Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Links of Influence Peddling

Little did Representative Tom DeLay and other lawmakers dream that in frolicking on the golf junkets of Jack Abramoff, the indicted Republican superlobbyist, the influential politicians might, in effect, be caddying for his avaricious lobbying reach.

It turns out that Mr. Abramoff, the subject of multiple investigations, initiated a typically brazen $9 million proposal that he use his influence to secure a White House visit for President Omar Bongo of Gabon. In an expansive letter to his target, Mr. Abramoff suggested that he could visit President Bongo "after my visit to Scotland with the congressmen and senators I take there each year." He said, "It is possible they will want to join me in Gabon, which will be an extra bonus."

President Gabon did visit President Bush, but there is no evidence so far that Mr. Abramoff actually played the broker or that he packed his lawmaker playmates off to Gabon. There is indisputable evidence, however, that his braggadocio about feting lawmakers on the links was true - now embarrassingly so, as investigations detail how Mr. Abramoff milked those connections to project an aura of all-purpose political power.

The largely uncontrolled lobbying world of Washington deserves all the attention it is getting by way of Mr. Abramoff, who seems to have styled his shop after "Glengarry Glen Ross." A worthy bill to end the scandalous privately financed junketeering - $18 million worth by 600 lawmakers in the last five years - and closely track lobbyists' money and influence has been submitted by two Democratic representatives, Martin Meehan of Massachusetts and Rahm Emanuel of Illinois. As the Republican majority grows anxious about next year's elections and the public's increasing disapproval of Congress, it would be wise to resort to lobbying reform as the last refuge of ex-junketeers.

Get the money out of politics!


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