Today’s Washington Post tells the story of the continuing Republican behind-the-scenes changes to how Congress does business. It seems that now they are weakening the rules on gifts – what Congressional representatives can and can’t accept from lobbyists.
Congressional Republicans over the past eight years have systematically weakened their own landmark ban on gifts from lobbyists, making it easy for lawmakers and staffs to get free meals, sports tickets, golfing trips and other favors from people paid to influence their decision-making.
House Republicans — who instituted a total ban on gifts in 1995 with great fanfare after capturing Congress — have incrementally relaxed the ethics rules so that members and their staffs can accept $100 in meals each year from each lobbyist and watch Washington Wizards basketball games and rock concerts from luxury skyboxes valued to fit just under their $50-per-event limit on tickets.
A new rule passed by House Republicans this month on a party line vote might stretch the loophole considerably further. It allows lawmakers and their aides to once again accept free trips to golf courses and free meals catered to their offices from corporations and other special interests.
When combined with the Repubican rules on what lobbyists can gain access – those that are Republican themselves and donate to the party – it looks as if big business is gaining unprecedented access to lawmakers and ordinary people are now shut out completely (especially with the increased security over the last few years… you can no longer walk into the Capitol to see your representatives).
Is it just me, or does Congress no longer work for the people?