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Thursday, Jan. 12, 2006 01:27 pm

Ethics training for Congress

Isn’t it late to tell elected officials that taking bribes is wrong?

Some days, I don’t know whether to laugh, cry . . . or run for the hills. What’s gotten me wound up is a little news item about Dennis Hastert. He’s that rotund Republican who serves as speaker of the House of Representatives. It seems that he’s now proposing a new training session for our lawmakers in Washington. The course is to be in — guess what? — ethics. Ethics! Talk about shutting the barn door after the horse is already out! Let’s glance at just a few of the top Congressional critters who have slipped out of the ethical barn. We have Duke Cunningham, who has admitted taking $2 million in bribes from corporations wanting Pentagon contracts. We have Bill Frist, the Senate leader, now under multiple investigations for insider trading. We have Tom DeLay, dragging a whole scuzzy sack of scandals and indictments. We have Bob Ney and several other members embroiled in the sorry scams of hotshot lobbyist Jack Abramoff. We have a horde of lawmakers mired in that fetid ethical swamp we call Congress. A spokesman for Hastert says, “The speaker wants members on both sides of the aisle to understand the nuances of House rules.” Nuances? Do members really need a course in ethical nuances to grasp that bribery is a no-no? Speaking of rules, Hastert himself routinely stomps on the rules of the House in his blunderbuss efforts to ram special-interest legislation through Congress. What’s really got the Republican leadership suddenly talking ethics is not any desire to clean up but polls showing that voters are so sickened by the corruption that they rank Congress lower than toxic-waste dumps in approval ratings. It’s going to take more than ethics training to scrub that bunch clean.
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