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September 19, 2006

Capitol Crimes: Congressional Ethics

Should Congress be allowed to set its own ethic rules and police itself when it comes to ethics matters?

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Backgrounder: Congressional Ethics
A recent poll found that only 25% of American were satisfied with the job Congress is doing for them. Questions over ethics may play a part in that low rating. Just what are the rules that are meant to ensure that elected representatives aren't swayed by constituents or special interests? The House of Representatives own Web site publishes a list of FAQs for its members. Among the most asked questions: A state university in the Member's home state has offered the Member tickets to one of its basketball games. Can the Member accept? Find out more about the rules and the rules committee... more]

Class Is in Session...

Bill Moyers talked with Thomas Frank, author of WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH KANSAS: HOW CONSERVATIVES WON THE HEART OF AMERICA and Norman Ornstein of the conservative American Enterprise Institute and long-time Washington observer about the particular problems exhibited by the Abramoff scandal, and the general problems that perplex a political and campaign system that runs on money. Frank suggests that the problem goes deeper than guys just "gaming the system" but is a product of contempt for government. Ornstein, commented on the ethics process itself: "Part of it is Congress basically took their ethics process and threw it out the window more than a decade ago, partly because we were into these wars between the parties where we were criminalizing policy differences. When you lose an ethics process, you lose a sensitivity to some of these questions of what you're doing on a day-to-day basis."

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Study finds almost $50 million spent on travel

The Center for Public Integrity, American Public Media and Northwestern University's Medill News Service conducted a nine-month analysis of congressional disclosure forms for travel January 2000 through June 2005. "Privately Sponsored Trips Hot Tickets on Capitol Hill" showed that during that 5 ½ year period, members of Congress and their aides took at least 23,000 trips valued at almost $50 million. Private sponsors - corporations, trade associations and nonprofit groups financed these trips.

Congressional ethics rules seem explicit:

  • Lobbyist-paid travel is forbidden.
  • Sponsored trips must be connected to their official duties.
  • All staffer's trips must be cleared in advance.
  • No gift of $50 or more may be accepted.
In this session we will review the findings of The Center for Public Integrity repor, exploring some of the difficulties in interpreting, enforcing and monitoring rules that, on the surface, seem straightforward.

Tracking the source

Despite the rules banning travel on a lobbyist's nickel, the study by The Center for Public Integrity found that 90 trips taken between January 2000 through June 2005 and valued at $145,000 were sponsored or co-sponsored by firms registered to lobby the federal government. Some would argue that this only represents a small fraction (4% of the number of trips taken and only .29% of the money spent). However, there may be other reasons for alarm.

For one thing, it is often difficult to determine the source of the funding or the relationship between the sponsor and a registered lobbyist. Nonprofits may be set up intentionally by a lobbying agency (as in the case of "shell" or "pass through" nonprofits set up by Jack Abramoff) or may simply be used as a conduit for funds from the lobbyist's clients. In addition, critics of the current system charge, reporting standards themselves, and policing of the reports are minimal.

In the "GIMME FIVE"- INVESTIGATION OF TRIBAL LOBBYING MATTERS, the Committee uncovered numerous instances of nonprofit organizations that appeared to be involved in activities unrelated to their mission as described to the Internal Revenue Service. The Committee also observed tax exempt organizations apparently serving as or being used as extensions of for-profit lobbying operations.

The full extent of this problem is not known, but concerns about the source of funding for trips has led some to call for an outright ban on privately funded trips. In a Letter to the Chairman of the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct for the House, a coalition of reform groups urged, "If members of Congress are traveling on official business for public purposes, it is the public that should pay for such trips, not private interests." (Campaign Legal Center, Public Citizen, Democracy 21, U.S. PIRG, League of Women Voters)

Regardless of whether travel is privately or publicly financed, there may still be opportunities for abuse. Here are some other concerns that have been raised regarding congressional travel.

Other concerns

Is it "access" or "excess"? That's a question members of the public could easily ask about the extravagant perks ($500-a-night hotel rooms) and lavish add-ons ($25,000 corporate jet rides) enjoyed by members of Congress. Of the 23,000 trips taken between January 2000 through June 2005:

  • 2,300 cost $5,000 or more
  • 500 cost $10,000 or more
  • 16 cost $25,000 or more
Congressional ethics rules state that trips shouldn't be "substantially recreational in nature." Critics are skeptical that this rule is observed pointing to the number of trips to vacation destinations, the sketchy itineraries submitted as justification, the presence of spouses who also travel at the expense of the sponsors and the length of time spent at those destinations.

Another finding of the report is that disclosure forms are inadequate. Not only are they incomplete, they ask only the bare minimum of information - certainly not enough for the public to determine whether the trip was justified. "Fact finding", a commonly cited justification is hardly informative. Critics of the current reporting system say that these reporting slights are themselves a clear violation of ethics rules. But the main problem may lie with the oversight of the whole system.

What others are saying

In January 2006, Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert suggested that an outright ban might solve the problems highlighted by the Abramoff scandal. But support for such a ban remains slim. According to The Center for Public Integrity, in a March 9 letter, representatives of 35 religious and human-rights groups urged House Speaker Dennis Hastert not to change the travel rules "in a fashion that will impede the continued ability of House Members and staff to travel on educational and fact-finding missions funded by non-governmental organizations"

The question remains how to develop a travel policy that enables members of Congress to spend time outside of Washington meeting with the public and educating themselves about critical issues in a way that is ethical, above reproach, and fiscally wise. A 2006 reform proposal in the Senate would prohibit lobbyists from going along on trips and require more thorough disclosure - full itineraries would be required.

Discussion

  • Should Congress be allowed to set its own ethic rules and police itself when it comes to ethics matters? What kind of system could you envision that would be a good alternative?
  • The business of governance like most other businesses requires travel. We learned that Congressional travel rules seem pretty clear, so what procedures or rules can you think of that would prevent abuse of travel by our representatives?

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Comments

Should Congress be allowed to set its own ethic rules and police itself when it comes to ethics matters? What kind of system could you envision that would be a good alternative?

The business of governance like most other businesses requires travel. We learned that Congressional travel rules seem pretty clear, so what procedures or rules can you think of that would prevent abuse of travel by our representatives?

In the light of a recent article in The Atlantic Monthly, I agree with the author who states that we need a democratic congress to provide some check and balance to President Bush's policies. He has conducted the war without any responsiblility to the American people and driven us deeply into an immense national debt without anyone saying no to him. It is time for that to change.

Realistically it would seem tightening up requirements of disclosure documents and prohibition of lobbyists on travel itineraries might be doable if properly framed. Public shaming might help as well.

Public shaming? Have you forgotten who you're dealing with? They sent John Bolton, who is opposed to the United Nations, to be UN Ambassador, put pedophile Mark Foley in charge of Child Protection, and in every instance have headed federal agencies with people who are opposed to the purposes of those agencies. Even in Defense it was as if Rumsfeld refused to listen to the generals who told him what it would take to win in Iraq, because if they won quickly there would be fewer no-bid defense contracts.

These people have no shame. I believe the Spanish term is "sin verguenzas." You can tell the truth, as Bill Moyers does, but you really can't shame the Devil.

Any elected official who accepts money or any other form of a bribe should be charged with treason!
The consequence must outweight the benefit of of selling out the American people to the corporations and the rich who live on our backs just as feudal lords did in the middle ages.

I have long believed that only actual individual people that have the right to vote should be allowed to contribute anything to a politician. That means no political action committees, non-profit organizations, unions or corporations should be able to give anything to a politician in order to bribe them or influence legislation. I think lobbying is a necessary part of the democratic process. It is just that the money needs to be taken out of the mix. It seems that simply prohibiting any money, gift, travel package or other forms of bribery from changing hands between lobbyists and politicians might go a long way towards fixing the problem. I agree with one comment I recently read on this matter, that if a politician needs to travel to somewhere to gather information or see something for themselves, it is the people's business they are on and it is the people who should fund the trip. Only the politician and their necessary staff should be allowed to go on this business trip. There should be no spouses, lobbyists or other hangers on going along at the people's expense. There should be an outside organization or committee that oversees these trips and ensures that they are necessary trips and that they are undertaken at a reasonable and justifiable expense.

Perhaps, a travel budget proportional to the distance between Washington and the Representative's constituency would help. Since travel, like maintaining a Washington office and staff, is part of a Representative's overhead, it could be funded the same way. Members of Congress receive salaries; do they also receive expense allowances?

should ANYONE be allowed to make their own rules and enforce them without oversight?
ABSOLUTELY NOT!!!!
look at the mess it makes

oops i forgot. they give themselves raises too!
absurd... everytime i ask my boss for that power he just laughs and laughs and laughs

Please let people know about the World Can't Wait: Drive Out the Bush Regime and the Bush Crimes Commission. There will be massive demonstrations in over 180 cities across the United States on October 5th, 2006, protesting war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the bush administration. We must fight the passage of this new torture bill, Military Commissions Act 2006. Thank you for your time. Sincerely, Maryjo

I think we need to get all money out of politics. Politicians should be prohibited from raising or spending any money at all. Broadcasters should be required as a condition of licensing to provide free air time for political messages and debates, during prime time. The government can also provide internet sites for all candidates. Public funding can provide flyers, signs and other campaign necessities. When travel is needed for legislative fact finding, as noted above, it should be publicly funded and regulated. And this does not include golf at St. Andrews! I would also favor experimenting with lottery systems for Congressional races. You want to be a congressperson, take the test. Pass it, and get on a list. Select names at random from the list, 10 each election cycle. Give each candidate the same amount of time and support to campaign... and let the best man or woman win!

Every move that congress makes must be checked and
verified. Perhaps,a citizenry group could be appointed, like when a citizen is selected for jury duty. I suspect this approach would be more time-consuming upfront, but the outcome would be just and, in the long run, perhaps, not as lengthly is no one has to be prosecuted.

I wish that the poll taken on citizens' satisfaction with Congress had been cross-referenced as to income level. That would surely provide an insight as to who the Congress is really working for now. Party issues are only a smokescreen made to obscure the real war that the middle class is losing.

In the beginning, above, of the "class", it is noted that the rules within the Congressional Ethics, which are meant to oversee travel expenditures, are explicit. It seems highly necessary to have an outside entity enforcing these rules with severe consequences to those who do not abide by them such as substantial jail time and fines. I agree, too, with the opinions of Terre Pope that travel is for the peoples' business and should only be paid by the people; not lobbyists, companies, etc. It is, indeed, a business trip, not a jaunt for the spouse, kids, college buddy, etc. I feel strongly, too, that to regain the proper checks and balances within our government and to regain respect for our government, the undertaking (s) must be bi-partisan in nature. There are too many dark shadows on both sides of the aisle.

Should Congress be allowed to set its own ethic rules & police itself when it comes to ethic matters? OF COURSE NOT!!! That's like "letting the fox guard the chicken house." Any time you give total control to any organization - goverment or private - to self regulate itself, it is a set up for disaster. Look at what has happened recently to some of our large corporations - ie Enron and the like. Lets keep the government "for the people and by the people."

I have absolutely no clue about what's happened to "our" country..I feel totally hopeless and helpless to "fix" it and I know I'm not alone in feeling this way. Things have gone horribly wrong..I do know that.

No! Not only is the temptation to be dishonest with others, when power is at stake, but even more dangerously - people don't usually recognize when they are being dishonest with themselves.

The money absolutely should be taken out of the mix! The job of our reps is to do the business of the people and the country - NOT - out raising more money in order to hold onto their seats so they can get fatter at the taxpayers expense!

No legislator should be able to leave office then go back and game the system as a lobbyist! It should be absolutely illegal!

I agree with Terre Pope above on taking money from the system.

I also think there should be an outside agency with no connection to the lawmakers to police Congressional ethics! No way should the foxes be in charge of the henhouse!

Congress has lost all all sense of morality. Their contempt for government and basic American values, while perpetrating the most henious of crimes against us. Bribery should not be the cost of doing business in Washington. We need a better vetting process. Earmarking if continued needs to be totally out in the open for the public inspection. The importance of government and its role in "serving" its constituents has been totally ignored by them. Congress is contemptuous of those they serve. The system needs a total reform, revolution is the only way but it won't happen. They think we don't know and even if we do we don't care. We need reform in the long run and revolution now to stop these amoral, immoral, unethical and illegal "public servants" from taking over the country to line their pockets at our expense.

This is a system of government owned by one party....its the money party; the corporate party that owns both sides of the isle.
Both democrats and republicans need to be taken to task. The political action groups need to be put under scrutiny, as all our politcal leaders.
I am sick of paying taxes to support such disgusting attitudes by our congress and senate. I am fed up with things happening to our country that are obviously wrong yet you can see the obvious power that made it happen.
If we do not clean this up then we stand accused as the "great satan".

This is a system of government owned by one party....its the money party; the corporate party that owns both sides of the isle.
Both democrats and republicans need to be taken to task. The political action groups need to be put under scrutiny, as all our politcal leaders.
I am sick of paying taxes to support such disgusting attitudes by our congress and senate. I am fed up with things happening to our country that are obviously wrong yet you can see the obvious power that made it happen.
If we do not clean this up then we stand accused as the "great satan".

I am so disheartened and have never felt so powerless as I do with are present situation in Washington, D.C..That is with are so-called goverment of the people. It's like my dad use to say, best goverment money can buy. I geuss he was right, isn,t that sad.

The reason congresspeople are elected by a contingiecy that is population driven by a 10 year cencius of the population . Dont you think that particular congresperson represents that portion of socity?

At about the time our original 13 states adopted their new constitution in 1787, a Scottish history professor by the name of Professor Alexander Tyler had this to say about "The Fall of the Athenian Republic" over 2,000 years previous to that date:

"A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse (generous gifts) from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, (which is) always followed by a dictatorship."
"The average age of the world's greatest civilizations has been two hundred years. These nations have progressed through this sequence: From bondage to spiritual faith; from spiritual faith to great courage; from courage to liberty; from liberty to abundance, from abundance to complacency; from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependence, from dependence back into bondage." Alexander Tyler - - - - -

With the upcoming national election in mind, where do you think our nation is in this pattern? It makes no difference whether the candidate for national, or state, office is Republican or Democrat, will the one who promises (or who has delivered) the most get elected? Probably so. How else can you explain that, when a large new expenditure is granted for our district, the elected official from our district always gets to announce it? Obviously, it’s because politicians have discovered that’s how you get reelected. Just look at Sen. Robert Byrd of Virginia, the Prince of Pork.

Government spending in our area is always “necessary” and “appropriate”, but if it’s for somewhere else, it’s “pork”. Where are we in the pattern mentioned above?

I think ethics violations along the lines of what Abronoff,Reed and Delay are treason. When representatives take advantage of the people they claim to be representing, for their own personal gain they violate their oath of office and crap on our constitution.
I think the penalty for treason should be death. That would make it real simple for everyone to understand.

The behavior of many of our elected officials is appauling and in the current system I do not see a change for some time. Unfortunatly it is much too hard for the common folk like me to keep up with all the talking heads. There will have to be a way to communicate the worthiness of a GOOD reform bill and have the American people make sure that their representative votes for it with an easy to track system. If they do not vote for it, we will not vote for them. That should not be that hard. Put an effective, comprehensive reform bill together and propose a huge media campaign sponsored by corporations. The corporations can do their civic duty by getting this much needed reform pushed through. Put the power back where it belongs, with the people.

Arrogrance and greed will only win if we allow it to. Going from golfing in Scotland to waiting for a roll of toliet paper in prison is an image I relish for Delany and all like him.

I have experienced the misuse of federal authority. We require more than oversight of ethics by unaffiliated agencies. We require people in positions of ethical oversight who are convicted of the understanding we may lose this country if we do not act fearlessly to prosecute corruption.

I'm sorry, but there is no such thing as pessimism.....we are all intimately linked with each other as to our wellbeing. We might be reluctant or cranky to undertake the work at hand, but we must undertake it.

I am very much at risk personally due to the actions of Jack Abramoff, Ney and DeLays and their less savory cohorts. This is about more than lobbyists: this was a takeover attempt on our government. Far from being solely a story about broke Indians and hopeless Chinese people in Taipei, this is a story of subversion of government-s and establishment of lawlessness in place of government.

If I felt confidantly protected by our Department of Justice, I would not have asked the International Criminal Court to establish a trove for documents relating, in part, to Jack and to al qaeda...and they would not have granted my request.

I would accept good faith, comprehensive investigations and lawful prosecutions.

Now would be good.

I think the program that aired tonight. Should be shown in every gov't class
in every high school in is great country.

I think the program that aired tonight. Should be shown in every gov't class
in every high school in is great country.

Poor people are thrown in jail for much, much less.
Real punishment like jailtime (in a real jail) is needed for corrupt scum like Tom Delay and others like him and will dramatically reduce this problem.

I think that along with any other reforms, there should be a strict term limitation in both houses - 2 terms for the Senate and 6 for the House of Reps. This would give a maximum of 12 years for all Congresspersons.Also, get rid of the benefits that these people get after even one term, and let them pay for their own retirement and medical care.

Want to take a guess as to what profession primarily makes up the bulk of Congress?
Then think of the legalese used to obfuscate the true intentions of a bill, law or rule. What we need are "real" people in Congress.
If you are walking around D.C., keep your hands in your pockets, not only to hold on to your money, but also your pants.
Trust them to police their own ethics? Not on your life...

After watching tonight's show on Abramoff scandal, I am fuming. It's a big irony that we are in other countries we are promoting our system of govenance and we can't manage our own system. The people like Tom Delay are just the tip of the iceburg and we are sitting here and hoping that judicial system may take care of the problem. Why can't we have a militray tribunal for these congressmen who are eating up the democratic system. The party of High Moral Values and Patriotism is doing nothing but walking over the illiterate, god-fearing and ignorant Americans who have put their faith in the hands of a few self-serving greedy people.
The same party who raised the hell over a nano-second exposure of a breast on TV is sitting quietly on hypocrisy of its own members and the killing of thousands of young men and women in Iraq. By the way I don't know of any member of congress or in the Executive branch whose sons or daughters have died in Iraq in the name of bringing democracy. For god's sake fix yourself before you go to preach others.

One of the most important statements I heard on Bill Moyer's program was that contempt by the public for "politics" works in favor of those in power. Our own contempt of these people has led us to shirk our duties as citizens. Our duty as a citizen is to vote. Voting is the only voice we have left. Corrupt politicians do not want intelligent people to vote.

The first line in diffusing the corruption is to change the way candidates are chosen. Those deemed "electable" and who have enough financial backing potential are the only ones who make it into the electoral process. I've seen vague black and white images of something that used to happen where the parties would gather and candidates would be chosen by a voting process. These were knock-down drag-out affairs where candidates would stand before the people and make speaches that were not just photo-opportunites. Today the political conventions are nothing more than the official sanctioning of the candidate chosen by a group of behind-the-scenes shadow-people.

Those of us who do see our America being destroyed by corruption must become a more active force. This is a non-partisan fight.

Thomas Jefferson was firmly convinced that any government should be overthrown by revolution routinely to avoid what has happened to this one. I do not advocate a violent or armed revolution, but we must act responsibly and use those methods that are (still) legally viable.

Indeed, imagine a band of say...minutemen...armed with hunting equipment, bent on wresting their remaining freedoms from a government who has lost concern for its citizens' welfare. Unlike the band of men who fought King George, that band today would be promptly put down by an assault team and branded as terrorists. Not viable, nor necessary, thanks again to Thomas Jefferson, et.al.

Reform? Reform as related to politics is just another word that has become meaningless. I hope someone can offer up another word that might more effectively state the need for our American congress to be held
accountable to we-the-people.

Do you know what is scary? I have a faint discomfort in posting this for fear of becoming a suspcious "person of interest" because I mentioned the r-word. Scary.

how do i find out who is funding my political leaders? the tv program said to find it of this web site but i couldn't find it.

its 9pm and it is NOT on. whats the scoop? the local station at KCET said specifically at 9pm wednesday. and it aint on!!!!!
bob banner

To get money out of politics we would have to incite a revolution, as Jefferson suggested we do once every generation.

Our Supreme Court has institutionalized the concept that financial contributions to politicians is protected political speech; hence, we cannot expect the courts to support any effort at campaign reform.

The President uses signing statements as if they were candies to justify his prevarication and failure to uphold the laws duly passed by Congress. This adminstration has pressured scientists and experts within federal agencies to lie or to knuckle under. How can we expect such a group to apply ethical standards?

And Congress? They are addicted to money and graft: check out what they do with earmarks to shortcircuit any means to observe what they are doing to line the pockets of cronies and supporters.

On top of all this is the crowning glory of this current administration: the Culture of Corruption is enabled by the Society of Indifference. Between the cynicism among those who support and benefit from the corruption and those who are exhausted by the effort it takes to persist in this society, we have become incapable of mounting enough outrage and energy to throw the rascals out!

We need national ombudsmen to demand more sunshine laws and to monitor all public policy. But then again, isn't that what the press is supposed to do? Oh, yes, we need to be more worried about Katie Couric's wardrobe and make sure that PBS is "fair and balanced" by soiling its airwaves with conservative hacks and lackeys.

Our institutions are all in need of more monitoring, a good bit of anger, and a fair dose of patience.

It will take all of us getting involved everyday with every outrage as it occurs.

I thank Bill Moyers and all you good citizens for this opportunity to share my worries and sustain my hopes.

I think our congress is no better than the third world countries we criticize for their corruption. How easy it would be for us to be taken over by a few power greedy men and turned into a dictatorship. Lately it has seemed to be a real possibilty executed through the executive branch, but now I see that it would not be that hard to do with congress's help. Another bad custom is gerrymandering of voting districts. This should be illegal..what a wonderful scheme that is to keep "your man" in office. I also don't think that pushing people to vote is so wise; so many don't bother to learn about the candidates and pick someone by name recognition or vote against someone whose reputation has been falsely maligned.

I think that Anerican government is on the verge of destruction. The corruption of Congress has been docunented completely. Where is the outrage of the American Public? There must be an independent ethics board established perhaps by the Administration and the Courts to watch Congress and to prosecute those who violate the ethics rules. On the other hand, political contributions should be banned and campains should be publically funded after the primary level. I strongly doubt that these suggestions will ever be made into law.

There must be a complete overhaul of the campaign finance process. The revised process must include financing only by the public. There should be compete disclosure and public oversight. Public financing is necessary for several reasons:

1. The total spending can be limited.

2. Each candidate should be required to spend the same amount. Funds will be spend more efficiently. Candidates will be less likely to waste money and public air time on attack ads.

3. It will prevent candidates from becoming beholding to the private sector and special interests before they are even elected.

4. It will level the playing field. Federal public office will no longer be open only to the wealthy.

5. It will generate a whole new election process. With transparency and an open playing field, the best qualified candidates may actually be nominated.

Finally, for those who say they do not want their tax dollars spent on election campaigns, in the long run there is no question these will be the best tax dollars the public has ever spent.

Thanks for producing this segment. It is important to reiterate that this corruption is not found just in conservative camps, but in both.

I agree that the real party is "the money party." The Bible says that the LOVE of money is the ROOT of all evil. We can see that, even more clearly after watching this program.

A statement in a movie I watched recently but don't remember the name of, reflects what seems to be a healthy stance for our congress. The statement was, "People should not be afraid of the government. Government should be afraid of the people."

We do live in fear of the government (IRS, police, Child Protective Services [Heaven forbid we would physically correct a disobedient child!]). We do so because of laws that have been passed in our Congress that have stripped us of many of our rights.

Do you realize that if an individual recieves SSI, they are allowed to have a maximum of $2,000 in the bank, and cannot own a home or a car without being penalized?

Medicaid D is a HORRIBLE bill that was passed because our Congress is interested mainly in helping big business!

Medicaid and Medicare cap what they will pay in medical bills, so in order for the drug companies and hospitals to get more money, seniors enrolled in Medicare Part D (many with incredibly limited income) will have to pay thousands out of pocket for medical needs and prescriptions.

Yes, that's our congress at work.

Yes, take the money out of the equation....and let members of Congress live on what the majority of society lives on.

Greed and Corruption in ANY gov't is unfortunately the norm. Abramoff & Delay took it to new heights. They should be serving at least 20 years in prison, about the same length of time they manipulated our laws. And their buddies 1/2 that time. Oh and the wives...aiding and abetting the felons.The other American tragedy is our pathetic voter turnout compounded by the corruption in that arena, so that even if 'the people' try to change the system...it's broken too. The average American is so distracted by life, you might say apathetic, the future of this country is dim at best. My heart cries for the next generation.

For campaign finance reform, how about publicly funded elections? Or call them voter-owned elections; I would rather run elections with my tax dollars than have oil and drug companies and other corporate interests financing them. Some politicians don't like this reform but the voters do.

Connecticut, North Carolina, Arizona and Maine have already passed laws for voluntary public funding for elections. California has a funding measure on its ballot this year.

Yes, the program really drove home how utterly corrupted politics have become. But if enough states jump on board the voter-ownership wagon, it could make a real difference in our political culture.

MODERATOR RESPONSE TO ANNE'S QUESTION
"how do i find out who is funding my political leaders? the tv program said to find it of this web site but i couldn't find it."

Anne,

We have posted more resources than anyone can sort through in a lifetime at: http://www.pbs.org/moyers/moyersonamerica/capitol/resources.html There are a number of resources relating to funding as well as other issues raised in the documentary. One resource you might check out is the web site for the Institute on Money in State Politics.
Hope this helps!

Taylor Willingham
Moderator

MODERATOR RESPONSE TO Bob Banner QUESTION

Its 9pm and it is NOT on. whats the scoop? the local station at KCET said specifically at 9pm wednesday. and it aint on!!!!!


Bob,

We'll check on this problem, but take heart. The entire documentary will be available at this web site sometime on Thursday October 5. Check back. I'm sorry you weren't able to watch the program tonight, but at least we have other options for you. Thanks for you interest. We look forward to your participation after you view the program!

Taylor Willingham

Only the wealthy people in this country that are digusted with politians and the way politians are using this country to advance their own power and greed should band together to form a new independent party that promises when elected it will eliminate all the unethical practices of the current government and find a way to change the election process. Only the wealthy people can save this country from ruin. We the people have no power whatsoever. Sure we can vote, but when we go to vote, either a Republican or a Democrat will be elected. One party is just as bad as the other. Like Robin Williams said, "Politians are like diapers, both need changing and for the same reason." Maybe people like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet should consider starting a new party with some of those billions of dollars to save America before sending their money over to Africa or elsewhere.

After watching PBS's Moyers On America: Capitol Crimes earlier this evening -- about felon Jack Abramoff, I'm left feeling nauseous.

You know, I used to think that all the murderous, money-licking 'gangsta' rappers were the most genetically inferior beings on this planet. But now I can see that cretins like Abramoff, Ralph Reed, Tom Delay (and his prostitute wife) -- and all of their money-licking loser pals in Congress are about as valuable to this planet as the butt cracks of the murderous gangsta rappers.

There are very few americans left that care about what is happening to this country. First of all, there is at least 100 or more polititions in Washington that should be arrested for treason, tried and if found guilty SHOT!!! We the people have less representation in Washington then illegal aliens, because the illegals have corporations representing them due to the need for them to have cheap labor. I do not see god in Tom Delay's mug shot I see a bullet between his eyes for commiting TREASON!!!!

If we let children decide their punishment, would they not choose cake and ice cream?
If we let criminals decide their own punishment, would they not choose to go free?
Of course we need to monitor the bribes (aka campaign contributions).
America's government was designed to to represent it's citizens. Without reform, the government only represents financial interests/corporations.
In the end, the people of this country are suffering, while smug politicians are too greedy to notice.
We are letting criminals go free.

I would say that we have got to make our disgust known by voting every single Republican out of office - but our very votes are stolen as well. I have come to believe that Capitalism is evil when corporations are given the same status as individuals, and their rights are placed above the rights of the people by our loegislative representatives. We need to have laws passed that will place public good above corporate self-interest, but I have come to doubt that I will ever see that happen. How do we pass laws for public financing of political campaigns, mandatory free time over radio and tv waves to candidates, regulation of corporations to protect the public, adequate funding for education,and universal healthcare, take away legislators' ability to give themselves raises, and remove the practice of combining unrelated bills all into one bill, when our legislators refuse to do so?

This question is for any of the moderators: Would you research for us whether it would be at all possible for U.S. citizens to file class-action civil suits against Abramoff and all the other felons involved, for everything from the gerrymandering, to the racketeering, to their failure to live up to their contracts to properly serve us (their clients/employers)?

If this is possible -- and if U.S. citizens win our civil suit, the proceeds could then go toward public financing of political campaigns.

I just wept. I have felt for so long that elections need to be held with set amounts and take the fund raising out of it. Totally.

The horror of how low we all have gone in letting all this happen. The casinos had 'dirty hands' as judges would say. We as a society have become so greedy and self centered that we don't get excited over much unless our 'comfort zones' are threatened. Even Congressman Murtha when questioned the other day about lobbying and earmarks he didn't want them eliminated!

I AM SICKENED that the name of Our Creator has been used to forefront all of this discusting behavior.

If you wonder to yourself are there any principals left and if so would we even know them?

I am terrified!

Should Congress be allowed to set its own ethic rules and police itself when it comes to ethics matters?

Our government only works when effective checks and balances are in place. Voluntarily policing itself is not a check or balance. No, Congress should not be allowed to police itself. This is of immense importance. Ultimately, corruption always leads to a war, in fact, if there is a war going on, it most certainly means corruption is rampant.

Maybe a cabinet level post on ethics and anticorruption shouild be set up, or an independent body similar to the Federal Reserve can be created to oversee ethics. Random ethic audits need to happen continually. At least, let's keep the honest people honest.

Add outside members to the Congressional Ethics Committee such as from the Concord Coalition and Common Cause. Make deliberations and hearings open as much as possible.

Congress acts like a bunch of French Queens...Marie Antoinettes....not men...and not representative of the American sentiment...They should all be investigated like I was today when I applied for a $10/hr job at an Indian casino today..They snipped my hair for a drug test, took prints from all 10 fingers, wanted to know if I had any scars or tatoos and wouldn't give the jobs because I have over $4,000 in liabilities (which just happen to be my student loans!!!!Yes....we should demand the same from our lawmakers!

WHAT? NO EDIT BUTTON???I'm ashamed of myself for not editing my blog before posting it....anyway...DOWN WITH DELAY!!!

Visit me at blogspot.com

The house Ethics rules seem clear enough on face value. Obviously there is no willingness on the part of the house leadership to see them enforced. This is not a PARTY issue Mr. and Mrs. America. This is about subversion of the democratic process of government. The framers of the constitution were correct in making the Legislative branch the first article. This is the body entrusted by WE the people, to act in OUR best intrest. ALL of OUR best intrests, not just a select few. I do not belive there is a quick easy fix for the failure of congress. But in a larger sense WE the people should share in that failure. When you go to the polls in November, KNOW WHO and WHAT you are voting for. These people who have shown such contempt for ethics did not just walk in there to congress. BE an informed voter. THINK for yourself. Not what the news tells you or some interest group. There are many resources available for informing oneself. This very site is one of them. I fully agree with the comment that travel for offical business by and elected offical should be paid for by public funds not by "special intrests groups" It is a fact that our elected officals need to meet with there constituents to discusss issues that are important to them. An outright ban on travel will not acomplish anything meaningful. Prohibit lobbyists and family members from attending such trips. Definetly there needs to be a FULL public disclosure of the Purpose, cost and Itinerary, for such trips. This should be not only submitted to the house ethics committee, but to the representitives home state governmental travel affairs branch. As for tracking the sources of funding for such trips, There needs to be a dtatbase tracking system established that lists all non-profit entities and their legitimacy. Casino jack just manipulated the rules and set up pirate organizations to funnel money through, and there was no way to verify that they were ligitimate organizations. What is happeneing in congress now is nothing short of treasonous activity. We have the speaker of the house involved in a scheme that subverts the very principles of government. That being to activly work to unfund any legislation that opposes the party in power. A money laundering scheme designed for one purpose and one purpose only, to stay in power. GOd! and you thought it was bad what Dick Nixon did! This ought to make all of us as citizens MAD AS HELL!!!! The constitution provides a method for dealing with treason. And it is not talking about TAR and feathering either.

It makes my blood boil to see the hypocricy of these so-called "Christian" conservatives! The way they manipulated the entire process of political contributions is outrageous.

I AM mad as hell! After watching last night I feel ashamed that I have not been more vigilant. We keep voting in the same people with the hopes that something different will happen - that's the definition of insanity!! We must hold our representatives accountable for their actions. It truly is up to the people to bring change. Let it begin with me.

A Constitutional Convention must be planned for and implemented as soon as we can affect regime change. Subversive interests must necessarily be excluded from participation, i.e., NO REPUBLICANS! Rules and Constitutional Amendments should be implemented presuming trustworthy participants. Reasonable qualifications should be established beyond "naturalized American, 35-years old, etc." Any candidate for elective office must pass rigid mental tests including lie detector tests. Absolutely no nepotistism! Background checks, criminal records. It shall not automatically be the selection of any political party acting alone! Yada-Yada-Yada...

At this point the people of America seem to have turned over the policing of ethics to the government. The congress now not only polices its own ethics, but ours too! This is a major major problem; people are not taking responsibility for their government, leaving it up to very corrupt mobsters who will steal and kill to get to the top.
These people are unqualified. This was made clear the first time George Bush spoke into a mic; and has become more clear with each horribly-handled problem America encounters. The whole gang needs to be in prison. Instead, 1 in 140 Americans are in prison. For what???
We have no healthcare, and Abramoff and Delay and Grover are sending Taxpayer money around the table, doing whatever they want with it??
Meanwhile forcing women in the Marianna Islands to get abortions, while saying to their blind ignorant base that they're anti-choice!!!
people, wake up.

We are clearly at a point of needing to adhere to the intent of our constitution. As Lincoln said in the Gettysburg address, "government of the people, for the people and by the people". What we have allowed our politicians to do is government by the money, of the money and for the money. Our elected officials have kidnapped the system. They are exorbitantly paid, unaccountable fiscally to their bosses (us) and flagrant in their hedonistic philosophies. We have the right system but we are allowing the servants to run amuck.

The Christian Right should be ashamed of itself for the strong association with Ralph Reed - who was lying and manipulating Abramhoff - "he's a worse version of us" acording to Abramhoff on one of his e-mails. I want to know what legal action has been taken against Reed????
The prison terms are a JOKE.. . a person commiting a minor crime gets more punishment - these criminals need to be sent a strong message, not a tap on the wrist term in a luxury cell and we know they'll get out in half the time. Why haven't these cruel and disgusting criminals been punished properly whereby their personal fortunes are taken from them and their pensions put back into the public coffers. They have no shame.
Thank you to Moyer for this excellent and disturbing insight into our corrupt system - we need CHANGE and a strong message sent to Capital Hill - People of America, we cannot and should not put up with this!!!!!!

Sadly, Congress doesn't have any incentive to clean up it's corrupt practices because the majority of Americans are perfectly willing to defer responsibility of governance to those few individuals that vote. Most Americans feel disenfranchised so they don't get involved in the political process. This has been perpetrated by both parties.

Thank you, Bill Moyers for this stunning expose'. It is beyond comprehension.

We Americans have contempt for other governments that allow themselves to be bribed - some countries in Africa, South American and the Middle East for example. We should wake up. We are no different. We've simply woven graft, corruption and greed into our form of government.

I agree that this expose' should be required viewing by every person in America.

It seems as if there is no way for a citizen, armed with only one vote to use between candidates chosen by the same corrupt parties, to do anything that will make the slightest difference in getting the attention of the politicians now in office. But we do have one powerful tool, which is the Internet. Email this website to everyone in your address book, and insist they check it out if they didn't see the broadcast. Then hope that some day we will be able to come together to put forth a candidate, via the Internet,who is actually chosen by the people, and who can be held accountable to the people.

I urge every American to attempt to remember that this problem is not found exclusively within the Repbulican or Democratic Party. It seems the party that enjoys a majority controls the money and it is quite a lucrative incentive to win elections. Average American voters are the only solution for this, we must check our party affiliation at the door and attack this issue with the full vigor and determination that we can. We get the government we deserve and if we make excuses for our particular party engaging in these activities we will regret it, all of us, regardless of party affiliation. What America needs right now is moral leadership, real politicians and diplomats who care about America first, their party second. Our government is not governing us, they are duping us and robbing us to line thier own pockets; absolutely dispicable! But we have allowed them to get away with it. America is truly in peril and as I said before, only the American voter can fix it. We must demand action, as for me, emails and phone calls to my senators and congressman begin today!

Congressional ethics is an oxymoron. The more I see, read and hear the more disgusted I get. As others before have said, "We MUST take action".
It gets so frustrating though because it seems, the more corrupt, the more money and resources there is to keep the cycle of corruption going. It's almost like being in a dirty barnyard. You keep stepping in crap and there are more flies than you can swat.

*During an election, there should be only three (3) campaign commercials per day..these being comprised of two halves statement/rebuttal for each party.
*Lobbying may be tried and true (not), but should be banned from our politics. We should demand intelligent reasoned honest people as our politicians (oxymoron).
*Old fashioned paper ballots ONLY in elections. .AND Oversight.
*the Electoral College must be banished and at least four different parties allowed.
*Our states must retain contact with their constituents, have powers beyond those of the fed. gov't, with the Federal gov't only having minor control or input.
* Any politics-as-usual law-breaking by congresspeople must be addressed immediately by a trial-by-jury, with punishments commensurate with those so widely used by bush II.
while gov of TX
*Those, including the president,found guilty of treason are to be hanged.

This is the type of activity of our leaders in power that is the flesh and bones of the sad condition of our country today: ethically, morally, and economically. Do we now ever have a chance of having a government by the People, for the People, and not a government respresenting the selected few of the rich, corporate and corrupt? The President of my country has not represented my views in any way except one; and that was the unification of my grief with my government's grief during the tragedy of 9-11. Even this, however, has become very cold comfort in the five years since that tragic day. My country's administration manipulated my bewilderment, horror, grief and anger, my human feelings, to justify his sending our finest young men and women to put their lives on the line in Iraq; a country that had nothing to do with creating the deep sorrow of that day. Since that day, my confidence in my country's leadership ability has been replaced with skepticism, mistrust and dismay. Along with the majority of Americans, I have suffered economically and psychologically. My pride and hope as an American were not destroyed by the hijackers and murderers of 9-11, but by the administration of my country. I Think It Is Time For A Change.

It is a good thing we still have freedom of the press or it would be a total unchecked good ole boys club in Washington.

PEOPLE! Most everyone I am reading from on here are surprised and disgusted, just as I was. The reason is that we have not paid attention. Well there are organizations that aren't surprised and have already started to try and do something about it.
One place is:
http://www.cleanupwashington.org Go ahead and get involved. Don't send money, actually do something instead.

See if your candidate or representative has signed the "voters first pledge" Mine hasn't and he took the place of Tom Delay (Boehner). Go figure.

It seems clear that Congress can not police itself. Someone always makes an end run around whatever policy is put in place.

But the question of what's to be done certainly brings to mind the re-education camps put in place by repressive regimes around the world once they come to power. Although not an advocate of that approach, I can now better understand why they did it.

Until viewing the Capital Crimes program, I wasn't a backer of the Arizona Voter Rewards Initiative, which would put Arizona voters in a $1 mil lottery once they actually vote. I'm now thinking the lobbyists should just pay citizens directly! We might as well cut out the middleman.

Saw the Abramoff show last night and I can't thank you enough for putting this information before the American public. Will you be showing it again? I wish that everyone in the country had seen the program. This K Street scam is just the tip of the iceberg. Write to your newspaper editors and representatives.

Great Job!, and yes thank you for showing all the darkest areas of our country, which we had a pretty good idea about it. The mobsters themselves are trying their darnest to keep all this secret. I hope you didn't catch a lot of flack from them, Fox News, etc...
One of the saddest parts for me is that these people ARE the "Christian" Right. But like the bumper sticker says..."The Christian Right is neither".

i put down my tolstoy. this story is way better than that! btw,i did a political cartoon when delay announced his "retirement." can't seem to post it at this site (sigh).let me know whatchathink...http://blog.myspace.com/songweasel

When a citizen becomes a member of Congress, the Supreme Court or the Presidency, all management of their assets should be monitored by two separate independent accounting bodies. All fiscal events should be audited and made public on a quarterly basis while they are in office and for 5 years thereafter.

And to think that Bill Moyers was in the bull's eye of the Republican party. Where are the rest of the journalists. This story happened last year and its taken this long to get the story aired in its entirety vs. sound bites although I have to say I am grateful for the timing.

Thank you Bill, PBS. You and the blogosphere are our greatest hope that TRUTH will PREVAIL.

How I wish all Americans had viewed this program last night. I have and will continue to share the transcript site with as many people as possible. Especially at this particular point in our history it is so important to be informed about the complex and devious ways in which our Congressional Representatives so quickly forget who it is they are supposed to represent. Thank you Bill Moyers for making the story of the Abramoff/Delay scandal understandable to the general public. Public funding of elections is, in my opinion, the only way we are ever going to insure fair and honest elections. Eliminating the ability of lobbiest to shower members of Congress with money, trips, extravagant meals, etc., would go a long way towards ending the arrogance and greed that becomes a way of life for the "professional" congressperson. Until and unless we, the people, demand meaningful change in Washington, things will only continue to corrupt the system further. I agree with so many others of the comments I have read here. Where is the outrage? Until and unless we act on our convictions and demand change...what can we realistically expect?

I am very afraid. I have been so since the supremes selected our president.
On that day, America started the no-bottom slide to rid itself of Democracy. I feel people don't know, don't understand, are so full of the media spin, that public outcry is impossible. I am right to be afraid.

As an anthropologist, it is apparent that the current crisis in USA politics is only one symptom of what we term, "Independence Training". Children are expected to be individualistic and not socially responsible (socialistic). IT training is such a fundamental cultural trait that it is a factor in just about everything in contemporary American society from politics to economics to the declining family. Many scholars have documented these cultural attributes ranging from "cheating" to "selfishness" and even to "rudeness". From the U.S. Army's slogan of "Army of One" to sports' "MVP" we are a culture, a nation of individuals. On the positive side of IT, we have championed "individual rights" around the globe, but on the negative side, many Americans have become "social monsters" blaming others for their own lack of social responsibility.
"sin verguenzas"

NEEDED: A population willing to put aside their six-packs, get up and off of their dead butts, find a way to define and agree on the issues and then take their money out of the Bank of America and stop buying Chevron until the top 5 issues are resolved.

All I can say is, thank you Bill Moyers and your team. Like Walter Cronkite a generation ago, Bill Moyers has got to be the most trusted man in journalism today.

Class mates:
FINALLY we are being shown that, truthfully, the Repiblican Party and the Democratic Party holding paid positions of responsibility to us Citizens, are pretty much similar in thinking and lack of deep inner Honesty- Conscienceness.

THEREFORE, since none of them has suggested, EVEN that they could help our country and it's Citizens in or severe financial circumstances,by creating a way for all elected officials to BE PUT ON SOCIAL SECURITY; then this is my suggestion on HOW to begin correcting the Capitol Crime Mentality there in Washington.. and it may seem rather severe.

My thought is that we require all Elected Politicol employees to be periodically evaluated by a Psychiartist. Psychiatrists themselves are evaluated periocically in order to assure their Patients that they themselves are in good Mental Health. Thus to me it makes sense that the people who represent us the Citizens could be requested by us the Citizens to also be be evaluated for our assurance. You may remember, Dr. Scott Peck, the Psychiatrist said in his book: 'The Road Less Traveled' that '...we could ALL benefit from some time with a good Psychiatrist.'

I'm aware that 'words mean different things to different people' and my thought expressed may need some fine tuning to implement. I do ask each one who reads my thoughts here, to re-read it with thought....and then ASK YOUR SELF: DOES IT SEEM LIKE THINGS IN OUR POLITICOL ARENA HAVE BEEN SO BAD FOR SO LONG that we need to take some very different, creative steps for our own assurance.

These honest Elected representatives could be willing and those unwilling could wause me to ask myslef if I really want that person in their position.

Thank you, Bill Moyers, for the years of stimulating me to think on a level of the Common Good. And I feel it's kinda pityfull to think that the Conscience of so many people seeking office is so deteriorated that we have to think this way.


WHAT WE NEED IS FOR ALL VOTERS TO VOTE FOR
THE NATIONAL INITIATIVE FOR
DEMOCRACY ON THE WEB
AT www.ni4dus

VOTERS TRY THE NATIONAL INITATIVE FOR DEMOCRACT ON THE WEB AT WWW.NI4D.US

Congressional terms need to be limited. Elected government officials must have their bank accounts audited yearly and any discrepancies made public. Lobbiest need to be run out of DC. Congressmen should be required to live in their districts/states at least 2/3rds of the year to keep them away from DC's bad influences and allow their constituents to have real access to them. Any ethics questions or investigations need to be handled by the Supreme court.

Perhaps we could end lobbying as an independent
career.

Lobbying efforts would only be done by employees of corporations whose interests would then be transparent.

This would prevent the selling of access and influence by former legislators who , while acting as middle men,
collect money from clients and perks from politicians

Also, why don't we set up audits of congressional travel by a committee of the opposite party. Perhaps we can use some of this partisanship in a way that serves the people's interests.

It is great to have Bill Moyers back on PBS covering Washington. As a citizen I am deeply greatful.

.


HAS ANY ONE GONE TO THE
WE SITE WWW.NI4D.US?

AND WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THIS?

It is a sad state of affairs when Congress cannot police itself witness what Speaker Hastert did to the GOP members of the ethics committee when he was dissatisfied with their rulings. Also when Rep Bell of Texas filed a complaint against Tom Delay, he got little support even from his own Democratic party.
I suggest a board made up of 5 to 7 retired House members who would provide oversight over not only the ethics committee but the travel and other functions of this body. Their findings would need to be binding for immediate consideration by the entire House. This board may have voted to censure Hastert or to have him dismissed from the House for his action with the ethics committee.

I think the hypocrisy that was evidenced in Capital Crimes shows the blatant disregard that these "leaders" have for the American public. It made me cringe to see them invoke the Lord's name as if to imply that Jesus would approve of what they have done and are doing. These people I think truly believe they are above the law. I knew that Tom Delay was a corrupt individual, but I didn't know just how corrupt until I watched the show. We need to hold them accountable for what they have done, but how do we do it? It's ironic that yesterday an aide to Karl Rove stepped down because of her ties to Abramoff. I'm assuming she is taking the rap for the Administration that "didn't know or associate" with Mr. Abramoff. You all are talking about using our vote to make a difference, but don't you all think since there seems to be a lack of ethics in Washington and that a man name Diebold, who is a contributor to and supporter of these people and who also produces all the electronic voting machines, is involved that our vote will actually "count"? These machines can be programmed to produce any result they want. It's easy to write code to manipulate the data the machine produces. Even our paper votes are manipulated, i.e., both the 2000 and 2004 elections. How can Congress set up rules for ethics since they don't seem to know what the term means? If they don't understand ethics, how can they police it themselves? I applaud Mr. Moyers for making these shows available for us to view. I believe if the GOP wasn't so busy defending themselves with their current troubles, they would probably be wrongly attacking the character and moral turpitude of Mr. Moyers. Keep up the good work, Bill.

Speaker, Haster’s blatant disregard for the well being of the pages in Washington, and/or any other young males or females anywhere with regard to the Mark Foley scandal is no less a scandal itself.

I honestly believe that the reason Speaker Haster and the other people involved with this cover-up did not want to expose him is because it is a-typical in Washington DC, where "I'll wash your back, you wash mine".

The people of this great nation deserve more respect than Speaker Haster has given us. We do not need representatives such as this making critical decisions when it is obvious that he lacks the courage even to be truthful. They took the cowards' way out and in doing so showed the contempt they hold for the American People. Please resign, if you cannot conduct yourself in the best interests of the American People!

What we are seeing is the effects of a Godless society and the corruption of uncontained greed and lust and temptations on the human existence.

"It's OK if I can get away with it because when I'm dead, it's all over anyway, so have as much fun right now as I possibly can."--this is the motto

This country worked because it was God-fearing--and that trumps ethics and law and politics and you do what is right because you want to be a good Christian or Jew.

But now, there are too many who are nonbelievers. Nonbelievers are spineless. They think only of themselves though they profess otherwise.

They may even lie and say they believe to get votes.

There is the wheat, and there is the chaff that looks just like the wheat but is worthless to make bread.

And so it is: sand and pebbles and rocky ground at the foundation of our country where once there was good tilled earth.

In God We Trust. Not in people, or ethics, or politics or democracy. For none of these can save you.

Look no further than the 1$ bill for the answer to all of this country's problems.

Our founding fathers did leave some clues behind for the really smart people to decipher.

This information is so important, to repeat an earlier entry, the show should be shown to every civics class (that dates me) in America. Or better yet why can't we get one or more of the companies that make their enormous amounts of money off the American people to sponsor this program on one of the big three networks...and in their ads would offer support to the citizens need to know about this kind of behavior...boy is the guy writing this NAIVE! We as a people have to stop being sheep and stop being lead by such people as Delay!

When rank and file civil servants travel on business, the government pays the way. Congress is a civil servant body. Elections are nothing more or less than job interviews. With 200 applicants for one position, it is always the friend of the friend who gets the job -- nothing different in elections. Taxpayers should pick up the travel tab and if taxpayers can't afford the travel, then the trip can wait for the next budget year or use technology for a virtual trip. If a politician can't expect the people to pay, then it is a discretionary trip, not a necessary expenditure.The problem is that these guys in Washington don't think they are like the rest of us. Getting elected has become the path to easy street (which is the real name of K Street, by the way.) What have we become, a Latin American Dictatorship? Political office as a pathway to personal wealth is how they do business - not us. We're supposed to be more sophisticated than that. But when this administration's aim seems to be to make peasants out of our middle class, maybe the Bush immigration policy begins to make a sick sort of sense.

Captial Crimes is a must-see show. We tried demonstrating,remonstrating. This White House gang hears/sees and responds to nothing but its own avarice.
This report must energize us all to work for honest, clear-headed candidates, like Francine Busby in San Diego, to win the November elections.

Should Congress set its own rules and police itself? Well, that's what they do now, and it doesn't work.

Think back to 2003, when Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham wanted to have high-level nuclear waste redefined as low-level waste, which would have saved a lot of money in disposal costs. Abraham asked for House Speaker Dennis Hastert's help in adding the change to the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982. Idaho sued. Oregon, Washington state and South Carolina chimed in with Idaho.

What you've got there is a broken system: Nuclear energy lobbyists give money to Hastert and others--and then if they want some nuclear waste "re-defined" as less hazardous, to save themselves some money--well--why not? They bought these "public servants" didn't they? It's all dollars and cents--and greed and self-interests--to them.

This country is being run these days even more on greed than on oil.

People are talking about how Congress didn't "protect the children" in the Foley case. But what do you call it when you've got congressmen willing to reclassify hazardous materials to save a buck for their employers--the corporation? If they weren't protecting the children on nuclear waste disposal, why would they where it comes to emails and personal intrusions?

Corruption in government in the USA has become the rule, not the exception.

And We The People aren't being cynical not to trust them.

Not trusting them, seeing the corruption for what it is, and calling it corrupt, isn't cynicism--it's the first, needed, step to ridding ourselves of the roaches of corruption now infesting our government, and our home.

A lot of congressmen, in both parties, have their positions not because they are good people or good citizens but because they are good at deceiving others into thinking that they are better than what they are.

There's a lot of evil masquerading as righteousness in high places in the USA today.

No: We should not let those who are full of greed and lust for power and deception and other forms of evil write their own rules, and no, we cannot let folks like this police themselves.

It's our obligation as citizens to oppose this corrupt government, to fight it, and to change it.

Theodore Roosevelt wrote a great autobiography. He talked about the corruption of his day. How the corporations would naturally think only of their own interests, and how it was his job to think and act for the good of the country as a whole.

How vital it was to our country that we never let the corporations take over.

But they have.

Unbelievable to him was that not only were corporations donating to congressmen, but they were also starting to donate to both sides, to ensure themselves to have bought a candidate.

Today, we don't even blink at that kind of corruption.

Look: America isn't a place. America has never been a place: America is an idea.

America is the idea that if there could be a place in the world where the people rule--not a King, or Dictator, not a President, or bunch or corporate entities just looking out for themselves--but the People--then that place where the People rule and the government is their servant, would be a light in a dark world.

We don't have to go to war, to "kill the people to set them free," as the Peter, Paul and Mary song ("El Salvador")goes. That doesn't work: It's guaranteed to fail. We need to be a light of true democracy in the world. And then that light will spread.

But today in America, ours light flickers; it is going out.

We are far from our moorings, and we need a new American Revolution that returns us to our proper path, that brings genuine character back to our country and real character back to our leaders. Our representative Democracy is broken, and our leadership in both parties poisoned with corruption.

We are far from our moorings, and We The People have a lot of work to do to bring this country back to life.

We are far from our moorings, and we need to both see and to realize that we really are not in Kansas, anymore, and that it's going to take a lot of work and some harrowing experiences to bring about the changes needed so that We, the People of the United States of America, can ever find our way home again.

Saw the show last night. Stunning. Thanks for the effort.......

Having been raised to be an honest person, that working hard and to have respect for others I'm starting to believe that this has only held me back! Having grown up remembering using an outdoor toilet and taking baths in a metal tub made me appreciate moving into a home with "hot water and a bath tub. As I watch are politicians and religious leaders play with words and the laws I can only feel that someday those family who have lost there love one in wars that have been fought for reasons that were political under the disguise of "terror". Two young children , unknown to each other will play with each other until they are influence by adults. The political and religious leaders corrupted by "greed" with the blessing of the political systems lack of response to the "people" has created an enviroment of distrust and disharmoney around the world. With the complaints of the "people" being stacked in warehouses or discarded in trash cans nothing will change! Only when "terror" raises it's head will the "haves see a need to listen to the have nots"!

Sorry, I haven't read all the posts. I am pushing this program to everyone I know and on every blog I can find. THIS IS "MUST SEE TV"! People have to see this for themselves. Please rebroadcast every day!!!

One of the biggest problems is that the pols are all very comfortable. The new media no longer investigates anything, it's not cost-effective. So the pols can do whatever they like without a care or worry of being caught. Our CT senator's wife supposedly "worked for" a lobbying firm for awhile recently and then hubby voted for a lucrative deal for the big pharmaceuticals her firm represented. I never heard about this on any news reports. Now he's telling us the newcomer has "no experience" and that only he "knows how to get things done" in DC.

Another set of problems is that the incumbents make the laws and have the power. I just checked out www.ni4d.us as one of the posts suggested - good idea. The incumbents have a set of rules whereby the longer you've been in, the more powerful you are and the more pork you can bring back home. And they all tack on unbelieveably wasteful addenda to bills that most of us never hear about, mainly to satisfy their corporate owners so that they can get more dirty money and the cycle continues. You have to be a millionaire to run because you have to take a year off of work to campaign and need to run TV & radio ads, etc. etc. etc. The whole system is broken and none of us can get anywhere near the switch to shut it off and fix it.

But we have to start somewhere. For now, vote out all the incumbents. Best of luck to all of US!

Ethics in Congress? All of them have been adroit at convincing us that all their counterparts are the "evil ones" while they themselves are the "clean ones". We need term limits and instead of ex congressmen becoming lobbyists, they should all have to be watchdogs on the current batch. They get paid anyway--we should get some benefit out of their pay. Their salary should be a multiple of the average family income exculinding the bottom 15 percent and the top 15 percent. They should be more accountable than our current system allows.

Why is the justice dept. being run so that Tim Foley did not have an adequate investigation by the FBI?

Should politicians even get paid. these are the questions that intrigue me. as things evolve and society gets more complex, as a result per those minding the shop,(the three branches of goverment)it appears, by their definition, that we need someone clever enough to navigate the convolution of policies deemed by those minding the store. it appears that they (politicians)to insure there own governence marginalize obvious events by creating webs of words and policies to define and leverage to their own advantage. ridiculous prohibitions as laws that the common person has to endure to generate the simplest result. It seems the distance we allow them to generate between us by law as mere prohibition equaling convolution or twisted logic is equal to their insincerity. can we reel in this madness, and are there those amongst us who are willing to get lost in the fray to find a way out by which we can all navigate to higher ground.

I don't think congress should be allowed to police itself. Obviously, looking at the transgressions of both parties and the lure of campaign funding shows clearly that the system for policing themselves does not work. There should be some system of judicial review, that is a panel of judges that are not elected, but appointed. The rules for congressional behavior initially should be created by a panel of retiring legilators with oversight by the judicial panel.

but should there be a professional level in government at which someone gets paid. and if there is a downward expression of government whose interest is not only the common good of society, but underscoring their mortage, to what degree do we as lay politician demand transparency from their governence to empower our oversight.
it seems there is a restructuring necessary in government at all levels for downward and upward forms of expression; to the degree of throwing out the wash to save the baby. the implementation of a form of heart math that redefines greed as an expression of a common interest. rearticulating architypes in society to inspire a reward of behavior or at least to investigate the personal fulfillment gleened by those willing to operate shamelessly through organizations such as "doctors without borders", for the benifit of the under priviledged.

Why are we so shocked when a human being acts like a human being?

When given the temptation of wealth and power, which of us can respond continuiously in a "moral" mode.

Not sure that I could continuously stay on the "straight and narrow." How about you?

You can keep trying to maintain our representative system of government, or devolve some powers back to the individual. Remedies under the first approach include publicly funded campaigns, stripping the rights of financial and communication secrecy when people enter office, raising the level of ethics that apply, improving quality of legislation to require measurable deliverables which then can be audited. Remedies in the decentralization or devolution of power include giving citizens the power to assert their identities over networks, with handheld signing devices. Given this fundamental foundation, tools and services would emerge for permanent, lifetime reputation. This alone would enable nonrepudiable contracts between individuals, including payments of course without the need for police or governments at all.

There is much you need to think about. We the People have been denied all the power and benefits of computing. Delivering advantage to the central hub or server has been the fundamental principle of every chip and every commercial software product since the dawn of the microprocessor.

Todd

Answers in order of questions
1)Yes. Except when a certain line is crossed. That is when an Ethical investigation reveals probable criminal activity, a requirement of notification to the Justice Dept. to be responded to by the AG's office and written actionable items to be iterated back to the Committee Chairs.
This would go along with a general tightening of Regulations and Disclosure.

I would also go so far as to want Bribery and other Office related illegal acts
to be Prosecuted with Subversion of the Constitution. If there is no such Law, I want one. With a stiff 10 year Fed. sentence for each count.

2)There other parts of the Corruption machine that needs to be dismantled
a)the revolving door - Make it so former Lobbyists cannot run for Elective Office for 5 years after becoming an unregistered Lobbyist, That an Electice Office holder cannot work as a Registered Lobbyist for 5 years post office.

b)No gifts of any sort, other than some honorary Plaque. No plane tickets, no sport tickets or anything.

c)No meetings at Lobbyist or Congressional Residences.

d)All meeting to take place on Public or Common Property. Common Property shall extend to Houses of Worship and Private Educational Institutions.


e)Public disclosure of all non Governmental visits to Offices and entry into the Capitol.

2)Flights(see above) If it is official then it's part of government expenses. For meetings with Foriegn Governmental officials, we have some sweet Embassies to entertain with, plus maybe an entertainment stipend for State to disburse for our Reps. Fully itemized entertainment costs, of course.

Reward good behavior. If an Office Holder stays under Budget, an amount not exceeding the remaining or $3,000.00 will be allowed for the Staff to do as they wish by vote. It's what our Wedding cost.

If they can't manage their own office, they shouldn't be any where near our National Treasure.

3)I hate to say it, but after many years I'm all for Publically Funded Elections.

This would set the tone and let's face it, we all know there are way better qualified, good hearted, Constitutional loving people out there.
We need to have every honarable incentive for them to step forward.

It will help level the playing field.

I'm all ready to play for my idealogical team mates.

For I know my side will win on the Political Playing Field if there is a Represenitive Democracy Stadium we all play in.

I'm looking forward to a return to the comforting idea of an Elective endowed with a sense of Balance between the Individual and the Collective.

We just can't be this stupid and self destructive.

Can we?


I believe that the only power that the ordinary citizen has is his vote. The political parties and politicians in general have enormous media resources to use to manipulate the vote of the ordinary citizen. The ordinary citizen has to wade through endless media sources to distinguish between the manipulations and the real information so that he can make an informed decision. The job is almost impossible. Once the elections are over the politicians support those who have contributed to their election campaigns more than the ordinary citizens who elected them.

Who lobbies on behalf of the ordinary citizen? We need organizations that reflect the true feelings of ordinary citizens and display the power of the collective votes of ordinary citizens to our elected representatives so that ordinary citizens can be represented before corporations and special interests.

Congress SHOULD NOT be allowed to continue policing itself...for crying out LOUD...
PUBLIC LAW 109-145
145. S.1047 : A bill to require the Secretary of the Treasury to mint coins in commemoration of each of the Nation's past Presidents and their spouses, respectively to improve circulation of the $1 coin, to create a new bullion coin, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Sen Sununu, John E. [NH] (introduced 5/17/2005) Cosponsors (71)
Committees: Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs
Latest Major Action: Became Public Law No: 109-145 [GPO: Text, PDF]

Of course not. Neither congress, millitary or any other government agencies should be allowed to investigate herself. Can one imagine Enron investigating herself? Look at what have resulted with Republican congress when the most unattical congressman like Tom Delay and other like him are in charge of the congress.

Government shouldn't be allowed to set its own ethic rules and policies.Citizens should be able to decided how their country is represented, and how it "behaves". As the generation dwindles down, new values and ideas are present within the country. Policies should change when they're not working anymore, and the country is clearly protesting against decisions made by our representatives.We need a leader who is willing to listen to citizens and what they believe is right. Their is turmoil within our own country, and the only was to fix it is by having representatives who look at the polls and statistics and see that their country in NOT agreeing with them.


Torture:
Did I hear this morning that Bush passed a resolution, or law, (I'm unclear of the correct lingo), allowing prisoners to be held without charge, beaten
into confession, then that ill-gotten confession will be used against them at their own trial?
It is so very heavy I cannot keep my head up. I cannot stave my eyes from tears, they flow at the most inappropriate places and times. I wake up, I
cry. I go to bed at night, and I cry. Even my sleep is not escape from this travesty of justice which is occuring in our country, this inhumanity which now seems to pervade our society.
Who of us would agree to this, if it were us being held without charge? Who of us, when being beaten, wouldn't say or do anything to stop the pain?
Rise up all you people of faith. You have been deceived. Open your eyes to what is really occuring in our country.
Rise up all people of all faiths, for our religions all unite us, in love; in compassion and justice.
Rise up all peoples
of conscience, stand up for what is right.
"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." It is written
throughout eternity, in every translation. In every faith or creed there is
some version of this most basic of truths. All of our laws are based upon
this very concept.
Let all those who call for torture be themselves tortured for all of their misdeeds. Let their own laws be applied to them, then maybe they will confess the travesty of their own logic.
"No law can be called just without it being binding upon oneself."
Paraphrase, MLK Jr.
What standard of justice can we require the world to adhere to, which we ourselves do not adhere to?
Children are being raped and murdered execution style, our little girls;
unjust laws are being accepted as right. Do we really see a disconnect between the violence here, and the violence there? They sold us torture before the debate ever came to the table, so it never did. They are insuring their own immunity to prosecution for their crimes against humanity.
The world has gone mad, we have
lost our collective minds, and yet we claim religiosity? We claim the moral high ground? We claim Jesus the Christ? How dare we use his name in this way! Who did Christ ever torture?! He laid down His life for mankind, He did
not tell us to kill and fight. He told us to love our enemies; to pray for
those who persucute us.
Yes, we need prisons, we need trials, and we need justice, but we need fair trials; timely trials. This path of justifying torture will never lead to justice, only to the degradation of
humankind.
Let all who call for torture step to the front of the line. It is now time for you to be held without charge, to be beaten into confession, for all of your mis-deeds, of which there are many.You manipulated and stole two elections with electronic, paperless voting machines, and now 80% of votes are controlled by these? Your own actions have indicted you and found you guilty.Your own words condemn you. Hold your hands high for all to see, they are covered in blood. Step up, wrists forward. make yourselves ready for the handcuffs, for the steal doors to slam behind you, and thank the Lord God Almighty that His precepts are more merciful than your own. Thank the Lord God Almighty that we will not allow your own rules to be applied to you. You have fostered hatred and destruction. We see you. We see what you are doing. This is the stuff which Hitlers are made of.
The principles of justice must be universal. Either they apply to everyone, or they apply to no one.

"Their love will grow cold."
"Their love will grow cold."
Mourn, weep and wail, for truly evil has come upon us.


I think they should be able to police themselves because if they aren't happy then they aren't going to do the right thing for us. Whatever makes them happy makes me happy.

I don't think congress should be able to set its own ethic rules. There should always be some sort of checks and balances in the process that keeps them on the right path because they haven't always made the brightest decisions in the past. In order to actually make their own ethic rules they need to gain our trust first and I dont think 25% of the nation cuts it. They have no right to cry about it either after that stunt Jack Abramoff pulled I think they have alot of work to do inorder to restore their image. But sadly I believe there are still more poloticians out there still doing the same Abramoff did but he just happen to be one of the many that got caught.

The only way I'll personaly ever trust congress again is if they pass the 20 kittens in a knapsack law.
1 cat, 2 cat, 20 kittens knapsack! YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

No, I don't think Congress should be allowed to set it's own ethic rules. If Congress was allowed to do this, then they could do whatever they wanted to do, and they could "police" themselves, when it comes to ethic matters, however they felt would fit their needs. I think that a different system would be more sufficient. I believe that a limited amount of travel for representatives would be good for the problem of travelage abuse.

Politicians need to be regulated; it’s as simple as that. The American people should be informed about the unintelligent decisions made by the voices we put into power. The current system that is in place obviously is not working too well so other measures need to be taken to ensure scandals, such as the one dealing with Jack Abramoff, can never happen again. These scandals cannot be held responsible by the party they represent alone, but also the other powerhouse political party as well. Is it not their duty as the party out of power to watch and regulate the other? The so called “Watch Dog” role has almost been eliminated. In the system we are currently using things aren’t working, so here I propose and idea. The congressman that doesn’t win the election from their state now has a new role. Their purpose is to watch over, check, and report out the actions of their fellow state congressman. They would be like business associates, always being together. This would prevent such scandals from occurring again or at least prevents ones of these magnitudes from ever happening again.

I agree with josh hayward if polititions and the way they are regulated is not monitered then we are up for some serious problems. Our polititions are already corrupt enough and if we start to ignore what they do and dont try to control them they we are goin to have some serous problems

No, I don't think Government should form it's own ethics. However, they do have their own ethics already and In my eyes they are not good ethics. The government only cares about having money and power. Right now we have the most money and power out of all the other countries and we still try and rob others of theres.

No, I don't think Government should form it's own ethics. However, they do have their own ethics already and In my eyes they are not good ethics. The government only cares about having money and power. Right now we have the most money and power out of all the other countries and we still try and rob others of theres.

Separate People apart from congressmen need be elected to represent the people.The issues of public spending of out tax dollars by congressmen. Currently the spending congressional money is unregulated resulting in many personal excursions. you have to pick the people to represent because most of them are self-centered money hungy, you know what

I believe that we can take control representatives on all levels of government by putting a REFERENDUM ON THE BALLOT: we give a base salary with the same kinds of perks that we get at our jobs: health insurance that we contribute to & vote on their raises & give bonuses when they do a great job...as for their junkets: they should have an itinerary of their schedule & costs which must be signed only by the representative who must state purpose of junket & this will be sent to the Oversight Committee...if not approved, the representative must reimburse all costs & the cost of salary for that time out of work, just like we do. It is like the psychology the police use to keep most of the masses in line but hitting on the lowest levels. Perhaps this will also curb the corruption. As for PEDOPHILES LIKE MARK FOLEY, no appology is necessary, he should go to jail just like everyone else. I do not understand how only certain groups must obey the laws & suffer its consequences but the others can enjoy all of the freedoms of the Constitution. I believe we are in for another Civil War if our politicians don't do the right thing. thanks, pattik

I have thought that the Congress is doing a swell job, however, once I heard of the Jack Abramoff scandal I'm not so sure of our system. I have become somewhat skeptical of our Congress and how easily money can sway peoples choices. I think that it's important that the people making decisions for us need to be just and unbiased in their decisions, but it's not a sure thing anymore. We need to start thoroughly regulating and keeping track of the money in our system and be sure that it's going to the correct places and not just being used to get what people want. Our government was created in a way that it wouldn't be able to abuse their powers, however there's always a loophole and some of these lobbyists and congressmen have found them. This needs to be dealt with and these people need to be punished accordingly.

Man, like a peeled apple, rots quickly.

However, man can choose whether or not to be peeled.

Sensory puppets, thirsty for power and the good life, make a mockery of all we hold dear: Freedom. I am thankful I am free to write my thoughts. Our freedom is looking more like a miracle that a right.

The television special was excellent. Clearly election financing needs to be completely overhauled. My idea is to severely limit the amount of money that can actually be spent by a candidate, regardless of what the source is. The current flood of campaign commercials leads to a LESS informed electorate, not a more informed electorate. The total tonnage campaign advertising needs to be reduced to a trickle of what it is now. If candidates were forced to limit the quantity of advertising they could do, it might force them to talk about the issues, instead of simply defame and propagandize like they currently do.

Should Congress continue setting its own rules for conduct? No. Based on their shameless abuse of power and public trust I'd say they deserve neither power nor trust. So, like the founders intended, it's the voters' duty to overthrow corrupt governments right here in America. Thank you for doing more than your part to help us -- albeit weary -- voters do our duty.

I believe a three judge panel should be appointed by congress to oversee the actions of our congress. The panel should be given power to punish, set fines, collect said fines and be empowered to assess other punishments as necessary.
The panel will be paid by the fines and bribes uncovered.

I WAS a federal employee with the department of interior, department of defense, a combat wounded corpsman after nearly a year in Vietnam. Servide approx. 22 years of honorable service, yet my position was terminated a year shy of full retirement & I forced into early retirement, only be able to keep my medical insurance & paid $ 185.00 a month. All because, unlike Bush's congress, I became a "whisle-Blower" on workers/management lack of safety & work ethics. Holding other accountable, because NO-ONE from the lowly worker up to and including the area & safety directors. Just where does the buck stops? That's what I keep asking them. Well here I am with nothing better to do but bitch. I wrote & asked my congressman (Lundgren) for assistance in saving my name & position to no avail. He was just re-elected. I asked for a investagation within the department in my treatment, to no avail. It was like asking the fox to check the hen house. I am sorry, but really is this a way to treat a combat veteran that is just asking people to be god fearing americans & honest workers, getting paid for an honest days work?
P.S. Folk's, look at FEMA, the Veterans Adminstration & other the other fed. agencies & rate them for yourself.

I AM IBRAHIM RAIMI ROPO FROM NIGERIA, I LIKE TO BE THE ONE OF AMERICA BOY.

Luke Rudkowski www.wearechange.org has been terrorized by police and has it on film. This is a charge of terrorism aginst the NYPD or someone impersonating NYPD. Either way Luke is the spirit of America. He needs help. He's in over his head.

After viewing bill moyers program on friday (11 may/07, I think its a shame on whoever has govt oversite, watching the big oil companies rip off the US taxpayers by bribing the Dept of Interior to cover up the tax schemes..someone has to step up to the plate.

I agree with many of the perspectives that I read in this blog. My personal viewpoint on this question is a simple NO. Our current political and legal system has railroaded my huband and sentenced him to a long prison term undeservedly leaving my children without a father. I am disgusted with our entire system, and pray that I can find some sort of justice for our family and other Americans who have been victimized by the system.

So happy that I found your blog . I look forward to learning more about you. :) I sell Vestavia Hills Real Estate in AL . Look at my blog . I am searching for ways to expand my business .

This is so often overlooked and its quite a shame. Very interesting though.

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