By DOUG THOMPSON
Yep, things sure are different in Washington since the Democrats took over the Hill and turned the place into “the most ethical Congress in history.” No more gridlock, no more fatcat lobbyists buying access, no more talking the talk but not walking the walk.
Wait a minute. Let’s look again.
President George W. Bush is still doing pretty much whatever the hell he wants, sending more American troops to die in his illegal and immoral war. Congress hasn’t stopped him, nor are they close to finding any way to do so. The Senate still can’t make up its mind how to debate on a non-binding resolution while the House promises one by the end of this week but it too is little more than a political jack off.
After the public relations driven “100 hour agenda” that huffed and puffed and produced little, the Hill has settled into the same old bastion of all talk, less work and even less action.
And those lobbyists who Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Harry Reid promised would be driven from the halls of power? They’re still around, still writing out big checks, still buying access and still controlling the legislative agenda.
Democratic Senator Bill Nelson had a bunch of them down to Miami weekend before last for the Super Bowl. For $5,000 each they got to cozy up the Senator in a skybox and mingle. Now they are back in Washington writing legislation to benefit their clients that the Senator will be oh so happy to sponsor.
Senator Tom Carper, Democrat from Delaware, set up a skiing weekend at the Ritz Carlton Bachelor Gulch resort in Colorado for lobbyists willing to pony up five grand each. That’s also the cost to go skiing and snowmobiling this month in Montana with Senator Max Baucus. Can’t make it this month? That’s all right. Max is having a fly-fishing weekend this summer. Cost? The same. Just write out a check for five big ones.
But that’s cheap compared to the weekend at Harbor House resort sponsored by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. It will take a check for $25,000 to hobnob with the members of “the most ethical Congress in history.”
Over on the House side, Rep. Stephanie Tubbs doesn’t want the girls left out so lady lobbyists are welcome to join her for “manicures and muffins” at Capital Nails in Washington. The price is a true bargain by lobbying standards: just $2,500.
Republicans, of course, aren’t sitting back and claiming the high road. They’re too busy finding their own ways to let lobbyists buy votes. Sen. Mel Martinez is sponsoring a $5,000 a head Presidents Day weekend at Disney World while Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor will drink coffee with lobbyists at Starbucks for $2,500. The cost of a double latte just went up.
One of the first actions promised by the new leadership of Congress was a ban on free trips and lavish gifts from lobbyists to members of Congress, a reaction of scandal-scarred former Republican whip Tom DeLay’s many golfing trips and lavish vacations on someone else’s tab.
But the ink had not dried on the bill before the campaign funding committees on both sides started circulating memos on how to get around the new restrictions. Instead of letting the lobbyist pay the tab directly, the money now just goes into the political campaign fund which pays the tab.
Members of Congress have long lived large off their campaign war chests. A look at the Federal Election Commission reports of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi shows her campaign funds pays for clothes, cars, dinners at fancy restaurants and manicures. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid stays in $1,500 a night hotel suites and lets his campaign fund foot the bill. The fund also buys his cars.
And it doesn’t take long for newcomers to learn the ways of the world. Freshman Democratic Senator Jim Webb, the “breath of fresh air” who delivered the highly-praised response to Bush’s tedious State of the Union address, set up a “leadership PAC” as soon as he got to town. Leadership PAC? What, or who, is Webb leading?
Such willingness to sell their souls should come as no surprise. It became obvious as soon as Democrats picked their leaders that this would be business as usual. Reid is a well-known Nevada con man who uses the power of office to line his pockets with shady real estate deals in much the same way as former Republican Speaker Dennis Hastert. Pelosi brags she learned politics at her daddy’s knee, which is a dubious honor when you consider daddy was a bagman for the Mafia, a mob-controlled mayor of Baltimore.
California political boss Jesse Unruh used to say “money is the mother’s milk of politics.”
It still is but the milk has gone sour from all the pimps and whores from “the most ethical Congress in history” sucking on momma’s tit.