Saturday, September 30, 2006

Protections From Washington’s ‘Ethical Undertow’

The House Government Reform Committee, an ironic choice of title for a standing committee of the House of Representatives, published a report. Good enough, that’s what committees are supposed to do in lieu of actually accomplishing anything.

The House Government Reform Committee, an ironic choice of title for a standing committee of the House of Representatives, published a report. Good enough, that’s what committees are supposed to do in lieu of actually accomplishing anything.
Reports are the standard quid pro quo between political pressure for action and the steadfast intention not to act. Certainly government as we know it today steadfastly intends damned little change and ‘reform’ is the damndest of those.
Reptomdavis_1 But anyway, they nudged out a 93 page ‘jointly issued’ composition—which means it has the bi-partisan agreement not to act, instead of the usual partisan one. Thomas M. Davis III, a Republican from Virginia, held up one side of the sagging banner denying Jack Abramoff’s payoff clout, while the Democratic side bore the unembarrassed support of California’s Henry Waxman.
Rephenrywaxman According to OpenSecrets.org,
“The House Government Reform and Oversight Committee is Congress's personal private eye, investigating the federal government's activities including the Justice Department. The committee got off to a quick start in the 107th Congress with its investigation of President Clinton's last-minute pardons."
So much for quick starts. Two Congresses later, the 109th has reluctantly taken up Jack Abramoff’s influence on the lawmaking business. Although Jack is nothing more than a felon seller of influence, he's the current high-profile harbinger of the actual depth of Congressional muck. Tag-team reformers Davis and Waxman concluded that the current reporting requirements
“failed to protect public officials from the ethical undertow generated by Abramoff's claims of access to executive branch deliberations, particularly at the White House."
Failed to protect instead of failed to indict.
Repbobney2 An incredibly unperceptive statement, but now I finally understand why Representatives Bob Ney, William Jefferson and Duke Cunningham sold out their constituencies. It wasn’t in the least their fault. The legislative waters in which they swam were just too rough, the waves too high and, ‘unprotected’ as they were, ethical undertows pulled the poor innocents under.
They and the scores of others implicated and (as yet) unindicted don’t need a trip to the woodshed or instruction in ethics—they need a lifeguard. Davis III and Waxman are each from states with ocean frontage and they know the dangers of undertow are second only to swimming too quickly after a lobbyist lunch.
Jackabramoff2 Abramoff and his team—specifically his former secretary, who became Karl Rove’s executive assistant—purportedly lobbied White House officials on matters affecting their Indian tribal clients.
But Washington is, if anything, a tribal city. There are the warlord committee chairmen, the faux military leadership of majorities and minorities, generalissimo speakers of both House and Senate, guerrilla opposition leaders, commanders among presidential hopefuls and the confused, but ever obedient newly elected foot soldiers.
The metaphor of Abramoff’s downfall within his tribal representation is particularly informative.
Tribal cultures trust only themselves during battle, carry off their dead to mask losses, coalesce behind a new leader should their chieftain fall and beat the drum loudest when under threat. Up to now, I’ve not heard of the widespread use of lifeguards among tribes. That’s a new one. But hey, Washington is, if nothing else, innovative.
To a greater and greater degree, it is indeed nothing else.
Danaperino So, the White House beating of drums in this particular case—as opposed to drums trying to drown out the debacle in Iraq, constitutional wreckage and other messes on the Oval Office rug—comes from spokeswoman (and Ann Coulter lookalike), Dana Perino;
"The only thing this report demonstrates is what a lot of us already know: Jack Abramoff had a penchant for exaggerating and charging his clients for minor contacts with government officials." 
Bushsusanralston Which would have at least a slight ring of truth, were it not for the fact that Jack Abramoff had a direct pipeline into Karl Rove’s office in the form of Susan Ralston, aforesaid executive assistant to Karl.
A direct and cozy line to Karl, whose phone calls are always picked up, is a wonderment to have, the envy of K-Street and a fine feathered arrow in the tribal quiver.
Susan is currently not taking calls.
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Some other interesting media comment;