From the Denver Post.com :
Everyone pays for corruption
By U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette D-Colo.
In the last 12 years, Washington has become infused with a culture of corruption, an affront to the very idea of a representative democracy. There's a price to pay for this corruption, and it's the American people who are forced to pay it. Year after year, special interests get legislative priority, while the needs of America's working families go unaddressed. When elected officials bend government to serve the special interests, the public interest suffers.
Consider 2005 alone. The Republican-controlled Congress supported billions of dollars in tax breaks for special interests and the wealthy. For example, the oil and gas industry received more than $2.6 billion in tax breaks, despite the fact that the five big oil companies raked in about $33 billion in profits for the third quarter of 2005 alone. Then Congress turned around and paid for these tax cuts by slashing services for those who need it most, such as health care services for the poor and loans for college-bound middle-class students.
We recently learned that in the 2005 budget reconciliation spending bill, the Republican majority in Congress, acting behind closed doors and in the dead of night, gave away $22 billion to HMOs participating in Medicare. It should not be a surprise who suggested the change - America's Health Insurance Plans, the association representing health insurers.
The pharmaceutical industry, along with health insurance companies, largely wrote the new Medicare prescription drug plan. As a result, the plan prohibits the government from negotiating for lower drug prices and contains millions of dollars in arguably unnecessary incentives for the insurance industry. Most tragically, as we are seeing today, the program does not work for many it was intended to help.
As we consider the state of our union, the good news is we do not have to accept more of the same in 2006. I am proud to recently have joined my Democratic colleagues in the House and Senate to unveil our ethical reform agenda, the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act, to clean up the Republican culture of corruption. Democrats' goal is to restore accountability, honesty and openness at all levels of government.
I also have co-sponsored a lobbying reform measure that would, among other things, prohibit sponsors of congressional travel from lobbying or employing lobbyists, prevent lobbyists from traveling with members, prohibit former members from lobbying on the House floor, restrict the length of time votes can be held open in the House, and make it an ethics offense for members to advocate an earmark while failing to disclose any financial interest they have in that earmark.
While the proposals I have discussed will go a long way to returning our government to all of the people, changes to the rules alone are not enough. The strictest ethics rules will not stop a member of Congress who lacks a moral compass from going in the wrong direction. We need public servants who put honesty, integrity and doing what is right ahead of politics, partisanship and special interests.
In 2006, I hope my constituents in the 1st Congressional District and others around Colorado will join me in declaring that we deserve honest leadership and open government for all our citizens, so we can make progress on the real issues facing America.
U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., represents the state's 1st Congressional District.