Sunday, January 14, 2007

Uncle, or Embracing the Obvious

Only a couple of months ago I embarked on an experiment wherein I planned to keep a close eye on my legislators. It wasn't without a little smugness that I decided that this was the best plan. Finally, people would read my pithy and undeniably sensible opinions and, one by one, all would be won over to my way of thinking. Finally a state, a nation, a world worth inhabiting! Of course my train of thought wasn't this narcissistic but there was a bit of this there.

So, I set up my goggle alerts and started watching. It hasn't been easy. It hasn't been hard, either. Anyone that knows me knows that I never volunteer for anything too hard. But it wasn't the simplest thing in the world. First, the officials elected in the 2006 Congressional turnover went a long way to disappoint me. I have a tendency to focus on the faults of people that I don't like so I was well versed on those areas that Republicans - mutual disagreement turned to hate when they impeached my president at the end of the last century - could stand to improve. But I was unprepared to learn about the warts on my saviours, the Democrats that gave them a thumpin'. Specifically Claire McCaskill.

Second, I learned in this brief time of paying extra attention to the actions of legislators that they grapple with some very complicated, involved, and mind numbingly boring issues. I read every news report that came up and studied each issue with which I wasn't familiar. Often after working my way through the day's information I would be too wilted or still too confused to write about it. So, on that level they, the legislators, have gained my respect.

Third, it was simply taking up too much brain space. As I deal with issues of my new ecommerce store,, which is set to open any day now and my ongoing site, I just have to dump something.

I'm dropping this experiment. This blog will return to the floundering bit of Internet noise that it's always been. I will try to keep up with something here but in the meantime check out

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Oh C'mon, Claire!

I had two almost concurrent thoughts when I read this article about Claire McCaskill's financial juggling. The first was, "well, she's a snake in politics, what's new? Hopefully she'll still be able to use her position to advance some positive legislation." Sort of a stream of consciousness ends-justifies-means thing. The second thought I had as soon as I'd had the first was, "I bet that that's what Delay's supporters thought" when they started hearing of his questionable tactics that would eventually lead to his arrest and ethics charges.

So Claire has some debts from her 2004 race for Governor of Missouri. Fine, repay them. But the debt that's causing problems here is one that owed to Claire by her election fund. Basically she loaned herself this money and now she wants to bend the rules so she can pay herself back. The article doesn't say where the money would come from but now that she's in Washington where slimy money is slithering all over the place it's not hard to imagine what sort of sources she has in mind.

C'mon Claire! When you promised to root out financial corruption in Washington you surely didn't mean that you'd first wallow around in it!

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Clair McCaskill - Dangerously Close to Breaking Her Own Rules

My inclination is to defend Claire. I desperately wanted her to replace Talent and was very pleased when it happened. I've been generally optimistic about her future in the Senate and gratified to hear her talk about rooting out the monetary improprieties in Washington.

Then she hired her new chief of staff, Sean Kennedy. That would be all fine and dandy but for the latest entry on his resume: lobbyist for SBC Communications. Even that would be fine with me. As power shifts back and forth in Washington what are these people supposed to do when their party is out of power? Lobbying jobs make sense. Personally I couldn't do it. I know that no job in Washington is particularly pretty but could there be a more "wallowing with the swine" sort of job than being a lobbyist?

So why is this noteworthy? Because of Claire's promise to make Washington work for us! In this 15 point plan that she presented during her campaign she laid out some pretty tough restrictions to, if not severe, weaken the close ties between congress and the lobbyist. And hiring a recent lobbyist as her chief of staff doesn't directly violate her rules but it does seem to injure their spirit, particularly the "Break the Link Between Congressional Service and Lobbying Influence" section where she says we should:

Prohibit Lobbyists From Taking Campaign Positions With Members. Lobbyists like Jack Abramoff raise campaign funds to position themselves as power brokers with elected officials. Lobbyists commonly become fundraisers and use their connections to drag money into their candidate's coffers. The Center for Public Integrity cited that 79 Members of congress named lobbyists to serve as treasurers of their campaign committees.
It seems hard to believe that her campaign manager is going to remain totally aloof of Claire's reelection campaign.

Obviously this was an easy position for Claire to take during the 2005 campaign. With Delay and his cronies recently revealed to be the money and power grubbing pigs that they are this was a quick and easy way to score some political points. Frankly, it didn't have any sway over my support of her; every politician promises to clean up Washington and it's basically just white noise during the campaign. What, they expect their opponent to come out for corruption?

No, what bothers me is that Claire has so quickly and cavalierly violated the spirit if not the literal read of her campaign promises. I suppose I should be no more surprised by a politician breaking a promise than anything else but she's supposed to be one of the good guys. I'm still hoping that this is just a blip and not an indication of things to come.