Sunday, February 11, 2007

You just don't get it

My dad used to say, "I buy you books and buy you books, and still you don't learn nothin'." According to an article by a New York Times writer, our Congressional representatives are inventing new and clever ways to get lobbyists to pay for their entertainment, this time using the representative's "personal PACs" as conduits. Apparently these PACs can pay for anything up to and including dental work and house repairs; so, the lobbyist makes a big PAC donation, the PAC buys the legislator tickets to an expensive outing, and the lobbyist goes along, paying his own way.

When will our brilliant elected representatives get the point that: We. Do. Not. Send. You. To. Washington. So. You. Can. Party. You are elected to study public issues, draft and vote on bills, and things like that. Being elected to Congress doesn't give you any kind of a right to take relaxing little outings on the lobbyist's dollar. Maybe what we need to do is make it illegal for Congresspersons to go out socially at all. Either that or require public funding of all campaigns. But who would vote for that?? (Apart from me...)

The quote that really got to me, though, was this one:

Some members of Congress said it would not bother them if the upshot of the new rules turned out to be more contributions.

"I am not going to hide from the fact that we have to raise money," said Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Alpaugh (Tulare County), who has invited donors to his political action committee on a wine-tasting tour in June, modeled after the movie "Sideways." "Only a moron would sell a vote for a $2,000 contribution."

So, Mr. Nunes - how big a contribution would you sell a vote for? After all, as the old joke goes, we've already established what you are. Now we're just dickering over the price.


  1. Anonymous9:15 AM

    This was a good one, hedera, and thanks for the chuckle at the end.

    The variation on the saying that I used to hear is: I buy you book after book after book, and all you do is eat the covers.

    Anonymous David

  2. Anonymous8:38 AM

    You know I have always understood that the founding fathers didn’t want to breed professional politicians. Now I know a lot of them were flaming idealists, who else would think the winner and loser could join together to be Pres and VP, but maybe we need to seriously consider limiting the money they can spend on campaigns. Why can’t we give everyone a limited number of TV and radio spots (that they don’t need to pay for) and that is IT. If they want to do more they can travel the country and attended town meetings or debates. I would also like to forbid all the campaign commercials paid for by other groups; I don’t care what they think anyway. Another thought would be term limits. Anytime they make politics their only career, they are going to be looking for extra cash.

  3. I agree about the founding fathers, stephen, that was clear when Washington refused to become king and stepped down after a second term. He could have died on a throne if he'd chosen. And I fully agree about limited public campaign financing and an absolute prohibition on privately financed campaigns.

    What I don't agree about is term limits. The brilliant people of California voted in term limits some years ago, and now some very brilliant and competent legislators are termed out of office (Jackie Speier for example) and we have lost their considerable contributions to the public good. The effect of term limits is that no one in the legislature is really sure what's going on or what the rules are, except for the lobbyists, because they have no term limits. And by the time they figure it out, they're termed out. There has to be a better way.

  4. Anonymous2:06 PM

    I'm not really a big fan of term limits either, truth be told. Of course the ideal is that term limits are unnecessary because the electorate is actually paying attention and if you are a twit, out you go.

    If only...

    I think people look at term limits because they have forgotten we run the show.

  5. Anonymous6:33 AM

    There would be no meaningful opposition to Bush in the House or Senate if there were term limits, for exactly the reason hedera points out regarding the California legislatures. Term limits were brought in in Florida simply so Republicans could oust veteran Democrats and hasten the Republican majorities here. Pure political strategy, nothing more. Every rationale was bullshit. And now the Florida legislatures are bullshit, not unlike what they were during the pre-enlightenment days of Florida's Democratic Party (the good old racist days, which a Democratic governor, Leroy Collins, led Florida Democrats, the old timers screaming and kicking, out of. The ones who didn't want to follow became Republicans, typically stating that the Democratic Party had left them).

    I can never quite escape Billy Budd's final thought as he was sinking to the bottom of the ocean: "But aren't it all sham?"

    Still, we can, if we will, restore enlightenment to government with the stroke of an informed vote, at least in those instances where we are enabled to vote and our vote is recorded and reported accurately, as 2006 suggested, in spite of various efforts at fraud, especially in Ohio.

    But don't look for Florida to lead us out of the wilderness. The Republican machine has this place locked up for the forseeable future.

    Anonymous David