What Republican Reform Actually Means

Earlier this month, House Republicans held an election to select a new caucus leader. Beset by scandals ranging from the conviction of Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham to the indictment of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay to the exposure of Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff's shady influence-peddling practices, House Republicans elected an "outsider" and "reformer" -- John Boehner -- rather than the acting Majority Leader, Roy Blunt, who had served as DeLay's number one deputy. At least it appeared to the Washington press corps that the House GOP had voted for reform.

At the time of the leadership election, House Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier was drawing up a new set of tougher regulations relating to lobbying -- at least in terms of rhetoric -- at the behest of House Speaker Denny Hastert. But The Washington Post's Jeffrey Birnbaum, who has been covering lobbying and business for decades, writes in Sunday's paper that even the rather toothless reforms championed by Dreier and Hastert appear to be going by the wayside as a result of John Boehner's election as Majority Leader.

Their progress was slowed by the election two weeks ago of a new majority leader, Rep. John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), who has a different notion of what "reform" should entail and who challenged parts of Hastert's plan.

In mid-January, Hastert proposed broad new restrictions on lobbying, including a ban on privately funded travel for lawmakers and tight limits on meals and other gifts.

But Boehner and many rank-and-file Republicans objected to his recommendations and have said they would prefer beefing up disclosure of lobbyists' activities rather than imposing new restrictions. [emphasis added]

Looking at this article, two separate storylines emerge. The meme pushed by Republicans, which has largely been swallowed by the Beltway press and punditry, states that Republicans repudiated their past leadership by electing new leadership free of the scandal that plagued the last Majority Leader (even if this new leader had been surrounded by similar scandals in the past). The second, more correct meme, which has been largely overlooked by the press, is that the Republican caucus opted for the Majority Leader candidate who cared the least about lobbying reform and was most strongly in favor of maintaining the status quo. While Roy Blunt was tied to Jack Abramoff, at least he was, in an attempt to reframe his image, in favor of some steps to clean up Washington. However, Boehner, who was not as closely tied to Abramoff, felt free to eschew reform as the institutional press had largely forgotten his many improper ties to lobbyists in the past.

When confronted with the choice of a candidate who, while surrounded by scandal, was willing to feign concern about illicit lobbying practices, and a candidate who openly stated that no changes needed to be made on the Congressional ethics front, House Republicans opted for the latter. And if House Republicans can't even choose a veneer of reform over no reform at all, then they are clearly unconcerned that their close ties to lobbyists -- some corrupt, many not -- are hurting America. Unfortunately for the Republicans, most Americans disagree with this sentiment.

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Life in the USA

It would take more than a cell block of arrests from the president on down to make America the Beautiful's dress pretty enough to party again, but who will arrest the arrestors?

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The Next Howard Dean

This article is cross-posted at the Daily Kos and MyLeftWing.

I'm not here to sing the praises of Howard Dean. Chairman Dean has garnered plenty of adoration around these parts. This diary is all about the next Howard Dean.

Republicans and Democrats embody different worldviews, and it shows in our leadership styles. The typical Republican leader wants your vote, but requires little else. In exchange, they'll try to make you feel warm and fuzzy about how wonderful America is... just the way it is. And they especially like it when we're passive and compliant.

By contrast, Democratic leaders demand of us that we step up to the plate. They aren't characterized by our adulation. In fact, they only succeed to the degree that they inspire our emulation. Our participation. Our dedication.

They have always required of us that we be the ones to carry the torch forward.

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CA-50: Backing Busby

For some time now, I've been incredibly impressed with the candidacy of Democrat Francine Busby. Running from the very start as a reform candidate, she was well-positioned to take on the ethically-challenged assumed incumbent Duke Cunningham. She's run in the district before and, in a certain sense, never stopped running, as it became clearer that Cunningham was becoming increasingly radioactive. If elected, Busby would be a true citizen legislator. She's not a former DC staffer or the scion of a political dynasty. She's an educator and a community activist focused on improving the lives of her neighbors in a million little ways. She's the anti-Duke Cunningham.

With Cunningham out of the way, Busby will face a raft of Republicans in a special election on April 11. The district has been held by the GOP for a while and this spring represents an incredible chance to flip it back Democratic. RJB at Words Have Power posted the other day on the mudslinging going on between the Republicans -- nearly a dozen -- vying for the seat. It's an amazing contrast. They're clawing at each other relentlessly while Busby continues to hammer home the message that real ethics reform should be the number one priority in Congress. Her demand, posted here at MyDD -- "no gifts, no trips, no secret meetings, no outside financial relationships, and no exceptions" -- ought to be the rallying cry for every Democrat running for Congress this fall.

Francine Busby officially announced her candidacy today, surprising election officials by "turning in signatures instead of just paying the filing fee." There's a great deal of attention being paid to the Democratic primary in TX-28 right now, and for good reason -- we have the chance to replace a Bush loyalist with a real progressive. But the special election in CA-50 is just as crucial. If Busby wins in April, she starts the ball rolling for the fall, showing that Democratic momentum is a force to be reckoned with. And perhaps more important than that, she'll be a fresh voice for reform in an institution that badly needs it.

We've all asked you to send some support Busby's way in the past. (Lately, it seems like she and Ciro Rodriguez are running on the same ticket.) But I'm going to say it again now that her candidacy is official. If you're in a position to volunteer, please do so. And of course, as always, please donate to her campaign. Call it a campaign warming present. There are only 63 days until the special election. Let's make an impact.

Francine Busby.

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America's One and One-half Party System

Is reform needed? I believe not. It isn't reform that is needed, but a major overhaul: one that could get this nation closer to democracy and humanity, and away from empire-building and insensitive behavior toward other nations/peoples.

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