March 8, 2006
When issues are considered by the Maryland General Assembly, most anyone can speak out. But big campaign donors have a proverbial bullhorn - so powerful is the impact of money on decision-making. This fact is so ingrained in Annapolis that many lawmakers assume it has to be this way. But it doesn't, at least not to the degree it is now. When politicians become too devoted to special-interest money, the solution is either to limit those donations - a reform that's been tried time after time with modest success - or to present those politicians with an alternative way to finance their campaigns.
April 3, 2006
By Senate standards, the ethics legislation overwhelmingly approved last week was a big deal. For the first time, senators agreed to pick up the check for their own meals when they dine with lobbyists, and to forgo lavish gifts such as hot tickets to sporting events. They also eliminated a little of the secret mumbo-jumbo that allows them to do the bidding of benefactors without anybody being the wiser. But the legislation falls so far short of reforms promised in the wake of two major influence-peddling scandals that broke early this year, it's clear lawmakers are gambling voters won't remember the scandals or the promises well enough to register much dismay in the fall elections.
April 5, 2006
When the full tale is finally told of Tom DeLay's political rise and fall, both will be attributed to a ruthless style that so poisoned the atmosphere even he couldn't survive it. The 11-term Texas Republican and former House majority leader abruptly pulled the plug on his re-election campaign and announced plans to resign after concluding that his scandal-tarred reputation made such a rich target for opponents it threatened not only his re-election but...
October 3, 2006
Last fall must have been agonizing for House Republican leaders. Long-time Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham was about to plead guilty to the charge of accepting bribes from defense contractors seeking official favors. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay had been indicted in Texas in a political corruption scheme. Federal investigators were pursuing former DeLay aides and other lawmakers in connection with a scam to bilk lobbying clients of DeLay ally Jack Abramoff. Then came word that parents of a former House page had complained about e-mail contacts from Florida Rep. Mark Foley that made their teenage son uncomfortable.
November 22, 2006
Democrats elected on a promise of cleaning up the "culture of corruption" in Congress are not exactly leaping to the task, mop in hand. They plan an early show of votes on proposals aimed at removing the appearance of cozy relations between lawmakers and lobbyists. But so far there seems little enthusiasm for taking on the hard tasks of reforming campaign finance laws or even assuring that ethics rules are strictly enforced. And only a handful of lawmakers in either party have any desire to shut down the "favor factory," convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff's term for the practice of attaching pet projects to legislation without review.
January 5, 2007
Surveyed on the eve of the Democratic takeover of Congress, most Americans, when asked whether they thought the new crowd would be more or less corrupt than the scandal-scarred Republicans, predicted there would be no difference. They may be right. No political party has a premium on virtue, and there were a few Democrats as well as Republicans who appeared to be involved in shady dealings during the last Congress. But the wholesale broomsweep of the Capitol that goes along with a change in power brings with it a chance to highlight the standards expected of public officials and to ban practices that encourage them to go astray.
January 22, 2007
Lest anyone doubt the ability of alert citizens to put the fear of reprisal in their elected officials, consider the manner in which the Senate was pressured last week into voting overwhelmingly to limit or give up many of its most treasured perks. Senators were forbidden from accepting gifts, meals and travel from lobbyists, and required to pay full charter costs for use of corporate jets. Senate spouses were prohibited from joining the lobbyist corps. In a move unthinkable a year ago, the Senate also made it far easier to identify and remove the special-interest "earmarks" that so often are the prize lobbyists seek and were integral to the corruption scandals that have rocked Congress in recent years.
August 3, 2007
Service in Congress is a rarefied life driven largely by money: the need to raise it for campaigns, the pressure to send it back home, the easy access to it offered by folks seeking favors. Landmark ethics legislation headed to President Bush's desk after a final vote in the Senate yesterday won't stop lawmakers who arrive in Washington with felonious intentions, or prevent a predictable percentage from being led astray. But it may remove some of the temptation and opportunity, as well as make unsavory relationships easier for the public to see. Senators raised valid complaints, though, about the tepid steps taken to expose earmarks, the pet projects that often become the currency of corruption.
September 29, 2005
When it comes to the raw use of political power, no one in Washington has been more successful during the past decade than Texas Republican Rep. Tom DeLay. Others may have shaped his party's message and offered its vision to voters. But it fell to the former exterminator from Sugarland to oversee the nuts-and-bolts logistics of getting candidates elected and bills passed. He was particularly good at greasing the machine with cash from favor-seekers. This skill, and his willingness to push ethics restrictions and campaign finance laws to the breaking point, helped Mr. DeLay radically change the face of Texas politics and rewrite the playbook in Washington as well.
March 31, 2006
Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele has selected Doug Heye, communications director for U.S. Sen. Richard M. Burr of North Carolina, as his U.S. Senate campaign communications director. "Doug will play a leading role in communicating my positive vision for the state and promoting my agenda of empowerment and opportunity for every Marylander," Steele, a Republican, said in a statement. The selection of Heye, 33, has state Democrats clucking about two instances when the spokesman himself made news.