Washington Wises Up to Corruption

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A funny thing seems to be happening in Washington these days: Elected officials are wising up. In its much ballyhooed 100-hour agenda, the House passed a serious ethics reform measure ... and the Senate last night followed suit, passing a measure to reform lobbying and gift rules, with overwhelming bipartisan support.

So, members actually voted to make their lives more difficult. They can't accept gifts or meals or plane rides or vacations from lobbyists anymore. And senators now have to pay for the use of borrowed jets at the going rate, not a discount. And no more of those secret, middle-of-the-night earmarks inserted into legislation with no names attached. The Senate even went one step beyond the House ethics reform measure, requiring that lobbyists disclose all of the stuff they do for their friends in Congress, like hosting fundraisers.

This is all good news. First, it's good because it's the right thing to do. Second, it means that members of Congress actually listened to the voters who were sick and tired of what they considered to be a corrupt place. In one poll taken in the aftermath of the Jack Abramoff scandal, about two thirds of voters said they believed that all members of Congress took bribes.

If these folks want to stay in Congress, they have to change that perception. This is a very good start.

It's just a coincidence, but today Ohio Rep. Bob Ney was sentenced on corruption charges–taking favors and gifts from lobbyists in exchange for his help. Ney got 30 months in prison and apologized for his failure. His colleagues have looked at his failures and have tried to police themselves. Let's hope it works.