Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Culture of Corruption Update

Under the Democrats' new ethics rules, if you call a lobbyist a "personal friend," then you can accept gifts from him.

Hat tip to the Blogfather.

Led by House Ethics Committee chair Stephanie Tubbs Jones, the House of Representatives on Wednesday unanmiously agreed to loosen strict rules on members' acceptance of free airplane rides that were adopted when Democrats took over Congress in January.

The measure, adopted on a May 2 voice vote minutes before the House of Representatives adjourned at 11:59 p.m., was labeled as an effort to "clarify certain matters relating to official conduct" of the House of Representatives.

The change stipulated that members of Congress can fly their own airplanes on official business as well as accept "personal use of an aircraft ... that is supplied by an individual on the basis of personal friendship."

Although House Ethics Committee guidelines list circumstances under which the "personal friendship" designation would apply, Melanie Sloan of the watchdog group Citizens for Responsiblity and Ethics in Washington says the change creates a "huge loophole."

"As long as you call a lobbyist your personal friend, it is apparently OK," says Sloan, who believes the ethics enforcement process is crippled because only members of Congress can file complaints against their colleagues. "I don't see a member filing a complaint against another member for flying on someone's plane, saying they are not really friends."

Tubbs Jones' congressional office referred questions on the change to the House Ethics Committee, whose spokesman declined comment on them.

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