18 January 2006

It's A Celebration ...

You know the rest.

The Democrats unveiled their lobbying reform package today, perhaps a day late, as the Republicans unveiled their "reform" yesterday. TAPPED's Sam Rosenfeld gives the rundown of the plan's individual proposals:
And anyone worried that the Democrats would make the mistake of entering into this debate with an eye toward reaching a constructive compromise with Republicans and producing real reform legislation can rest easy. It's not just the rhetoric (as Slaughter said, "The same Republican members of Congress who put America up for sale have neither the ability nor the credibility to lead us in a new direction, and they shouldn't even try."). The Democrats' reform package has GOP labels for each proposal: “The Tony Rudy Reform” to close the revolving door; “The Ralph Reed Reform” to toughen lobbying disclosure; “The Jack Abramoff Reform” to ban gifts and travel; “The Grover Norquist Reform” to end the K Street Project; “The Scully & Tauzin Reform” to require disclosure of outside job negotiations; “The Frist and Hastert Reform,” which pertains to procedural rules governing conference committees and floor activity, etc.; “The Brownie Reform”; and "The Halliburton Reform." It's that kind of package.
Harry also kept up the mafia theme as well, going on at length ("lingering ominously," per Rosenfeld) about the physical dangers he faced in closing up the mob's shop, before immediately switching gears to Tom Delay, et al. And it's not a celebration yet. First, this has to get covered, at all. Second, Democrats need to keep control of the story and not let Fox News and The Situation Room dictate their moves. Then, well, they need to introduce the legislation and debate the hell out of it, using those names. I'd throw Bob Ney's name in there for something, and Conrad Burns as well.

Also, James Carville and Paul Begala have a piece in Washington Monthly that has their proposals for reform. Their package is a little more, well, radical:
First, we raise congressional pay big time. Pay 'em what we pay the president: $400,000. That's a huge increase from the $162,000 congressmen and senators currently make. Paul, especially, has been a critic of congressional pay increases. But he is willing to more than double politicians' pay in order to get some of the corrupt campaign money out of the system. You see, the pay raise comes with a catch. In return, we get a simple piece of legislation that says members of Congress cannot take anything of value from anyone other than a family member. No lunches, no taxi rides. No charter flights. No golf games. No ski trips. No nothing.

And when it is campaign time, incumbents would be under a complete ban on raising money. You read that right. No president or member of Congress could accept a single red cent from individuals, corporations, or special interests. Period.

Challengers, on the other hand, would be allowed to raise money in any amount from any individual American citizen or political action committee. No limits, just as the free-market conservatives have always wanted. But here is the catch: Within 24 hours of receiving a contribution, the challenger would have to report it electronically to the Federal Election Commission, which would post it for the public to see.

After which,

the U.S. Treasury would credit the incumbent's campaign account with a comparable sum—say 80 percent of the contribution to the challenger to take into account the cost of all the canapés and Chardonnay the challenger had to buy to raise his funds as well as the incumbent's advantage.

[...]

The penalties for violation would be swift. If an incumbent accepts so much as a postage stamp, he loses his seat. If a challenger doesn't report contributions, he loses his shot. If you cheat, you are out on your ass.

While I don't necessarily disagree with their proposal, it has a snowball's chance in hell: Money is speech; paying representatives more, especially while voters are being laid off, isn't an easy sell; asking taxpayers to fund incumbent campaigns is --- I'm assuming --- an unpopular issue; there are certainly more that I haven't thought of or read yet. It sounds like it would be a mess to implement and enforce. And even if Congress passed it, there remains a Supreme Court that would be very unlikely to call such a proposal constitutional.

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