the blog of DC Drinking Liberally

March 2, 2006

How to Clean Up Corruption — This Week’s Speaker


This week’s speaker, Craig Holman, is Public Citizen’s Congress Watch legislative representative and an expert on Congressional ethics. Senate committees are starting to mark up weak reform legislation last week and vote on the bill this week, but there’s still a chance to influence our legislators (if you don’t live in the District) to get a stronger bill or learn how you can become a clean government activist. I wrote about it at Huffington Post. This week the Senate will vote on whether to have an independent public integrity office. Unfortunately, they’re more interested in the fig-leaf of upgraded disclosure than real reform. Here’s the latest on what the Senate did last week week, from Public Citizen’s Joan Claybrook:

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee significantly improved a lobbying disclosure and reform bill today by adding a requirement that major lobbyists disclose the money they spend on grassroots lobbying. But the committee took a giant step backward — crippling the reform effort — by rejecting an independent Office of Public Integrity.

Overall, this measure is insufficient because it focuses on disclosing corruption, rather than deterring it. That’s like tallying the number of people killed in highway crashes instead of making safer vehicles.

The independent Office of Public Integrity is so crucial because it would conduct investigations and make recommendations to the Senate and House ethics committees free of political pressures. It would also regulate compliance with the Lobbying Disclosure Act, which has been subject to little oversight. The ethics committees operate in complete secrecy, so the public has no knowledge of what they do. No decisions were announced by the House or Senate ethics committees in 2005. The executive branch does not self-regulate; rather, it has both independent inspector generals in each agency and an Office of Public Integrity, located in the Justice Department and covering all federal employees. An independent office for Congress must be created.

Learn more next week when Craig Holman speaks.


DCDL is a blog by Washington, DC-area members of Drinking Liberally. Opinions expressed are the writers’, not those of Drinking Liberally, which provides no funding or other support for this blog.

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