Thursday, January 19, 2006

Why Did Willie Sutton Go Into Politics? 'Cause That's Where The Money Is

OK, we're not criminal justice experts. In fact our exposure to the criminal justice system has been exclusively...well...nevermind. Anyway, given our admittedly paltry knowledge of how these things are done, it still seems to us you don't let bank robbers make the laws about bank robbery, which is exactly what's happening here.

Lawmakers are about to bombard the American public with proposals that would crack down on lobbyists. One outlined yesterday by House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Clueless), would specifically ban meals and privately paid travel for lawmakers.

Wait a minute. Shouldn't the ones who took the bribes be getting the crackdown? Oh, wait. We forget who's writing the rules. Please continue.

According to ethics experts, if Hastert's proposal is enacted, members of Congress and their staffs could still travel all over, or eat steak at the priciest restaurants in Washington on a lobbyist's account. The only requirement would be that whenever a lobbyist pays the bill, he or she must also hand the lawmaker a campaign contribution. "Is that wrong?" asked Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert. "Should I not have done that?"

The plans offered by Republican leaders yesterday would change some of the regulations that govern lobbyists' behavior. "Those lobbyists come around here and tempt us," Hastert said. "We're just poor hard working Joes like everyone else. What would you do if someone offered to pay for your country club memberships?"

Under Hastert's proposal, campaign finance laws would go untouched, an omission that amounts to a gaping loophole in efforts to distance lobbyists from the people they are paid to influence. "Well, we can't get too far from the lobbyists," said a spokesperson for Senator Frist. "We need their input. Otherwise it's like we have to listen to the voters or something. How lame would that be?"

Currently, lawmakers and staff members are permitted to take "fact-finding" trips paid for by private groups, including lobbying organizations and corporations. "Yeah. And there are some great looking facts on the beaches of Bermuda about this time of year too," said Representative Don Sherwood (R-Who's Your Daddy!).

Yesterday, Hastert and high-ranking Senate Republicans, led by Rick Santorum (R- Hypocrite) and John McCain (R-Shell Shocked), said they would eliminate these privately funded fact-finding trips. "This will effectively shut down these trips, just as my anti torture bill ended torture," said McCain. Senator Santorum, when he stopped laughing, added that he no longer supports the "theory" of Intelligent Design, except when he does.

None of the lawmakers said they would end travel and meals supplied by lobbyists as part of fundraising events. When asked what the definition of a fundraising event would be Representative David Dreier (R-Don't Look Too Close), who is Hastert's emissary on the lobbying issue, said, "An event specifically organized to take place on a day that ends in y."

When asked if changes in ethics rules was really just a smokescreen for Republicans accused of violating criminal statutes and facing jail time, Hastert replied that the Congress was taking these events "very seriously" and was looking into a "restructuring" of the criminal code.

In a related story, the Reverend Pat Robertson said that any "activist" judge who might be thinking of sending Republican lawbreakers to jail would surely incur the wrath of God. "They better not be living in a hurricane or earthquake zone," Robertson told a news conference. "Better not go out during a thunderstorm either. Just saying."

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