Thursday, January 04, 2007

New Ethics Rules Lack Prohibitions, Promote Disclosure

Democrats want to raise the bar for ethical behavior for members of Congress with new rules. However, lawmakers will still be able to take privately financed trips to exotic locations. They will just have more explaining to do. They will still be able to load legislation with funding that benefits special interests. But they'll have to put that work, often hidden in the past, on display for everyone to see.

My guess is the new rules will engender a new round of creative justifications for corporate sponsored jaunts and special interest legislation. A trip sponsored by a large health insurer like WellPoint or UnitedHealth to the Cayman Islands will be to “study their health care system”. Legislation that takes money away from patient care to cover modern insurance’s higher administrative expenses will be justified by “to improve access to affordable health insurance”.

Ignore that poor people on Medicaid will now pay a portion of the premium, higher deductibles and co-pays, knocking thousands off the rolls. Someone has to pay for Uncle Bucky Bush’s and Susan Bayh’s WellPoint stock options. And William McGuire’s monstrous retirement benefits happened to come early after his role in backdating UnitedHealth’s stock options.

The new Democratic team won’t be as dirty as the Republican bunch, but they will come close. That they will soon copy the President’s practice of calling something the exact opposite of its reality, just reinforces the saying, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”. And that’s what we have serving us in Washington, a great group of imitators…

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