Cutting Congressional Corruption

Legislating Under the Influence
By David Sirota
In These Times
Monday 10 July 2006

Up close and personal with the House Appropriations Committee.

When I was hired to work on the U.S. House Appropriations Committee in 2001, I was told by many in Washington that the panel was one of last remaining places in Congress where things actually get done. By the time I left Capitol Hill some two and a half years later, I had learned what all Americans are now realizing: The panel certainly does get things done, but not for the people who elected its members. It gets things done almost exclusively for those lobbyists and corporate interests that buy influence through campaign contributions. The committee has become, in short, the breeding ground of congressional corruption.

Over the last year, the public has learned exactly how lawmakers on the Appropriations Committee have abused the incredible power granted to them as overseers of how the federal government spends tens of billions of dollars. And the power is incredible. As chief spokesman for Democrats on this committee, I had a firsthand view of how this panel has been abused by the Republicans. Tens of millions of dollars move from one district to another for purely political reasons – all with the quick stroke of a pen behind closed doors. One line anonymously inserted in a thousand-page bill can mean the difference between the creation or elimination of national consumer regulations bought and paid for by industry campaign donors. The loudest protests from the most passionate members of both parties can be silenced on the floor of the House with a mere scowl from one of the Appropriations subcommittee chairmen. At a moment’s notice these “cardinals,” as they are known, will remove the protester’s pet projects unless they stop criticizing whatever heinous provisions were attached to the spending bill being debated.

Read more.

Read up on Clean Elections, one way to eliminate corruption.