Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Well, Duh!

The Justice Department has been very busy this past year. The most publicized cases involve politicians, in state houses and legislatures, the White House and Congress. The latest episode occurred yesterday when California Representative Randall "Duke" Cunningham pleaded guilty to bribery and promptly resigned from his House seat. Although most of the targets of the Justice Department have been Republicans, both parties know that the public pretty much thinks that they are all crooks, on the take and easily bought.

In an analysis piece in the Washington Post, Jeffrey H. Birnbaum examines the current rash of investigations and indictments.

For several years now, corporations and other wealthy interests have made ever-larger campaign contributions, gifts and sponsored trips part of the culture of Capitol Hill. But now, with fresh guilty pleas by a lawmaker and a public relations executive, federal prosecutors -- and perhaps average voters -- may be concluding that the commingling of money and politics has gone too far.

After years in which big-dollar dealings have come to dominate the interaction between lobbyists and lawmakers, both sides are now facing what could be a wave of prosecutions in the courts and an uprising at the ballot box. Extreme examples of the new business-as-usual are no longer tolerated.

Republicans, who control the White House and Congress, are most vulnerable to this wave. But pollsters say that voters think less of both political parties the more prominent the issue of corruption in Washington becomes, and that incumbents generally could feel the heat of citizen outrage if the two latest guilty pleas multiply in coming months.

No fewer than seven lawmakers, including a Democrat, have been indicted, have pleaded guilty or are under investigation for improper conduct such as conspiracy, securities fraud and improper campaign donations. Congress's approval ratings have fallen off the table, in some measure because of headlines about these scandals

...As the Scanlon case demonstrates, the extent of this favor-buying has gone so far that the Justice Department is no longer deterred from bringing charges even if the gifts fall within Congress's gift-giving limits or are below campaign finance maximums. "It doesn't matter," Brand said. Charges could come, he said, if "anything of value is given to a public official that can be linked to an official act."

In addition, for the first time in its 15-year history, the Wall Street Journal-NBC poll this year showed that the public's negative feelings exceeded its positive feelings about both political parties at the same time. "These are cautionary notes that are affecting both parties' political standing," McInturff said.
[Emphasis added]

Unfortunately, the results of such a public view is an increase in the already pervasive cynicism when it comes to government and an increase in the equally pervasive apathy when it comes to voting. Why vote if whoever is sent to Washington or state capitals is going to capitulate to the highest bidder?

It still may be possible to rouse the electorate, but only if something can be done to restrain the influence of K Street. The party that can make positive moves in promoting that restraint might just succeed in the next elections.



Blogger Eli said...

Which suits the Republicans just fine, since they know they can always turn out their base. Voter apathy is a force multiplier for them.

3:49 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home