congress enamored with personal enrichment and the reward of wealthy patrons at the expense of average citizens, is concerned that Jefferson's alleged misdeeds will tarnish Congress as a whole -- the vast majority of whose members, the paper argues, are honest. Indeed, when a Congressman is selling his office for a stack of cash that he stuffs in his freezer, his actions heap shame on the institution.

I'd suggest than any member of Congress who wishes to distinguish him or herself in light of the Jefferson affair consider expressing support for the Fair Elections Now Act in the Senate and the Clean Money Clean Elections Act in the House that would create a full public financing option for congressional races, and strike a blow against big money's influence in Washington.