Crafty CAFTA Maneuvering

I’m not too familiar with the arguments supporting and opposing the legislation that squeaked by early this morning in the House of Representatives. Until I do some more research on the policy, I’m stuck between obeying two contradicting policies that I like to follow. Since I studied economics, I tend to be in favor of legislation that promotes free trade, but as a general rule, I also oppose approving policies that add more unnecessary acronyms to the wonk’s lexicon. But, this post isn’t about my endorsement or opposition to the bill, which already passed – and besides, there’s no way that more than one, maybe two Congressmen read this blog. What did strike me this morning is that while reading about the bill’s narrow passage in the Washington Post, I came across this paragraph:

The last-minute negotiations for Republican votes resembled the wheeling and dealing on a car lot. Republicans who were opposed or undecided were courted during hurried meetings in Capitol hallways, on the House floor and at the White House. GOP leaders told their rank and file that if they wanted anything, now was the time to ask, lawmakers said, and members took advantage of the opportunity by requesting such things as fundraising appearances by Cheney and the restoration of money the White House has tried to cut from agriculture programs. Lawmakers also said many of the favors bestowed in exchange for votes will be tucked into the huge energy and highway bills that Congress is scheduled to pass this week before leaving for the August recess.

Woah, there, hold on a second. I can understand the behind the scenes arm-twisting by Republican leadership, and I can even understand that the passage of this bill probably added a few pieces of pork to upcoming legislation. But did I just read in the Washington Post that (unnamed) Congressmen were promised fundraising appearances by the Administration? That is definitely not legal. Cast your memory back to an earlier flap involving . A House Ethics Committee report detailed the allegations by Rep. Nick Smith (R-Michigan) that Tom Delay and the House leadership tired to convince him to vote for a Medicare reform bill with a $100,000 bribe and the promise to endorse his son, who was planning a run for Congress. As noted by Timothy Noah, "United States Code, Title 18, Section 201, ‘Bribery of public officials and witnesses,’ states that a bribe can be ‘anything of value.’ There's an exception for horse-trading confined wholly to government business—you vote for my bill and I'll vote for yours—because that's constitutionally protected.” But even without proving that there was a the cash offer (Smith backed off that assertion), offering an endoresment is something of value - you can't do that, and you obviously can't offer to help fundraise for a candidate, that surely has value.

So can somebody tell me how what was described fairly specifically in a nation’s leading newspaper doesn’t constitute another violation of federal law, if not at least House ethics rules? Oh, Tom Delay, have you learned nothing from your three previous admonishments by the Ethics Committee? Well, actually, that committee can barely even meet, let alone complete objective investigations, so I’m pretty sure that Republican leadership can rest easy for now.


Blogger Hatcher said...

Yeah, I am sure this is the first time in the history of the Republic that a fundraising effort was made in exchange for support on a key vote.

Here is the problem: the Dems need a juicier scandal; the ones they are focused on now really don't have much legs. The party is starting the sound like the boy who cried Wolf; Republicans learned this lesson in the 90s, when Bill Clinton was trading votes for Chinese dollars.

Thursday, July 28, 2005  

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