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Thursday, January 19, 2006

Dems Say Congress Should Not Be for Sale

Democrats launched their lobbying reform proposal yesterday, with the signing of a "Democratic Declaration of Honest Leadership and Open Government."
Surrounded by dozens of House and Senate colleagues in the Great Hall of the Library of Congress, Mr. Reid and fellow Democratic leaders blamed close ties between lobbyists and majority Republicans for health care, energy and other legislation that they called too friendly to industry at the expense of the public.

"The Republicans have turned Congress into an auction house, for sale to the highest bidder," said Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the House Democratic leader. "You have to pay to play. That's just not right."
This is a good start. Especially when the Democratic proposal takes things several steps further than the Republicans have proposed. But there is a lot more work to do, and the message needs to get out to the whole of the American public that the Republicans are trying to pull a fast one on behalf of their big money donors and KStreet cronies -- publicly pretending to be for reform, while still cutting deals int he back room with big money interests.

The DSCC has a new ad out today regarding the Senate Republican leadership's choice for lobbying reform point man: Rick "K Street is good government" Santorum. The ad can be viewed here. It's not my favorite ad of all time, but it does make clear that Santorum isn't exactly an honest broker -- and neither is the Republican party -- so it's a start.

As for the House side of the Republican "reform" agenda, it's hypocrisy central (hat tip to FiredUpAmerica). Again. Nothing like calling for reform, while continuing to set up a clone of Team DeLay to consolidate your power base. Et tu, Blunt? Boehner? Shadegg? As Roll Call reports today (subs. req'd):
In the case of Blunt, GOP leadership aides said the most visible outside help is coming from Gregg Hartley, formerly chief of staff for Blunt’s whip operation and now a top lobbyist for Cassidy and Associates.

Blunt’s Whip office is part of the suite of rooms occupied by Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) on the second and third floors of the Capitol and includes Blunt’s leadership office, his communications staff and a conference room.

Several GOP sources said Hartley is often seen roaming through Blunt’s office area, meeting with the Missouri Republican or his staff, using the elevator located in the Speaker’s suite or talking with aides in the conference room.

“He’s there a ton, I can tell you that,” said a Republican aide who often is in the Speaker’s suite. “He’s still heavily involved in Blunt’s PAC stuff and fundraising.”

Another GOP insider said Hartley “has been in and out of the Capitol constantly” since the Majority Leader race began. “He just doesn’t meet with Blunt, he meets with staff.”
Oh yeah. Staff, eh -- as in the Hastert Staff, the GOP House leadership staff, Blunt's staff, or just Republican staff in general? House GOP serious about reform? Not really. Serious about pulling one over on the American public so they can continue their KStreet scam? Absolutely.

The WaPo has a review of some of the articles on the subject over the last couple of days. Yeah, I know, Howie Kurtz, but there are some decent links, including this gem from Josh Marshall at TPM and this excellent article from Hilary Rosen at HuffPo.

This is going to be a big story for a long time. Partly due to more impending indictments and plea deals (You can just feel them coming down the pike, can't you? I know I can.) but also because you have Denny Hastert tap dancing around the issue with his Mr. Magoo "I don't see any corruption prior to this month" act. (And that is not a pretty picture, is it?) The White House continues to stall on answering any Abramoff questions regarding Jackie Boy's contacts with members of the Administration, which only serves as fuel for the "what the hell are they hiding" fire.

At some point, all this combustible material is going to catch fire, and a whole lot of Republicans are awfully frightened right now that they'll get singed in a wide ranging swath. As bits and pieces of this story trickle out in a drip, drip, drip, we need to figure out exactly how to best use this for the 2006 campaigns.

Just saying "culture of corruption" over and over isn't enough. Practical solutions must be coupled with facts as to why the Republicans have so aggregiously and purposefully broken the rules. The KStreet project was an attempt to legitimize bribery, corruption and pay to play politics -- for Republicans and their big money friends and cronies. Period.

It's going to be a lot of hard work -- but it's worth it to kick those smarmy bastards and their KStreet crony machine back into the gutter where they belong. Let's get to work.

(Photo credit to Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images via NYTimes. The color clarity in this photo is brilliant, and the fact that the Dems managed some stage set-up is pretty exciting, too.)

UPDATE: Excellent comments thus far, but I want to highlight this one from MSB: "We need to say, no scream, that they CHEATED. Then we need to explain how they did it." Agreed -- and wonder how we can build on this to move forward. I think the whole concept of the GOP cheating its way through resonates on so many levels with this particular group, both in the Administration and Congress. Any ideas?