Magazine article The Christian Century

Buying Favors

Magazine article The Christian Century

Buying Favors

Article excerpt

WHEN A SPIRITUAL revival broke out at an evangelical college a few years ago, one faculty member was reported as saying that it would be wise to wait 25 years before assessing whether anything significant had happened. Such reservations are appropriate regarding the current fervor for political reform in Washington. Most members of Congress are endorsing reform after superlobbyist Jack Abramoff confessed to fraud and conspiracy and agreed to cooperate with an investigation into the unholy financial alliance between politicians and lobbyists. But the politicians are also running for cover, and the reforms they come up with may well put other loopholes in the system.

Because the Congress is controlled by Republicans, and it is mostly Republicans who benefited from Abramoff's largesse, the scandal seems to be mostly a Republican one. But Democrats too have been in on the pay-to-play scheme. Some of them received gifts from Abramoff, and when theirs was the majority party they had their own special relationship with the K Street lobbyists. The too-cozy relationship between politicians and lobbyists or other moneyed special-interest groups is a bipartisan problem that can only be fixed by bipartisan efforts.

Politicians listen to rich and powerful lobbyists. But who speaks for the poor and the powerless? Michael Crowley, who writes for the New Republic, observes: "In times like these when we have a budget crunch, it's not subsidies for corporations or tax loopholes that go; it's Medicaid . …

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