Topic category: Other/General
Calling the Bluff on Ethics
No one knows how the November 7 elections will turn out. Regardless of how those elections turn out, regardless of which party has control of which particular House of Congress, all Americans should be seriously concerned about the very real corruption which both parties have exhibited in the last twenty years.
Although the focus now is on Republican scandals of the last couple of years, New Jersey Democrats four years ago nominated a senate candidate and then withdrew him after the election because the stench of unethical behavior around him was so strong. This election Democrats have two House candidates – one a former impeached federal judge and the other a Louisiana Democrat with hundreds of thousands of dollars in his freezer – that should put to rest any notion that corruption has flowed from Republican control of Congress. Indeed, Republicans swept into power on the tails of a House Banking scandal and the conviction of a sitting House Ways and Means Chairman which were as bad any anything ever in American political history.
The question is this: what can be done? Republicans should propose an answer, whether they hold control of the House, the Senate, both or neither. Absent ethical problems, Republicans simply would not be in danger of losing control of Congress at all this year. Republicans should not propose legislation or legislative rules, which are subject to the whim of whichever party controls the Executive and Legislative branches of government. What Republicans should propose are the types of reforms which are unilateral: reforms which Democrats can also embrace or which Democrats can reject, and so place themselves in stark contrast to Republicans. The reforms should also be transparent and easy to understand, so that the public can grasp quickly who is doing right and who is doing wrong. Finally, the reforms should tie into core Republican values, so that it could – should! – be simple for the sort of Republicans we want to live by these reforms and hard for corrupt politicians of any sort to tolerate the reforms.
What should the reforms specifically provide? The Republican Caucus in each chamber of Congress should introduce the following as a rule, and if the chamber will not adopt it, then the Republicans should unilaterally and conspicuously adopt it as a rule of the party. Each member should take a polygraph test each year answering a few simple questions about his personal life , about his use or abuse of his political position, about his knowledge of any criminal activities related to other members of Congress, and regarding any violation of campaign finance laws or voting laws. These should relate only to the prior year, which would allow the American people to know that, whatever the errors of the past, we truly were beginning a fresh and honorable start.
Each member should require each member of his staff to take the same polygraph test. Each member should also sign an affidavit swearing that the answers that he gave to the polygraph test were true and require that his staff do the same. Each member should make his income tax return and the income tax return of his spouse public.
What would be the impact of this? Hopefully, every member of Congress would be compelled by the force of public opinion to agree to abide by these transparent, individual and simple reforms. If each member of Congress did, the federal government would be a much better place.
What if many Democrats agreed, personally, to abide by these reforms but did not agree to impose their values on congressmen like William Jefferson of Louisiana? Then Republicans could ask that the Democrat caucus agree to deny any position on any committee to any member who did not agree to this reform and Republicans could, and should, likewise deny any Republican a position on a committee who did not agree to these uncomplicated reforms.
Almost certainly, though, Democrats would not agree to these reforms. It is too contrary to the purposes for which Democrats seek power. In fact, they would probably not even agree to the reforms even if Republicans held slender majorities in both chambers of Congress and would protest if Republicans tried to make these formal rules of the House or of the Senate. That opposition should then be the drumbeat of Republicans in or out of power over the next two years. Every ethical problem that arose in Congress could be squarely placed at the feet of Democrats who wanted Congress to be a bought institution. In 2008, the “culture of corruption” would come back with a vengeance against those who tried to profit by that catchy phrase in 2006.
Biography - Bruce Walker
Bruce Walker has been a published author in print and in electronic media since 1990. He is a regular contributor to WebCommentary, Conservative Truth, American Daily, Enter Stage Right, Intellectual Conservative, NewsByUs and MenÕs News Daily. His first book, Sinisterism: Secular Religion of the Lie by Outskirts Press was published in January 2006.