Sunday September 22, 2019
Aug-09-2007 05:35TweetFollow @OregonNews
Henry Clay Ruark Salem-News.com
Art courtesy: iips.cz
(BEND, Ore.) - Congress for the first time has put real fear into the lives of lavish-handed lobbyists laying out "contributions" as corporate "political speech" at the national level.
The strong and historic new legislation awaits the remarkably revealing action of President Bush, who has remained strangely silent on his decision to sign-or-veto this one --in the midst of multitudinous similar troubles.
It remains to be seen if Oregon's own "elected representative assembly" -long familiar with the wit, wisdom and will of Oregonians on this issue-- will now take brutal Congressional action on a long-festering problem area as their own strong motivation to begin the long-overdue similar clean-up so obviously demanded right here at home.
K-Street enclaves in D.C. were deeply and immediately concerned about the overwhelming-vote passage of the new procedures.
Rightly so, since they now face "penalties up to $200,000 and five years in prison" for lobbyists continuing out-of-line with "the usual freebies" of past decades in D.C.
In addition --and for the first time!---"federal prosecutors are taking a newly aggressive approach to corruption cases, including treating campaign contributions as potential bribes."
We're long-time too-familiar with the similar patterns in Oregon, surely significant in shaping and manipulating major Legislative decisions.
The Congressional action was prompted by recent and repeated disclosures of deeply troubling "scandals that have tarnished the image of Congress". Even more significantly, the swift bipartisan agreement represents "a cultural shift in the traditions of Capital Hill".
That shift refers directly to control and monitor closely -- even to disclose and identify-- the developers of "earmarks"; always a matter for silent cooperation before, including efforts to clear legislation bearing that burden and well-known to all members buddying-up for the purpose.
"Earmarks" are pet bill "adjustments or additions" providing lavish public funding for usually-localized and often controversial projects or programs whose often-sole and always-sure virtue was building more political strength for the proposer, right in his home territory.
They win through to funding via close and determined joint voting action on the basis of "you okay mine and I'll do likewise."
Recent backroom dealings devoted to developing "sure-thing passage" of such projects led to scandals that have now sent four lawmakers to jail, and are seen to have contributed directly to GOP defeats leading to loss of Congressional control last year.
Even the most blasé of Congressional observers were "amazed at the surprising strength and determination of both Dems and GOPs to take cooperative action"; against the growing harassment and strong manipulation definitely on display by the overwhelming crowds of corporate-connected lobbyists and "observers".
Both the tough new restrictions "on lobbyist freebies for legislator manipulation" and the development of "strong control on earmarking protocol" have long been sought by many citizen groups.
They represent long-sought Congressional policing of relationships between "lobbyists-with-dollars and/or gifts, trips and free meals", all seeking access and influence on shaping legislative bills; and lawmakers whose easily-hidden "law-shaping actions can build in or keep out" precisely what the lobbyists seek to procure.
For decades that continuing situation has been termed "a cancer eating away at our democracy". The practice has long been recognized by many, if not most, elected representatives as among major problems with which they were forced to cope, including the growing and inevitable cost of campaigning.
That final, if inevitable, trend has been driving often-desperately-sought receipts from corporate hands, more and more intensely, more and more frequently, across the whole nation.
Again, it is only fair-and-obvious to point out the precise necessity and long-felt absolute essential-actions in our own State of Oregon.
With many examples easy to find, perhaps the most painful-two are the SEVENTY-year history of our Oregon "$10 minimum corporate tax", now nationally notorious; and the continued failure to find the legislative will and wisdom to fund failing child-healthcare by seemingly sensible and reasonable additional tax on cigarette sales.
The first demands full and forceful explanation when it is reality that many THOUSANDS of Oregon PROFIT-producing corporations pay only $10 as "their share" of Oregon corporate tax-revenue; in a state where corporate share has dropped precipitously in recent years, thus shifting much more of the total tax burden directly to individual Oregonians.
The second (ANY cig-tax!), when remarked-upon by insiders in Salem, always draws a wink-and-smile, followed by something like: "Well, you know, Big Tobacco has long gotten its way here."
All too true, and it affects YOU; via clean-air necessity in far too many public and private places; and for many thousands of us also through the direct health-tragedies of our loved ones.
One of my own sons is heavily affected, now suffering from continued health-damage, and unable to shake off the addiction. He was one of the victims of early-age advertising-exposure on which Big Tobacco still lavishes huge sums every day.
IF Congress, surely not a hotbed of Far Left action and still subject to crowds of lobbyists, can find the courage and the demonstrated strengths from both sides of the aisle to act on this cancerous growth on our democracy--
WHY cannot our OWN OREGON Legislature do likewise?
WHEN is any better time to START than with this next added-session, "trying out" for the inevitable annual affair we know must come soon?
WHO is DOING WHAT, NOW, to get ready for that essential action surely now seen as reflecting rational, reasonable realities?
WHAT BETTER WAY than to finish off weakly-done first-steps for the Legislature's own "ethic reforms" just-begun in the last session from which they just fled?
Even if Bush vetoes this courageous Congressional action, most recent count shows extremely close bipartisan vote to override veto --if enough citizens demand that result -- SO "Let Your Voice Be Heard!"
See OCPP details in-full on corporate shift of tax burden-share to individual Oregonians: www,ocpp.org. Quotes are verbatim, shortened, or summarized; original sources on request. Some 30 authoritative sources were all consulted in preparation for this Op Ed. List available on request.
See also Op Eds previously:
"Ethics-Breakers Need Painful Consequences"; 2/9/07; and
"Corporate Contributions Now Open to Public View"; 4/24/07;
available in our Archives.