House Republicans today presented a package of proposed reforms, including a ban on nearly all gifts and a prohibition against all privately funded travel. Interestingly, John Shadegg, who is running as a reformer, opposed the blanket private travel ban:
Rep. John Shadegg, R-Ariz., who is running to succeed DeLay as majority leader, put out a statement that ”many trips are truly educational, and I believe a complete ban on all private travel would be an overreaction that doesn’t get to the root of the problem.”
The GOP package would extend the time during which a former Congressman is barred from lobbying from one to two years. Minnesota’s Mark Kennedy has already proposed to go much farther by prohibiting any former Congressman from lobbying. Ever. The idea, of course, is that anyone who was thinking about running for Congress in hopes of a subsequent, lucrative lobbying career, will be deterred.
In general, the reform package looks pretty good to me. In truth, there is far less corruption in Congress than most people think. As far as I know, outright bribery, like the Duke Cunningham case, is rare. Some of the news stories about “corruption” are completely bogus, like Ronnie Earle’s unprofessional indictment of Tom DeLay. Others are weak, as the likely indictment of Bob Ney appears to be. The big problem isn’t bribery; the big problem is the culture of spending that inevitably prefers the desire of recipients to cash federal checks over the desire of taxpayers to hold on to their money. But perceptions, right or wrong, are important, and if Congressmen can no longer take golf trips to Scotland, it’s probably just as well.
Meanwhile, the Democrats’ “culture of corruption” theme is laughable. What the House Democrats are really unhappy about is that no one wants to take them golfing, now that they’re in the minority.