YOUR FEDERAL EMPLOYEES, HARD AT WORK
"Hundreds of informal clubs — usually known as caucuses . . . have sprung up to advocate for special interests, with little public accountability . . . Congress has allowed the caucuses to be affiliated with foundations that can raise unlimited amounts of money from special interests to finance social events and activities without having to disclose expenses or donations — as lawmakers must for campaigns, political action committee and other groups. That means no scrutiny by ethics enforcers, campaign finance regulators or the public . . . Any member of Congress can form a caucus simply by writing a 'Dear Colleague' letter inviting others to join. The caucuses bring like-minded politicians together to promote particular issues. The groups also can aid lawmakers' fundraising connections, raise their profiles on issues that affect politically powerful interests back home and provide hobnobbing with celebrities or recreation that costs them nothing."None of this should surprise you, but it nevertheless gives me ammunition to lob some cheap-shots at our elected, federal officials. A few examples from the article, if I may:
* Rep. Nick Rahall II, Democrat from W.Va., played golf with a lobbyist for the Teamsters union and a retired admiral who heads the Nuclear Energy Institute at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus golf outing.
Say what? Well, let's allow Mr. Rahall ( a non-Hispanic from a state without many Hispanics) explain: "It wasn't an accident," he said. According to the article, "The lawmaker hails from an energy producing state where Teamsters are influential."
Incidentally, organizers refused to allow press access to the event at Andrews Air Force Base. Sponsors of the "golf tournament" include Nike, the pharaceutical industry lobby PhRMA, Coca-Cola, the Teamsters, & R.J. Reynolds. Altria, Philip Morris' parent company, "paid for breakfast," while AT&T sponsored golf carts.
* "The Congressional Internet Caucus lets high-tech and Internet companies like AT&T, Google and Microsoft serve on an advisory committee, giving industry a chance to bend lawmakers' ears and show off their latest technology."
* Sen. Conrad Burns, Republican from Montana belongs to 18 caucuses, including the Sweetener Caucus. "I don't think I've ever attended [a caucus meeting]. I do what my growers tell me. I know we grow a lot of sugar beets in Montana."
NASCAR legend Richard Petty has visited Capitol Hill as a representative of "the Specialty Equipment Market Association." Every other year, Congressional members of the "Automotive Performance and Motorsports Caucus" join Petty's organinization for a rally in D.C.
Yes, that's correct. Some of your elected officials, paid through your tax dollars, belong to the "Automotive Performance and Motorsports Caucus. Think that's bad? Well, how bout . . .
* The Congressional Gaming Caucus, led by Nevada Reps, Jim Gibbons and Shelley Berkley, Republican & Democrat, respectively. Following Katrina, the "Gaming Caucus" sought federal relief to rebuild Gulf Coast casinos, with expected resistence from certain quarters.
The compromise reached "by the caucus"? According to the article, "Hotels with casinos received recovery aid to help rebuild the lodging portions of their complexes."
Explaining her pride in serving as co-chair of the Gaming Caucus, Berkley said, "When I was chairman of the board of the Nevada Hotel/Motel Association, a lot of middle management gaming executives were members of my board. They are running these hotels now. My relationship is up close and personal."
* Carole King, George Wendt, Patty Duke, Sean Astin performed for members of The Congressional Arts Caucus and the Entertainment Caucus. According to Robin Bronk of the event's sponsor, the Creative Coalition, "We realize we live in a society that is drawn to celebrities . . . We try and use the power of the entertainment industry to shine a spotlight on issues of social importance."
And what are these issues of "social importance"? I have no explicit answer, but the piece informs us that "the group's issues include tax breaks for production companies that make movies and TV shows, more arts funding and opposition to government indecency regulations."
Interesting. Seek tax breaks and funding from the very entity one supposedly seeks to de-fang.
* Rep. Donald Payne, Democrat from New Jersey, is a co-chairman of the Caribbean Caucus. Because, as he explained, "If it's the Caribbean caucus, you have to go to the Caribbean," Payne took "at least 14 trips to Caribbean islands, Panama and Puerto Rico between November 2000 and the end of 2005."
One of these jaunts, the "10th anniversary of the Caribbean Multi National Business Conference" took place in St. Thomas last November, at the Wyndham Sugar Bay Resort & Spa, described as a "beach-and-water sport lover's paradise."
(Emphases added). There's more, but frankly I'm so disgusted, I don't wanna write any more about this.
I know I've said it here before, and I guarantee I'll say it again & again before midterm elections: Kick The Bums Out. All of them. Unless a Congressional candidate promises not to join one of these "caucuses," unless he promises not to yield any more of his legislative duties to the executive branch, unless she promises to vote to impeach/convict the President and Vice-President . . . Vote Them Out. Republican, Democrat, Independent, it doesn't matter.
Elect new blood. It's time.