EDITORIAL: Jumping Jack Flash

One of the oldest political truisms is Lord Acton’s chestnut about absolute power corrupting absolutely. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that when one political party gets complacent, scandals emerge that tarnish their record.

Our parents had to deal with Abscam. We’ve got Jack Abramoff.

Abramoff, a lobbyist for casino interests who has personally donated more than $170,000 to Republican candidates, recently plead guilty on three counts of fraud, conspiracy and tax evasion in regard to his bilking his clients out of $25 million.

However, what’s making Washington’s power players nervous is his willingness to cooperate with the investigation into whether Abramoff bribed members of Congress for favors regarding the lobbyist’s clients. The congressman whose name pops up most frequently in these investigations is Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio), who until recently was chairman of the powerful House Administration Committee.

While Ney and the others implicated in the scandal are innocent until proven guilty, and Ney has been particularly virulent in proclaiming his purity, the actions Abramoff has admitted undertaking are highly unethical if not officially illegal. These actions include, according to The Washington Post, shelling out lavish dinners and golf outings at St. Andrews in Scotland for high-ranking congressional officials in exchange for, as Abramoff calls them, “official acts.”

In the wake of such a scandal, some attempt at reform, if only to reassure the American people that their elected officials are at least trying to be honest, is necessary. However, the offerings by both the Republicans and the Democrats are rather underwhelming.

The GOP seems to think if they merely shuffle some committee chairmen around and put a new figurehead at the front of the party, they’ve solved the problem.

And Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Missouri), Interim House Majority Leader, has his own problems – the most egregious one being his attempt to put a waiver into a Homeland Security bill making the sale of tobacco over the Internet more difficult. Of course it should come as no surprise to anyone that he was willing to do the bidding of the tobacco industry, as he was dating a Philip Morris lobbyist (whom he later married) at the time.

As for the Democrats, they seem to be spending an inordinate amount of time patting themselves on the back for being so irrelevant that nobody even bothers to attempt to bribe them anymore.

The proposed reforms themselves are akin to putting a Band-Aid over a sliced jugular vein. For example, one of the “major” changes touted in the packages of both parties is reducing of the amount of a gift that a member of Congress can receive from a lobbyist (or any other American for that matter) from $50 to $20. Which is fine and dandy but it makes much more sense to just stop gift-giving on the whole.

The only truly worthwhile reform appears to be the attempt by Sen. John McCain and Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) to end the process of earmarking funds for personal pet projects of congressmen and senators of both parties. Such a move would get rid of pointless pork projects like the infamous Alaskan bridge to nowhere.

It’s so sensible that getting Congress to agree to it will probably be impossible.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.