“Select capable men from all the people – men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain – and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens.”
– Exodus 18:21
“You brood of vipers!” Those harsh words were those of Jesus as he ran the money changers out of the temple. They were robbing the people and making a mockery out of their sacrifices.
Over 2,000 years later, we have our own brood of vipers. They’re in Washington. They aren’t simple opportunists who showed up to prey on the sacrificial tax contributions of hardworking Americans. We sent them there to mind the store as our representatives.
It largely was the votes of people of faith who handed control of Congress to Republicans after 40 years in the congressional wilderness. We are the ones who now must hold them accountable! We can no longer piously fold our hands and pretend nothing is happening. The whole place smells.
I am not suggesting that th.e Democrats were any better. In 1994, it was Democrat corruption that fueled the fire that led to the Republican takeover. Remember the House bank, the House post office and Dan Rostenkowski? Remember taxpayer-funded homoerotic pictures and Annie Sprinkle, the stripper who smeared herself with chocolate and bean sprouts – paid for at government expense?
In 1991, Jim Nussle, a boyish freshman Republican rose to speak on the floor of the House of Representatives with a paper bag over his head. Nussle told his Democrat colleagues that he was going to wear that bag when he went home to Iowa because he was too embarrassed to show his face as a member of Congress.
Now Nussle and his Republican colleagues are in charge and he is the chairman of the House Budget Committee. The stench was bad enough when the Democrats were in power. Now it is unbearable!
Don’t claim you know nothing about it. The corruption scandals have occupied the headlines for weeks.
California Congressman Duke Cunningham is the Republican’s Dan Rostenkowski – the poster child for bad behavior. Cunningham now is headed for prison after pleading guilty to receiving lavish gifts from military contractor Bruce Wilkes. Then along came lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who was caught spreading millions of dollars around to powerful congressmen and senators in both parties in exchange for political favors for his clients.
However, Republicans are in charge. They not only have presided over this scandal, they have encouraged it – the same Republicans who were handed the keys to our money vault because they pledged to shrink the size of government and to clean up the place. They have done neither.
After a just one decade of Republican control, federal spending has soared 67 percent. One of their biggest sins was to encourage the use of “earmarks.” I’m not talking about a piercing or tattoo at the base of the auricle lobe. Earmarks are pork-barrel projects – in Abramoff’s words “favor factories” – tacked on to appropriations bills at the last possible moment to avoid public scrutiny. In practical terms, they are political payoffs to one’s benefactors or for public projects (designed to appeal to local voters) that do not serve the national interest. Under Republican control, earmarks in the federal budget have increased 93 percent.
The boom in earmarks led to a boom in lobbyists. Their number has doubled in the last five years. These are the people like Abramoff, who are paid to hand out cash and countless other favors to your elected representative in return for earmarks that benefit their clients.
Let’s be clear: Democrats want to keep those earmarks because, under the present system, they get 45 percent of them.
Next week, the rubber meets the road when Republican House members gather to elect a majority leader to replace Tom DeLay. The frontrunner, House Whip (now acting Majority Leader) Roy Blunt of Missouri wants to keep earmarks, but wants them identified with the sponsoring member of Congress. No problem! Members are now bragging about how much pork they have snagged for their districts.
Conference Chairman John Boehner of Ohio and Policy Chairman John Shadegg of Arizona want to eliminate earmarking as we know it. Of the three, Shadegg is the only one who doesn’t have lobbyists lining up behind hi.s candidacy and has the most conservative credentials.
If your vote helped elect a Republican to Congress, you not only have an opportunity to weigh in on this race, you have a responsibility to do so. Wake up from your apathetic trance!
If Blunt is elected majority leader, it’s business as usual! If Shadegg is elected, meaningful reform has a fighting chance.