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  • Sunday, January 22, 2006

    THE HONEST LEADERSHIP AND OPEN GOVERNMENT ACT

    My previous post focused on a non-partisan push for reform. And I emphasized that such non-partisan efforts were very important for getting real reform in the US. And I still urge you to read that post and support the efforts of Common Cause to reform Congressional politics.

    But one thing is clear. We currently have one party that is wallowing in corruption and one party that, whatever faults it may have, is open to reform. The Republicans are wallowing in corruption, and more and more scandals come out every week. The Democrats, in sharp contrast, are pushing for reforms that are similar to those of the non-partisan group Common Cause. The efforts of Common Cause are very important for change. But Common Cause cannot propose legislation. We need Congressmen to initiate the reforms we are pushing for.

    Right now the Democrats are initiating real reform and ALL Congressmen, Republicans and Democrats, need to hear from us in support of the proposal. It is a good proposal which I urge you to support. But at the end of this I will include a comment from MoveOn.org indicating some improvements we need to push for. So, here is the Democratic proposal to fight corruption:

    THE HONEST LEADERSHIP AND OPEN GOVERNMENT ACT

    Democrats offer an aggressive reform package to reverse Republican excesses and restore the public trust. Our program for change embodies the following provisions:

    Close the Revolving Door. Close the revolving door between the Congress and lobbying firms by doubling (from one year to two) the cooling-off period during which lawmakers, senior Congressional staff, and Executive Branch officials are prohibited from lobbying their former offices. Eliminate floor privileges for former Members of Congress and officers of the Senate and House who return to lobby.

    Toughen Public Disclosure of Lobbyist Activity. Significantly expand the information lobbyists must disclose - including campaign contributions and client fees. Require them to file disclosure reports electronically, and increase the frequency of those filings. Require lobbyists to certify that they did not violate the rules, and make them subject to criminal penalties for false certifications.

    Ban Lobbyist Gifts and Travel. Prohibit the receipt of gifts, including gifts of meals, entertainment and travel, from lobbyists.

    Shut Down Pay-to-Play Schemes Like the "K Street Project." End efforts like the "K Street Project," which Republicans created to tell corporations and lobbying firms whom they should hire in exchange for political access.

    Disclosure of Outside Job Negotiations. Requires lawmakers to disclose when they are negotiating private sector jobs, and requires Executive Branch officials who are negotiating private sector jobs to receive approval from the independent Office of Government Ethics.

    Prohibit "Dead of Night" Special Interest Provisions. Require that all conference committee meetings be open to the public and that members of the conference committee have a public opportunity to vote on all amendments. Make copies of conference reports available to Members, and post them publicly on the Internet, 24 hours before consideration (unless waived by a supermajority vote).

    Zero Tolerance for Contract Cheaters. Restore accountability and openness in federal contracting by subjecting major contract actions to public disclosure and aggressive competition; criminally prosecuting contractors who cheat taxpayers, with penalties including suspension and debarment; imposing stiff criminal and civil penalties for wartime fraud on government contracting; prohibiting contractors with conflicts of interest from conducting oversight or writing contract requirements they could bid on; mandating full disclosure of contract overcharges; creating tough penalties for improper no-bid contracts; and closing the revolving door between federal contract officials and private contractors.

    Prohibit Cronyism in Key Appointments. End rampant cronyism by requiring that any individual appointed to a position involving public safety possess proven credentials, and training or expertise in one or more areas relevant to the position.


    These reforms will certainly help prevent some of the worst Congressional corruption like what we have seen the Republicans engaging in over the last four years or so. But even these reforms are not enough. As pointed out by MoveOn.org, there are two critical areas unaddressed: enforcement and campaign finance reform.

    Why these two things?

    First, some sort of new ethics enforcement process or entity is critical for any reform. Many of the things that Tom DeLay, Jack Abramoff, Randy "Duke" Cunningham and others did were already illegal or against the rules—but nobody was enforcing the rules. Also, by insisting on beefed-up enforcement the Democrats will be highlighting that the Republicans have failed to enforce the rules.

    Second, ultimately these scandals were about the grip that money has over politicians in Washington. Democrats should be talking about that and offering an alternative—one the Republicans won't touch: public financing of elections. Even though it isn't likely that public financing would pass a Republican Congress, it is important that Democrats start talking about it if they want to be the "party of reform."

    The corruption scandals have taught the public a lot about the Republicans in Congress. Now the Democrats have a chance to show the public that they're the "party of reform." Democrats will lead on these issues if they know the grassroots will back them up. Please help encourage their progress.


    Please, CONTACT CONGRESS and demand that they enact real reform, along the lines of the Democratic proposals, coupled with better enforcement and campaign finance reform as suggested by MoveOn.org.

    And write the media demanding that ALL of Congress support the Democratic reforms with more stringent enforcement and with accompanying campaign finance reform.

    If we don't demand it, they won't do it.

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