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Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2006 09:56 pm

Cleaning up Congress

The GOP has made Washington stinkier than a barroom spittoon

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Is the rancid stench of Washington political corruption a lot more malodorous than usual?

You might remember, a decade ago, when Newt Gingrich put forth his “Contract with America,” pledging that if Republicans took power they’d tidy up the place and turn it into an ethical nunnery. Well, since then the GOP has taken total power, but Washington these days is stinkier than a barroom spittoon. Take a whiff of such characters as Tom DeLay, Jack Abramoff, Duke Cunningham, Bob Ney . . . and so many more mugshots in the making.

Indeed, there is now so much corruption between lobbyists and lawmakers that the FBI has had to triple the number of squads investigating them. For decades, only one squad was needed to handle such cases, but this year there are three squads with 37 full-time agents digging into the muck — and the FBI official overseeing the mess says he wants to add a fourth corruption squad because so much wrongdoing is being uncovered.

The misdeeds are so deep and widespread that the leaders can’t smell their own stink. Early this year, when some of the scandals were revealed, the GOP loudly promised to stop the selling of legislative favors. In September, however, when media coverage of the corruption had died down, the House cynically passed a sham of a reform, patted itself on the back, and promptly returned to taking lobbyist-financed junkets, using lobbyists to chair their fundraising committees, and putting their spouses on lobbyists’ payrolls. Their “reform” was about as effective as tying an air freshener to a hog’s tail.

The only reform that’ll actually do the job is legislation to remove the corporate money from politics by providing public financing of all congressional elections. To learn more about it, call Public Campaign at 202-293-0222.

Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, columnist, and author.

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