Life Gets Tough on Memory Lane

Article excerpt

Byline: Wesley Pruden, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

To hear some of our congressmen tell it, all we need to resolve the growing congressional ethics scandal are aides who pay attention.

Finding "ethics" in Congress is a long day's work. You might find a stray ethic in the Capitol, lurking under an unread Bible in the speaker's office or at the back of the top shelf of a janitor's closet beneath the 1927 Sears and Roebuck catalog. But Congress is not the place to look for ethics.

Pity the congressional aide. It's true, he does get a free parking place on the street the rest of us pay for, and woe to the taxpayer who parks on one of the Capitol Hill streets he pays for, but an aide is always the designated fall guy when his boss fouls up, which is usually often.

In the pursuit of Tom DeLay by a gang of Democrats armed with steaming pots of bubbling tar and bags of fluffy feathers and pretending to be just out of church, we're treated to the spectacle of members - or Members with the capital M, as they're fond of styling themselves - scurrying about to "revise and extend" the documentation of assorted trysts and assignations with lobbyists and other highly paid hacks. From all the froth and frenzy, you might think some of them had written hot checks on the House bank. The bag men complain that it's hard this week to find a congressman willing to take a freebie.

The latest victim of penmanship malfunction is Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones of Ohio, a Democrat, who first said that a junket she took to balmy Puerto Rico, along with Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic minority leader, and a clutch of several other concerned congresspersons, was paid for by a Washington lobbyist. Now she has discovered that someone in her office, but certainly not she, made the mistake. The lobbying firm of Smith, Dawson and Andrews didn't pay the tab for her trip, as she first said it did. It was picked up by a group of Puerto Rican patriots, bursting with ethics, morality, etiquette and decorum, who have protested the U.S. Navy's bombing range in Puerto Rico. The Puerto Ricans wanted an opportunity talk to, some might say to "lobby," the congresspersons, and it was easier for everyone to have the lobbying done at that nice Doral Resort rather than in a cramped office at the Capitol in Washington. Stephanie finally got her paperwork to accord with Nancy's. Everyone's happy now. …