Solving Washington corruption: disclosure--of everything--not bans

Sunday, January 15, 2006 at 08:54 AM

The Abramoff cesspool certainly has stirred up the usual frenzy for reform that follows every scandal.  In fact, Raw Story reports that Democrats are considering a plan that would ban all lobbyist gifts.

I have to say, I've lived through enough of these now that I have less faith in "bans" as a workable solution, but a growing belief that we need to make them--and I mean ALL of THEM (lobbyists, politicians, and anyone else buying influence) disclose every damn thing they do that could affect the public interest.

Disclosure--information--is a hell of a remedy.  Why do you think the Bush administration loves secrecy and hates disclosure?

So please, Harry Reid, and please, Nancy Pelosi, opt for disclosure.  And don't limit it to free gifts and cash.  Disclose everything.

Go for a system that requires:

--Disclosure of the content of all legislation, via a publicly accessible web site, at least 5 business days before the legislators vote on it.

--Disclosure by politicians of all contacts outside of public meetings, with any entity, in which policy or legislation was discussed.

--Disclosure by politicians of every gift, complimentary travel or meals, or other thing of more than nominal ($100??) value, including the source and the value.

--Disclosure by all lobbyists of all contacts with every legislator: date, location, length of contact and subject.

--Disclosure by all lobbyists of all gifts, trips, cash, campaign contributions, etc. to each legislator from either the lobbyist directly or any entity with which the lobbyist has an association.

All this info should be available to the public.

Requiring matching disclosures by both lobbyists and politicians would allow the public to compare what a lobbyist says about a contact or gift with what the politician says about the same contact or gift.

Requiring that legislation be posted publicly before voting would give all the infinite interest groups an opportunity to scour it for obscure clauses that produce huge consequences. No more passing bills where legislators can later say with a straight face that they never knew the legislation contained some nightmare language.

And while we're at getting some sunlight on the darker things of political life, let's start doing something about this administration's absolute mania for keeping things secret, confidential, and otherwise unseen by prying eyes.