Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Casey Speaks

We have covered the First Words of the new Pennsylvania Democrats in Congress, and in the process gently chided Bobby Casey, Jr. for being the last of the new delegation to open his yap in earnest.

We were wondering if he was going to set a record for silence on the Floor (as we believe that he must have for silence on the campaign trail), but he has spoken. Yesterday, during the debates on Senate Bill 1, the Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act of 2007 (on which we rambled yesterday), Senator Casey rose to support his amendment to the bill. The amendment makes it a crime for a member of Congress to use their influence to get lobbying jobs for their staff or others. Here's the guts of the Casey amendment:
"Whoever, being a Senator or Representative in, or a Delegate or Resident Commissioner to, the Congress or an employee of either House of Congress, with the intent to influence on the basis of partisan political affiliation an employment decision or employment practice of any private entity--

"(1) takes or withholds, or offers or threatens to take or withhold, an official act; or

"(2) influences, or offers or threatens to influence, the official act of another;"

Now, Senator Casey on the floor:

Mr. CASEY. Mr. President, this amendment prohibits the wrongful influencing of a private entity's employment decisions and/or practices in exchange for political access or favors.

As we all know from the recent activity in this body, Reid-McConnell, S. 1, is an ethics reform bill, I think a critically important bill for this body and for the country. One of the things we want to make sure happens in that bill is that we provide all the protections possible to give confidence to the American people that what is happening in Washington speaks to some of their concerns. This amendment speaks to that by providing criminal penalties punishable, in this case, by a fine or imprisonment for up to 15 years for anyone who would engage in the practice of wrongfully influencing a private entity's employment decisions and/or practices, as I said before, in exchange for political access or favors.

Also, one of the penalties that is contemplated in this amendment is to disqualify an individual from holding public office--any office--if they engage in that activity. What we are talking about is activity that has gone under the umbrella of the name of the K Street Project which has been written about extensively in the public press for several years now, and what we are talking about there, in particular, I believe, is an effort to have a corrupting influence, in my judgment, on a couple of important areas of activity in Washington--first, a corrupting influence on hiring decisions in the private sector in Washington, a corrupting influence on political fundraising which we know has all of the challenges that those of us in Washington who care about doing it the right way have concerns about, and certainly the activities of the K Street Project or any other similar effort, any other similar practice in Washington also has a corrupt influence on the priorities of the Government of the United States. That is why this amendment is so important.

It is long overdue. It is high time to end this corruption, to end this practice which for too long has been a part of the culture of corruption in Washington. I believe this amendment will strengthen S. 1, it will strengthen any effort to provide, as the main bill contemplates, both transparency and accountability, and I do believe this amendment will speak directly to that issue. There is broad bipartisan support for this amendment, as there is for the Reid-McConnell bill.

I also appreciate the fact that as a new Member--and, Mr. President, I include you in this as well as someone who cares very deeply, as you do, about the question of ethics and ethics reform--the bill we are talking about in the Senate was arrived at through a bipartisan effort, and I think it is important this amendment, which deals with the K Street Project or any other similar effort in Washington, also be a bipartisan effort by people in both parties, on both sides of the aisle to make sure we can once and for all tear out by the roots the corrupt practices that, unfortunately, became known as the K Street Project.

I appreciate this opportunity to speak. I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.

"Absence of a quorum"? I guess no one was listening. Nevertheless, he has spoken. Now, if only he could get that website up and running . . . .

1 comment:

Jaekos said...

Bob also spoke (on the record!) against the Preznit's troop 'surge':

"An escalation in Iraq is a plan to repeat past mistakes and not the change in course that is needed," Casey said, noting that he favors "commencing an intensive and sustained U.S. diplomatic initiative in the region."

Well, it ain't flaming progressivism, but it's better than I could have hoped for ... so far.