The hard work of America's Congressmen

Published 8:36 pm Monday, January 16, 2006

By By Tray Smith
Last week, Federal Prosecutors reached a plea deal with Jack Abramoff, the infamous Washington lobbyist who is involved in what is expected to be a sweeping political scandal. As part of the agreement, Abramoff has plead guilty to tax evasion, mail fraud, and conspiracy charges, and he is expected to give prosecutors the names of up to twenty members of Congress whom he has bribed.
The Congressmen are expected to be members of each house and each party, but House Republicans are presumed to be the main group at risk in the scandal. In wake of the news, member of the House Republican caucus have begun a huge new effort to save face. They are now transferring all of the funds that they received from Abramoff to charity and calling for lobbying reform.
But no matter what House Republicans do now, they cannot change the fact that this huge scandal actually happened, and that it involved several members of our legislature. We have the greatest government in the history of the world. Our people are also the most productive workers in the world. Each year they labor hard in order to pay taxes to support that government. We have lost nearly 3,000 servicemen and women in Iraq and Afghanistan fighting for our freedom, with thousands more wounded. The great men and women of America are rising to our challenges and making sacrifices for our country so that it can continue to be the best nation the world has ever seen. In the meantime, our politicians in Washington are accepting bribes. These politicians have disgraced themselves, the institutions in which they serve, and the country that they are supposedly leading.
Many Americans today accept corruption like this as just part of the norm, as
what we have to accept from our government. But it is not. America can and should do \should follow his lead.
The problem with the so-called "reforms" that House Republicans are proposing is that this is not a problem with the legal system or the structure of our government. Jack Abramoff has been caught and now he will have to suffer the price for his actions. The system is clearly working. The sad truth is that no good system can prevent the actions of bad people.
There is nothing wrong with lobbying. People should always have access to their elected legislatures, which is one of the central components of democracy. But taking bribes or acting unethical in anyway is unacceptable for America's leaders.
While this scandal is skewed towards House Republicans, I do not believe that this is a partisan thing. The Republicans control both houses of Congress and the lobbyist are naturally going to go to them in order to get their agenda through. However, there is no indication it would be any different if the Democrats were in power. Before the Republican Party took control in 1994, the Democratic Congress was as corrupt as any. Bill Clinton had an affair with an intern. There is no indication they would be doing anything any different if they were in power now.
Our nation is a story of ongoing progress. That progress has been made possible by great leaders who sacrificed a lot for their freedom and their posterity. From George Washington to Abraham Lincoln to Ronald Reagan, our country has been blessed by great leaders who set the ethical bar high and moved this country forward. To see our nation now being abused by ruthless politicians is disheartening; and it makes me sick.
Yet, even George Washington once said, "Few men have virtue to withstand the highest bidder." I wish he could see today's Congress.
It is also very troubling that this is happening in the Republican Party. The Republicans came to power in 1994 because they pledged to defeat the special interest, shrink the size of our government, and stand for all Americans. Now they have drifted away from those roots, and we have had to accept the sad truth that the two parties are no different. The Republican Party should get back to its reform agenda of term limits, smaller government, and accountability or let the Democrats run the country. No, they aren't any better and this isn't a partisan thing, but at least that way we don't have to hear them whine on television. That is the bottom line.
There are no indications that Representative Jo Bonner or Alabama Senators Richard Shelby or Jeff Sessions are in anyway involved in this, so we can be proud that our legislatures are serving with dignity.
Tray Smith is a political columnist for the Atmore Advance. He can be reached for contact at His column appears weekly.

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