Just what will a Comcastic lobbying budget buy you? A growing coalition of consumer groups hopes not a new merger is the answer.
Q. I read that Rep. Tom Petri, R-Wis., has requested the House Ethics Committee to investigate himself. I know that members call for ethics investigations from time to time, but, I dont recall if Ive ever heard of a member asking for an investigation of himself. As I understand it, responding to an ethics investigation can be time-consuming and costly. Why would any member wish this upon himself?
The Winter Olympics prove again (as if proof were needed) that competition makes athletes strive to go faster, jump higher and become more agile.
If a martian landed here today with the mission to bring back information on how Congress makes budgets, he might report back there is no sign of intelligent life in Washington at least when it comes to budgeting. On the other hand, he might conclude the opposite: The budget process is so convoluted and complex that officials have obviously encrypted the whole thing so no other country or planet can crack the code as to how U.S. budgets are really made.
When the Supreme Court deregulated independent political spending four years ago, the court reasoned that unrestricted money posed no corruption risk because a firewall separates candidates from their outside benefactors.
Q. I am a staffer for a member of the House and am considering getting a second job. My wife, who is an attorney, is pregnant with our first child, and she plans to stop practicing law so that she can stay home and raise our child. I am more than happy with this arrangement, but it will definitely be a blow to our family budget, so I am looking for ways to supplement my income. One idea was to resume my career as a writer. I wrote for newspapers and magazines before working in the House, and would like to write some magazine articles on the side after the baby arrives. I would not allow the writing to interfere with my official duties in any way. I assume this is okay, but figured I would check. May I write magazine articles for money while employed by the House?
In my previous column (McConnells Lament Stirs Fresh Breeze of Hope, Jan. 29) I called attention to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnells Jan. 8 floor remarks in which he conceded that both parties are to blame for todays hyper-partisanship and vowed to restore the committee system, Senate floor debates and a full weeks work if Republicans regain control of the chamber. McConnell said this will not require a change in Senate rules, but rather a change in behavior that will not happen overnight.
Next to achieving Middle East peace, the hardest thing in the world seems to be passing a law to repair what everyone agrees is a broken immigration system. But theres a chance, if Republicans and Democrats think not big but small.
Q. I have a follow-up question to your recent column about the House Ethics Committees investigation of Trey Radel. Radel has since resigned from the House, and the Ethics Committee announced that, as a result, it was ending its investigation. Can you help me understand this? I would think that the mere fact that Radel resigned doesnt mean that he didnt do anything wrong. So, why would the Ethics Committee stop investigating him?
It is not unusual for sitting members of Congress to twitch and moan that the other party is destroying the institution. The majority party lambastes the minority for obstructing the important business of the country and the minority counter-bastes the majority for excluding it from making those important decisions.
The New York Times front-page story on Jan. 12 on one-party domination of all but 13 state governments is an important piece of journalism that should cause serious rethinking and action.
Q. I am a House staffer with a question about the House Ethics investigation of Rep. Trey Radel, R-Fla. I know Radel pled guilty to a drug charge last year, but Im pretty sure that the charge was just a misdemeanor. Also, I know that the House Ethics Committee automatically investigates any Member who commits a crime, but I thought that applied just to felonies, not misdemeanors. If thats right, why is the Ethics Committee investigating Radel?
In my Dec. 18 column, Senate Leader Reids Rule Recalls House Czars, I recounted how a group of progressive Republicans and Democrats removed Speaker Joe Cannon, R-Ill., as chairman and a member of the Rules Committee in 1910 by claiming a constitutional privilege to change House rules from the floor. When Cannon ruled the motion was not privileged under the Constitution, his decision was appealed and overturned.
No one expects a boom in the lobbying business this year. But out of the dysfunction and stalemate of 2013, K Streeters see signs of potential work in select areas, including a revival for an old standby: appropriations.
Q. Over the holidays, I saw news reports that some members of the House use funds from their campaigns to purchase holiday gifts for constituents. As a concerned citizen, this practice surprised me. I would think that money donated to campaigns should be used solely for campaign purposes. Is it really okay to use campaign funds to buy holiday gifts?
The joke used to be that the House of Representatives has dozens of rules while the Senate has just two: unanimous consent and exhaustion.
Campaign spending trends were not as sensational this year as in 2012, when super PACs and other outside groups pumped more than $1 billion into politics, three times what they spent in the previous presidential election cycle.
A famous Tacitus quote about government corruption raises a chicken and egg question. One common translation is: The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws. But it is also sometimes cited as, The more numerous the laws, the more corrupt the state.
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., are grown-ups, and it looks as though they are reaching a deal to avoid another government shutdown crisis provided superpartisans dont block it.