Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Cesspool on the Potomac

"The city of Washington was built on a stagnant swamp some 200 years ago, and very little has changed. It stank then, and it stinks now. Only today, it is the fetid stench of corruption that hangs in the air."
- Lisa Simpson (Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington)

Meanwhile, in the real world in Washington, the FBI can't keep up with all of its corruption investigations, largely involving the Republican Party (via TPM Muckraker):
There is so much political corruption on Capitol Hill that the FBI has had to triple the number of squads investigating lobbyists, lawmakers and influence peddlers, the Daily News has learned.

For decades, only one squad in Washington handled corruption cases because the crimes were seen as local offenses handled by FBI field offices in lawmakers' home districts.

But in recent years, the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal and other abuses of power and privilege have prompted the FBI to assign 37 agents full-time to three new squads in an office near Capitol Hill.

FBI Assistant Director Chip Burrus told The News yesterday that he wants to detail even more agents to the Washington field office for a fourth corruption squad because so much wrongdoing is being uncovered.
Brian Tamanaha at Balkinization reports how "Congressmen Bob Ney and Randy Cunningham, and a number of former legislative staff members, have admitted to corruption in connection with lobbyists, and face jail time. Other criminal investigations are still in progress. Nonetheless, the New York Times reported last week that no serious lobbying reforms will be enacted by the current Congress, despite all the talk about reform following the Abramoff scandal (see also)."

Why will nothing be done? Easy. Money:

Public records indicate that almost $2 billion was spent on federal lobbying in 2003; $2.1 billion in 2004; and in excess of $2.3 billion in 2005; and the amount keeps rising. Leaving aside outright criminal bribery, this money-laden attention, lavished on legislators and their staffs, takes several forms: making direct campaign contributions, sponsoring campaign fundraising events, providing contributions to third-party supporters (political parties, political action committees, mutually favored institutes or organizations), supplying supportive work (drafting desired legislation, administrative regulations, and briefing papers), funding or securing funding for trips at home and abroad for "informational" purposes (golf resorts being a favorite destination, along with Hawaii, Paris and Italy), subsidizing travel on private jets, supplying free social dinners and entertainment (including high-profile sporting events), employing spouses and close relatives as lobbyists or consultants, and offering the prospect of well-compensated future employment.


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