no question that Democrats had become deeply corrupt during the
40 years after 1954 when they controlled the House of Representatives
continuously. Everyone knew it, just as everyone knows the truth
of Lord Acton's famous maxim, "Power tends to corrupt, and
absolute power corrupts absolutely." That is why the House
bank scandal involving bounced checks was so politically potent
-- it personified petty Democratic corruption in a way that average
people could relate to.
pounded the bank scandal mercilessly and promised to overhaul
House procedures and operations if they took control in 1994.
On the first day of a Republican majority, they promised to have
an outside audit of all House finances, to make laws Congress
had exempted itself from apply equally to it, to limit committee
chairmanships, to eliminate proxy voting and other reforms.
credit, they did enact these reforms in January 1995. But it didn't
take long before Republicans were engaging in the same abuses
of power that the Democrats had routinely engaged in. Earlier
this year, the minority members of the House Rules Committee issued
a 147-page report detailing these abuses. The worst are measures
that suppress debate and allow the Republican leadership to ram
bills through without any real examination of their provisions.
one reason why there has been a vast proliferation of pork-barrel
projects in recent years. As with Alaska's infamous "bridge
to nowhere," Republican leaders know that such blatantly
unjustified spending cannot survive open debate and must be sneaked
through under subterfuge if it is to be enacted.
that particularly bothers me is routinely holding open votes far
beyond the normal time period, so that Republican leaders can
twist arms to force principled conservatives to back big spending
measures. The worst example was the three-hour vote in 2003 that
gave us the Medicare drug monstrosity. But just a few weeks ago,
it was done again when the leadership held a five-minute vote
open for 45 minutes to bludgeon an energy bill through.
few Republicans will speak on the record about such abuses for
fear of retaliation, it is a growing topic of private conversation.
Earlier this year, The Washington Post quoted one leadership
aide as lamenting, "It took Democrats 40 years to get as
arrogant as we have become in 10."
It was only
a matter of time before the petty abuse of power morphed into
actual corruption. That is the significance of the growing scandal
involving lobbyists Jack Abramoff, Mike Scanlon and others. Last
week, Scanlon pleaded guilty to defrauding Indian tribes who had
paid Abramoff and Scanlon to lobby for their gambling interests
instance, Abramoff funneled money through a think tank to pay
for a lavish golfing vacation in Scotland for then-House Majority
Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, and Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio. Sadly, it
has been my observation that other so-called think tanks have
also abused their tax-exempt status to pursue political agendas
and personal profits for their executives.
that the root of the current wave of scandal involving Republicans
is that the party's governing element in Washington has completely
lost sight of the reason they were elected in the first place.
Grass-roots Republicans support the party because it is the party
of small government. Those who like big government, who always
want Washington to do more and take on more responsibility, vote
Republicans begin to ape the Democrats by proposing endless pork-barrel
projects and lavish new drug benefits for the elderly, while not
even pretending to care about the budget deficit, it makes rank-and-file
Republicans wonder why they should remain in a party that has
little meaningful difference from the Democrats. Many are going
to stay home on Election Day next year, I predict.
no longer stand for any sort of principle, it becomes a simple
matter to use power just to reward your friends or those with
connections. Things like the Abramoff scandal are the logical
consequence. A renewed commitment to principle is the best antidote.
In the words
of conservative New York Post columnist John Podhoretz:
"As is often the case when reformers take the reins of power,
they've become mirror images of those they replaced. They've grown
especially interested in rewarding their friends, punishing their
enemies and using government power for their own narrow partisan