"I'm Going to Be Hugged & Kissed As Long As I'm Giving Them A Check"

"I'm Going to Be Hugged & Kissed As Long As I'm Giving Them A Check"
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Yesterday, I noted how the Democratic ethics "reform" plan is a sham, much like your doctor giving you a green M&M and expecting you to believe it is a cure for cancer. That struck some as an overstatement, which is why I'm glad K Street lobbyists today ran to Roll Call confirming exactly what I said. Here's what the newspaper reports:

"Lobbyists -- who, after all, get paid to anticipate changes in Congress for clients -- already have been busy looking for potential loopholes and other ways to skirt anticipated new rules, even before those proposed rules come to a vote. Their strategies run the gamut from turning social gatherings into policy briefings to the idea -- more ethically slippery, to many experts -- of terminating lobbying registrations in the hope that any interactions would not be covered by the new restrictions. 'Whatever you put in place, it always amazes me, people will find a way around it,' said one prominent Democratic lobbyist, who requested anonymity. 'It seems like you push down on one side and something pops up on another one' she added. Two well-known lobbyists, one a Democrat and the other a Republican, said that on the cocktail and fundraising circuits, lobbyists already have been abuzz with new ideas about how to sidestep as-yet-unpassed rules. One said that a few colleagues have raised the possibility of terminating their lobbying registrations and moving into roles within their firms that are officially classified as non-lobbying, to avoid travel or gift bans if they apply only to registered lobbyists...And how about getting around new limits on Members using corporate jets? The Democratic lobbyist said he'd heard about lobbyists trying to get state party committees to charter corporate flights for Members."

But, as I've written before, the real crime is Democrats expecting us to believe they are proposing real reforms when they are simultaneously refusing to even talk about public financing of elections. And K Street understands that's the biggest loophole of all:

"Several lobbyists said that fundraising events, too, will be at a premium, especially if Congress does not enact any campaign finance reforms geared toward lobbyists. 'I am going to be embraced and hugged and kissed as long as I'm giving them a check' for their campaign, said one lobbyist."

A while back, I noted that with the polls showing broad support for public financing, at least some congressional Democrats seemed to be trying to get the party to embrace public financing of elections. Most prominent among these was Sen. Barack Obama (D), who had forcefully supported public financing of elections during his time in the Illinois legislature. Obama floated the idea of public financing and reduced-rate TV time for candidates one year ago on Meet the Press, and the New York Times more recently reported that he was considering sponsoring a public financing bill in the new Congress.

But in what seems to have become Obama's signature move, we're getting more fancy footwork and serious-sounding rhetoric around the edges than actual serious action. In a Washington Post op-ed that is sure to have the Obama-as-Messiah crowd swooning, the Illinois Senator talks a great game about needing to clean up Washington and lists a series of solid additional reforms that Democrats should take - the best among them his idea to close the revolving door whereby congressional staffers trade in their public service for six-figure lobbying jobs (and I must admit - I did enjoy him lashing out at how "corporations were already recruiting lobbyists with Democratic connections to carry their water in the next Congress").

However, Obama deliberately leaves out any mention of public financing of elections. I'm guessing the rigors of presidential fundraising have not only interrupted the senator's workout schedule, as the New York Times breathlessly noted, but also his taste for an agenda that actually puts substance behind his "clean up Washington" platitudes.

The same cannot be said for New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D). In his first State of the State address, he said:

"Reform will not be complete if we simply address the supply of contributions. We must also address the demand. Full public financing must be the ultimate goal of our reform effort. By cutting off the demand for private money, we will cut off the special-interest influence that comes with it."

That's the same thing many other state legislators are saying around the country (some of whom I am meeting with tomorrow at a public forum on campaign finance reform at Town Hall Seattle). The question is, when will Congress stop treating the American public like a bunch of fools? When will lawmakers realize they are insulting their constituent's intelligence by trying to pawn off half-measures as a serious agenda that addresses the hostile takeover of our government by Big Money interests?

We're waiting, Democrats - and don't tell us we didn't warn you when, come the next election, the public isn't hugging and kissing you back like your K Street pals are.

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