Apparently the Republican Party is scrambling today to offer a series of “lobbying reform measures” intended to make it look like the GOP can clean up Congress. As Harry Reid says, “It’s like asking John Gotti to do what he can to clean up organized crime.” Already the Washington Post has discovered one loophole amidst Hastert’s proposals—under the “reforms,” lobbyists will now also have to donate a campaign contribution whenever they pay for a member of Congress to travel somewhere.
It’s doubtful any of this will do any good. If Hastert and the rest of the GOP had wanted to pass “lobbying reform” a year ago, when Jack Abramoff was just starting to make headlines, nothing would have stopped them. Instead the House briefly changed the rules to allow Tom DeLay to retain his post as Majority Leader if he was indicted (after enough outcry, the rule was eventually dropped). No, lobbyists are a minor issue. The real problem here is that Congress is dominated by Republicans who depend on corruption for campaign cash and reward their corporate donors by passing bad policy that hurts everyone else. Exhibit A: the disastrous Medicare drug bill. No amount of minor rule changes or quaint little bans on certain types of airfare will change that fundamental dynamic; only elections can do that.
MORE: Paul Begala and James Carville have an interesting, and radical, proposal for campaign finance reform (to “Abramoff-proof politics”) in the latest Washington Monthly.