Republicans may like to brag that they are the party of Ronald Reagan and are dedicated to the policies and principles for which my dad stood, but they are acting more like members of the party of Lyndon Johnson.
Panicked by the potential of the growing Abramoff scandal which threatens to ensnare a multitude of members of Congress, Republicans are running around scattering contributions from the lobbyist and his clients in all directions in an effort to show how much they abhor even the appearance of having taken from them what now may be tainted funds.
They simply cannot understand that the problem is not with Abramoff and other lobbyists having bought access with their clients’ money, but with themselves because of their shameful lack of integrity.
They talk about reforming the system when, if they really want true reform, they will start by reforming themselves. If they want to be like Ronald Reagan, they need to start acting like Ronald Reagan.
When my dad was first running for governor of California, a very wealthy friend and supporter asked him to drop by his office. When my dad got there, the friend pointed to a paper bag on his desk and said, “This is for you.” Dad picked up the bag and looked into it—there was $40,000 in cash inside. He took the bag and threw it at his friend and walked out. Later he told the man that if he wanted to make a contribution he should send it to the campaign committee. And he warned him never to do anything like that again. He ended by telling the man that if he was elected governor the man should never even think about asking him for anything.
That’s called integrity. Republicans, those vaunted champions of fiscal integrity and honesty in government, showed just how they are dedicated to my dad’s principles by greedily looting the federal budget of billions of dollars to fund their pet projects and keep the voters back home happy and in a mood to re-elect them.
In July 2005, Congress passed a massive $286.5-billion transportation bill to fund our nation’s highways and federal transportation needs for the next six years. The bill included more than $24 billion in special earmark projects for members of Congress.
One of the most influential figures in Washington spelled it out for me recently. And what he described in talking about passage of that bill loaded with billions upon billions of taxpayer’s dollars bordered on the criminal.
When the transportation bill was being marked up, the bill’s supporters in the leadership promised every member of Congress that they would each be allotted $14 million in free earmarks if they would vote for the legislation. Added to projects already in the bill, and even with some members not taking the deal, the bill came to a total of 6,300 earmarked projects costing the taxpayers $24 billion.
This is a clear case of bribery. The people being bribed were members of Congress. The people making the bribes were members of Congress. Congressmen bribing congressmen.
Jack Abramoff was a piker.