Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The mandate is there-- no lobbyist campaign contributions!

The Gallup Poll company just concluded a political reform survey about whether presidential candidates should accept campaign contributions from lobbyists. Even though the question was asked in different ways, the vast majority, around 80%, of adults said 'no'. It looks like most respondents, whether Republican, Democrat or Independent, saw the ethical implications of such donations.

If a Congressional candidate accepted financial contributions from a lobbyist, then, if he won, was visited by that same lobbyist about a bill up for a vote, you would see the obvious conflict of interest. Now, take this one step further: if a union paid that lobbyist to work for that bill, the conflict of interest problem would affect the union. So, it is in the interest of the lobbying firm not to not engage in financial campaign contributions if they want to professionally (and ethically) represent their future clients.

Stopping lobbyist "bundling" of financial contributions from others is currently under legislation-- it's awaiting the President's signature for approval. Lobbyist individual contributions, however, continue unabated. Democratic presidential candidates Edwards and Obama have publicly committed to not accepting campaign contributions from lobbyists. Let us hope more candidates see the light and do the same thing soon.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Speech! Speech! 2

I make a point of reading on a daily basis several political reform blogs; one in particular I like is the Public Campaign Action Fund blog-- it promotes Public Campaign's work for public financing of elections. Clean elections is indeed the solution to many of today's campaign ethics problems on the federal, state and other levels of government.

It's not common I commit a whole post to another person's post and comments, but since it includes a comment by yours truly, I wanted to share this one from Public Campaign's own, Kathy Schlieper.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Travel restrictions in the Congressional ethics bill apply to the administration

A light has now shined on executive branch travel finances: Bush administration officials have been routinely accepting trips from companies and trade associations with a stake in their agencies' decisions. From April, 2006 to March, 2007, more than 100 of these trips would be out of bounds for members of Congress under the recently passed ethics bill, because they lasted more than one day and were paid for by companies or groups that employ lobbyists; the bill doesn't apply to the Executive or the Judicial branches of federal government.

The ethical question would be, of course: do the special interests paying for these trips by their regulators constitute a conflict of interest? It would seem to me that, if Company X in a resort area has polluted the river next to it, and flies Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials there for free to argue their cause, that would be a conflict of interest. The EPA is the regulator, and it's financial support must come exclusively from the American taxpayer, so that a hands-off relationship with their regulatees is maintained.

The Congressional ethics bill to be given a veto or signing by President Bush should have applied to the Executive branch as well. Otherwise, executive officials not mindful of their only financial supporters may continue falling for these travel finance mistakes.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The people must also engage in earmark (grant) reform

Mark one up for the people, as local officials in Florida decided last Friday, August 17th, to send back a $10 million Coconut Road earmark that Alaska U.S. Rep. Don Young slipped into the 2005 highway bill. Earmark reform has been getting a lot of debate and press lately, mostly in favor of reform.

The people, however, have much work to do on their end. "Earmarks" are better known as "grants" on the local level, and grants have become increasingly sought after by cities, colleges and others who have the money to send lobbyists to their respective representatives.

Beginning this Session, many Congressmen have voluntarily posted to the public their earmark proposals. Now constituents, make sure your Representatives to do the same, and help turn the tide in favor of earmark (grant) reform. Federal dollars should stay with federal concerns, not local.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Let us end the long-running campaign finance tug-of-war

There seems to be a constant campaign finance reform tug-of-war, between reformers, and opponents who argue for free speech. Sometimes the reformers have things going their way, sometimes it's their opponents. Presently, free speechers can produce special interest attack ads thanks to a recent Supreme Court decision.

Now, the presidential candidates declare they are for campaign finance reform, whether they practice it fully or not. For instance, Barack Obama likes to share the high number of small private donations to his campaign; and yet, he has already received $1.5 million of support from higher education special interests.

There is, however, a better solution to this tug-of-war, and that is public financing of campaigns. This idea is spreading across America in the individual states; Maine and Arizona are examples of successful public financing; there is also the Fair Elections Now Act moving through the Senate. This is a practical, non-ideological consideration that of course involves candidates from all parts of the political spectrum. Having a clean system in place consistently relieves all candidates from asking for campaign donations and allows them to focus on all of the voters.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Keep party politics out of elective office

According to a recent Washington Post article, U.S. Justice Department officials attended a dozen political briefings at the White House since 2001. They included preparations for upcoming elections. Partisan use of the Executive Branch should be prohibited, as it should be representative of all of the people, not just one political party.

A drawback to partisan political parties is their present reach into the elected offices of government officials. The exclusive role of a political party is to attract, nominate and support candidates before an election. It is when the Democratic and Republican Parties are special interests of those elected officials, that they lose their representation of all of their constituents.