News involving the word “scandal” will provide you with over 2.6 million hits under Google. Okay, sure, not all of it involves the Obama administration, D.C, or even the United States. But if you’ve been paying attention these days you know it’s the “Summer-of-Scandal.”
One of the more disturbing of the national scandals involves the IRS picking on conservative groups. Though it looks like it stops with IRS administrators, it’s still an outrageous occurrence. Profiling anyone or any group for any reason demands suspicion. And when it involves potential government harassment of political or ideological groups everyone should take notice. That’s standard-operating-procedure in banana-republics. But it should never be tolerated in the United States.
It’s almost become a rite of spring that the St. Louis Post-Dispatch brings forth an article soon after the close of the legislative session detailing the abundance of lobbyist gifts on Missouri legislators. Such articles practically write themselves thanks to public disclosure rules via the Missouri Ethics Commission. Comb through the database. Underscore some of the more outrageous gift giving. Move on.
Oh, some readers might get upset, but not enough. Most have grown accustomed to the idea that perks and goodies will end up in the hands of our representatives. It’s part of the process. It’s always been there and it isn’t going away. Most depressing, however, is the idea that so many of us have convinced ourselves that since it’s so engrained, it probably isn’t that big of a deal.
It is. Here’s why:
Confidence in the political system is at all-time lows. Disgust in Congress is at all-time highs and scandal grips the executive branch. Grim times for those that still care in America. But real efforts at fundamental reform exist! Yes, we’re talking national, organized, and well-funded efforts that go beyond the snake-oil being sold by the major political parties.
If you haven’t already, take a look at NoLabels.org and Rootstrikers.org.
Gordon Gekko in the famous movie Wall Street said, “Greed is good.” As with greed, humans are saddled with shame on occasion. But that’s not always a bad thing. Like greed, I suppose, sometimes “shame is good.” Shame keeps us from doing bad/sleezy things. But increasingly, we’re seeing people carry on as if shame is no longer in their internal equations. Nowhere is this more true than in politics. Let’s look at some recent Show-Me examples:
St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley, fresh off his push for a “code of ethics” among County employees, finds no shame in hiring the son of his former chief of staff, John Temporiti. Despite the County’s supposed “hiring freeze”, 27-year old Mike Temporiti landed a $70,000 job with the county. Should Mr. Dooley feel shame? Ah, the shameful-devil appears in the shameful-details:
A baby step of sorts was taken toward needed reform last week when the Democratic National Committee announced that the Democrats wouldn’t be taking corporate, PAC, or lobbyist money to fund their national convention in Charlotte next year. Sounds good especially since it fulfills a campaign pledge by President Obama.
Though such a change in tact is needed – and appreciated – it’s more show than real reform. Though national convention hosting committees usually take in tons of cash from corporate fat cats, this change in policy does NOTHING to stop these same deep-pocketed contributors from continuing their assault on state parties and their money-hungry delegations.
The new U.S. Senate this week is debating whether to reform the way it does business – specifically with the way it deals with the “filibuster.”
Derived from the Spanish word “filibustero” which roughly translated means “pirate” – the filibuster allows the minority to block Senate action by the majority. Whereas in the real world a majority of 100 is 51, to control the Senate you need 60 votes. In the Senate, being in the minority has its privileges.
There WAS actually good news brewing in Washington regarding ethics. A permanent independent office was set up about two years ago to investigate ethical lapses in Congress. The Office of Congressional Ethics is supposed to help nurish the new ethical culture of Congress. But when the topic is ethics and there’s "good" news, you know you have to balance it out eventually with "bad" news.
That came in the decision Februray 26th by the House Ethics Committee to ignore the investigative findings and recommendations of the OCE. Seven House member up on serious ethics charges by the OCE were exonerated by their peers. Just. Like. That.
Senator Evan Bayh said bye-bye to the Senate in announcing his retirement Tuesday. In his speech the Indiana Senator made mention of a "dysfunctional" institution riddled with "brain-dead partisanship" and permanent campaigning.
Good. The more insiders that realize what the rest of us have been seeing for some time now, the better.