Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Fumigating Congress

Our repugnant Republican Congressional Culture of Corruption needs repair. Currently recommended fixes - itty bitty stuff - will not produce a long-term difference. However, James Carville and Paul Begala, in their book “Take It Back,” recommend a strong prescription that I think will do the job. Here are the major planks in their proposal:

Raise congressional pay to $400,000, to reduce temptation

A member of Congress can accept NOTHING of value as a gift from anyone but family members
Incumbents may not raise money in any amount from individuals, corporations or special interests

An officeholder must first resign before running for a different office

Challengers may raise money in any amount from individuals or PACs. They must report contributions within 24 hours of receiving them

The day after a challenger receives a contribution, the government will credit the incumbent with a comparable sum. The amount would be about 80% or so because of the benefits naturally accruing to incumbents

If incumbent spends his own money, the government will pay the challenger an equivalent amount

Penalties will be strict and fast: If incumbent accepts money he loses his seat. If challenger does not report contributions immediately, he is out of the running

I had been thinking that all money for campaigns should come from the government. But the approach delineated above seems to be better. A person needs people to contribute to his campaign in order to become a feasible candidate. But once this is accomplished, the influence of money is decreased tremendously. A fairly level playing field is produced. Officeholders can return to doing their job and not spend most of their time trolling for money.

This type of law would reduce the number of lobbyists. As one lobbyist who had canceled his season sports tickets said, "Who will I take?" Less wining and dining by lobbyists of big corporate interests would perhaps allow officeholders to spend more time with average constituents. Maybe our laws would become more friendly to ordinary people.

It's time to kick the moneychangers out with tough laws. It's time to fumigate Congress.

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