Tuesday, June 06, 2006


Fifty Million in Legal Graft.

The nonpartisan Center for Public Integrity released findings of a study yesterday that will both shock and yet leave you simultaneously unsurprised:
Over a 5½-year period ending in 2005, members of Congress and their aides took at least 23,000 trips — valued at almost $50 million — financed by private sponsors, many of them corporations, trade associations and nonprofit groups with business on Capitol Hill.
This is, of course, an elaborate system to allow legal kickbacks to incumbents by special interests who just--purely by coincidence, you understand--happen to have legislation they'd like to see made law. That works out to an average of nearly $19,000 per member of Congress per year. But of course, it's not spread evenly. Care to guess who gets the lion's share?

Eleven members took more than $350,000 in that period; nine were Republican, and every Republican in the House leadership was among this group. Ten took 200 trips or more during that period--200!; all were Republican, and that Republican House leadership--Blount, Boehner, DeLay, Hastert, and Bill Thomas, Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee--were all there.

It infected the Democratic Party as well, and one hesitates to call this a partisan problem--presumably the House leadership got the fat cash because they were ... the leadership. If you look beyond the top ten, it starts to get Democratic pretty fast. If anything, this underscores the truth about travel: it's a way to buy Congressional votes. No wonder Americans have such a low opinion of the Congress.

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