Let All the Sunshine in; Watergate-Era Regulations Hide the Money

Article excerpt


As John Boehner said when he threw his hat into the House majority leader's race, "adding more new rules isn't the answer" to clean up real and perceived egregious behavior now embroiling Congress as a result of the Rep. Tom DeLay, Jack Abramoff and Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham's disgraceful crimes.

Indeed, instead of adding more rules, how's this for a good government concept? Simply eliminate the very rules that sprang out of the Watergate-era campaign finance laws or many of the "reforms" following the House Bank and House Post Office scandals.

The concept isn't as far fetched as it sounds. Consider that it's one that has served well the residents of the Commonwealth of Virginia. The model is simplicity itself - there are no restrictions governing political donations or gift giving other than making all of it public.

What a refreshing thought when one stops for a minute to ponder that, so far as memory serves, such a system has not led to any scandals in Virginia. Total transparency between donors and recipients, actual dollar amounts and specific goodies received are all put into the public domain for anyone to see, report and contemplate.

The major political parties have been fighting such rules since the 1974 Federal Campaign Act was signed into law to, basically, maintain some political advantages and loopholes. The sad fact is that, with approval by the Supreme Court, the only losers have been the American people and the First Amendment.

That said, the reality is that the large percentage of lobbyists (like journalists and government workers) are honest, good people. So the Abramoff's of this world really stink up the joints for all of us.

So it's rather ironic really when one considers that it's been under conservative Republican rule in the last few years that produced the McCain-Feingold legislation to supposedly - yet again - clean up campaign finance rules. Anyone remember the much-ballyhooed 527 political action committees?

Like prostitution, politics is as old as human kind. Maybe not much of a difference but the fact remains that each generation has seen its fair share of hookers and money scandals. And though laws are on the books to outlaw prostitution (except in certain locales in Nevada), no one has given serious consideration to outlawing politicians.

Instead, we've seen laws passed to protect pols from themselves and, arguably, to protect us from them. …