Class of '94: Surrounded By Lobbyists

Illegal aliens could teach members of Congress a thing or two. Many of them enter the United States with no intention of learning our language or generally assimilating to our culture. On the other hand, new members of the U.S. House or Senate soon find themselves fully assimilated.

"Gone native" is the Beltway term for a congressman who started out with grandiose plans to be a reformer and to rise above the current political mentality — but who soon finds himself surrounded by lobbyists and engaged in all manner of high-stakes fundraising.

Remember the amazing Republican Congressional Class of 1994? They were elected on promises of doing things differently — of changing the Washington culture. They were going to give us a smaller, less-intrusive government, and a more responsive government that would be by the people and for the people. Before long, many of them had gone native.

There’s little talk in Washington these days about smaller government, income-tax reform, term limits, and many of the promises contained in the Contract With America, which stated:

As Republican Members of the House of Representatives and as citizens seeking to join that body we propose not just to change its policies, but even more important, to restore the bonds of trust between the people and their elected representatives.

The Contract promised a balanced budget/tax limitation amendment and a legislative line-item veto. It also promised a vote on term limits "to replace career politicians with a citizens legislature."

Instead, what we have is the scandal swirling about super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff — who stands to become the scapegoat. Indeed, Abramoff may have been handing out bribes, but there can be no bribery if someone isn’t willing to accept the money. This is, of course, what led to the downfall of Rep. Duke Cunningham, and what may lead to additional problems for other members of Congress.

It’s all a part of going native. What you promise to do if elected and what you actually end up doing are two different things.

What Congress needs to do is to forget about the lobbyists. The Constitution gives the people the right to bring their desires and grievances to their representatives in government. So let them. What we need are new limits on the government and on members of Congress. Take a look at these items and see if you think the current Beltway Culture could survive if this New Contract With America took effect:

  • Abolish the IRS. Implement the “Fair Tax” version of the national sales tax.
  • Implement strict term limits to return to a citizen legislature.
  • Go to a ten-year “cooling off” period before anyone associated with government could become a registered lobbyist.
  • Put an end to nepotism where family members are allowed to accept gifts or jobs from contributors or lobbyists.
  • Stop the practice of earmarks so that each project must have a separate vote.
  • Eliminate the practice of handing out gambling licenses based on membership in an ethnic group.

If such a New Contract is going to have a chance, it will not be with status quo leadership. Speaker Dennis Hastert has made it clear that he supports earmarks, as has Roy Blunt who is running for House Majority Leader. Blunt and John Boehner have both gone native long ago.

So far, Rep. John Shadegg of Arizona seems to be the least tainted of the three candidates for majority leader. He is not a K-Street regular; he supports vouchers, voted against "No Child Left Behind," and against the Medicare prescription plan. He is a true conservative who even voted against the pork-filled highway bill. Shadegg hasn’t gone native yet, and maybe he never will.

As for the rest of the Republicans in the House — whom they elect to this leadership position will tell us a great deal about whether they’ve learned anything from the Abramoff affair.