Monday, February 06, 2006

New Majority Leader Against Proposed Reforms

It didn't take long for newly elected House Majority Leader John Boehner to show his true colors. Elected only last Thursday, Boehner has already started to scale back some of the reforms proposed in the wake of the Abramoff scandal. As CNN reports, Boehner has come out against a ban on privately-funded junkets for elected officials.

Lobbyist Jack Abramoff used free trips to Scotland as part of the bribes he offered Ohio Rep. Bob Ney in return for Ney helping Abramoff's clients with legislation and favorable comments in the congressional record. Boehner himself has taken $150,000 worth of free trips since 2000.

It is illegal for lobbyists to pay for travel for members of Congress, but non-profit organizations can do so in the name of "educating" our elected representatives. It is on this basis that Boehner defends the practice of private interests paying for congressional travel.

Well, if an elected official needs to travel somewhere as part of their duties as an elected official, it seems pretty reasonable to have the taxpayers pick up the tab. We pay for office space, right? Staff salaries, pencils, desks . . . heck, we even pay for congressional "franking" privileges, the practice with which members of congress send to their constituents tons of what often amounts to campaign literature, all on the public dime.

Privately-funded travel is just a tiny sliver of the larger problem of financially powerful interests using their wealth to buy more say in government than the rest of us. But, if Boehner's early stance on travel is any indication of which side he thinks his bread is buttered on, don't expect a lick of meaningful reform under his tenure as Majority Leader.

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