CULTURE OF CORRUPTION UPDATE:
When the Democratic Congress passed lobbying- and ethics-reform measures last month, it barred lawmakers and their aides from accepting almost all meals from lobbyists. But, as the Wall Street Journal reported [subscription required] recently, hors d’oeuvresâ€”including any food eaten standing up and using a toothpick or one’s fingersâ€”remain kosher. The result, say some observers, has been nothing more consequential than a change in the menu. Out: pasta and steak dinners. In: risotto balls, and blinis with smoked salmon and crÃ¨me fraiche. Congress feels cleaner already.
Switching from entrees to appetizers isn’t the only way that lobbyists are getting around the new rules. According to another recent report [subscription required], this one in the New York Times, in the last two months lawmakers have invited lobbyists to pay for a California wine-tasting tour, a trip to Disney World, weekend golf tournaments, concerts by the Who and Bob Seeger, and a range of other fun-filled (if golf and Bob Seeger are your bag) outings. The arrangements are legal because the new rules don’t restrict political contributions, meaning lobbyists can still pay to attend a fund-raiser. So rather than paying for the lawmaker directly on these trips, the lobbyist will instead contribute to a political fund-raising committee set up by the lawmakerâ€”which then picks up the tab.
Read the whole thing, and ask yourself if public financing of campaigns — which is presented as the solution — will make any more difference, or just result in cash being handed over . . . on toothpicks.