Friday, July 16, 2004

The Hand that Feeds Congress
Congressional power broker Tom Delay is currently under investigation by the House Ethics Committee for possible violations of campaign finance laws.  Sort of under investigation anyway.  As Susan Gamboa reports in the Chicago Tribune, four of the members of the Ethics Committee who are to judge whether Delay committed any violations have received contributions from the very committees Delay is under investigation for misusing.
One of Delay's aides expressed full confidence that the Ethics Committee would handle the situation in an appropriate manner.   I'm sure.
Delay casts a long shadow over his party's caucus in large part because of his track record of steering millions of dollars in campaign contributions to other members.  This financial assistance enables Delay to apply a great deal of pressure on members to vote for certain measures, regardless of the interests of their constituents at home. 
If an elected representative of the people answers to another member before his own constituents, something is clearly wrong.  Such a system smacks more of Tammany Hall than it does democracy.
Despite the noblest of intentions we might ascribe to these members, they still risk offending one of their principal political patrons by judging Delay.  They face an inherent conflict of interest between their political livelihoods and their political responsibilities when they sit in judgment of him or his fundraising activities.  The same power that gives Delay so much influence over his fellow members of Congress also requires that those four members that have received financial assistance from Delay's political action committees recuse themselves from any determination of impropriety on Delay's part. 
After all, if these guys know anything, it's not to bite the hand that feeds them.

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