Wednesday, May 24, 2006

House of Cards

Dear President Bush,

The scramble is on to keep the government house of cards from collapsing. Neither the Justice Department nor the Federal Communications Commission can investigate the National Security Agency due to their lack of security clearance. Thus the NSA is above the law.

Meanwhile both political parties have their undies in a wad over the FBI’s search of a Congressional office. They call their concerns “constitutional”. The case involves an elected representative accepting $100,000 in bribe money on videotape. This happened after the Abramoff case of widespread influence buying in our hallowed halls of government.

Why the defensiveness from Congress? The House Ethics Committee just agreed to take up two cases, one the very same case involving the FBI search. One might think the Ethics Committee would appreciate the FBI’s investigation and findings.

Instead two different requests have been made. The lead Republican asked the FBI to surrender documents it received and remove agents involved in the weekend raid. The lead Democrat asked the suspect to resign from the House Ways & Means Committee to uphold high Congressional "standards".

From my view, the House Ways & Means Committee is already suspect. Its high ethics are already in question. Chairman Bill Thomas is not running for re-election but has a long history of campaign donations from for profit health care companies. Last summer he conducted a hearing on their pet issue, the unfair tax exempt status of non profit hospitals. In 2004, the Chairman received over $30,000 from companies or PAC’s with this stated position.

While tracing the dirty books of Fannie Mae, I found its political action committee contributed to numerous members of the same committee. One committee member, Mr. Eric Cantor’s 2006 campaign is heavily funded by the same for profit healthcare companies that helped Chairman Thomas for so many years. Looking at the last two election cycles, one for profit hospital PAC alone contributed to 31 of the 41 House Ways and Means Committee members. That same for profit healthcare PAC gave to 12 of 20 Senators on its critical Finance Committee during that timeframe.

I can see why Congresspersons are concerned about their offices being raided. What might the public find out about how well our elected representatives serve the people? Given the strong, defensive reactions I can only wonder how many more Tom Delays, Bob Neys, and William Jeffersons are out there? Might they be named Bill Thomas, Eric Cantor, Chuck Grassley, Harry Reid, Bill Frist …..?

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