In Denial

Article excerpt

Byline: Greg Pierce, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

In denial

"Six months ago, pundits were predicting that congressional Republicans' patience with the Iraq war had run out. Led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, they were going to storm the Oval Office, deliver the news that no more funding would be forthcoming and thereby save their skins in the 2008 elections. Things have a funny way of working out," Jennifer Rubin writes at www.spectator.org.

"Gen. [David H.] Petraeus did not just win the rhetorical argument in September because MoveOn.org overplayed its hand. He won because facts on the ground had shifted, Democrats who returned reported significant progress and commentators not known for their support of the war concurred that the surge was working. President Bush got his breathing room," the writer said.

"Fast forward a few months. Now the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post are in agreement. The Democrats' unseemly denial of reality and refusal to recognize the surge has indeed worked has become painfully obvious. Popular opinion on the war has turned and continued funding seems assured. While the future of Iraq's political stability remains in doubt, those who supported the surge are no longer the ones with egg on their faces."

Ethics nightmare

As Congress returns to work this month after its end-of-year recess, lawmakers, lobbyists, nonprofits and businesses face new and more restrictive ethics laws that already are causing headaches in Washington.

"None of it is intuitive - none of it makes sense," said Stefan Passantino, a political and election law specialist with the law firm McKenna Long & Aldridge, during a meeting with journalists yesterday at the National Press Club.

The firm has sponsored several seminars and meetings in recent weeks on K Street, Capitol Hill and elsewhere to brief concerned parties about the new regulations.

The Democrat-led Congress last summer approved stricter rules on dealings between lawmakers and lobbyists.

The new laws, which took effect Jan. 1, ban most lobbyist gifts to members of Congress - including junkets and lavish parties - and makes lawmakers identify lobbyists who bundle more than $15,000 in contributions for them.

It also requires members of Congress to list pet spending projects, known as earmarks, on a public Internet site 48 hours before the bill goes to a vote and to certify that neither they nor their family have a financial interest in the project.

But the laws include an array of confusing provisions, legal analysts say. Buffett-type dinners are subject to different regulations as 'sit-down' meals," for example. And new laws dealing with large-scale parties will have a big affect on how political parties organize their national conventions.

"This is not the kind of thing [Congress] intended when they passed" the law, Mr. Passantino said. "These are unintended consequences."

Because of the confusion over the laws, many nonprofits and companies - particularly small outfits without large legal staffs - may choose to outsource their lobbying efforts. …