Getting real after Abramoff

  • The Washington Examiner
  • |
  • February 08, 2006

by Karen Feld

Most members of Congress are hesitant to take sponsored trips in this post-Abramoff culture – or at least they’re not talking about it. But Rep. Tom Udall, D-N.M., and his wife just returned from Punta Mita near Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. This is one of the few congressional trips that members of Congress don’t hesitate to talk about anymore. He attended a bipartisan Aspen Institute gathering on Latin American issues. Udall described the meeting as “in-depth and intense.””It’s the purest form of travel you can get – no lobbyists, no staff,” Udall said. “It’s paid for by the [congressional] program [at the Aspen Institute] run by former Sen. Dick Clark [R-Iowa].” Clark moderated, and participants also included Sens. Dick Lugar, R-Ind., and Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Reps. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and George Miller, D-Calif. Rep. Tom Coles, R-Okla., had planned to attend but was called back to Oklahoma to deal with fires that ravaged the state.

Roberts’ rules on reform

“I don’t sell my vote for lunch,” Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., assured me during our discussion about lobbying reform at the French ambassador’s residence the other evening. “None of us have time for lunch.”

Roberts said he worries about what works under the banner of reform. “It’s about perception. There are 23,000 lobbyists representing everything from aardvarks to zebras,” he said.

And Jacobs defines bribery

Former Rep. Andy Jacobs Jr., D-Ind., e-mailed this thought to ponder: “The only reason lobbyist campaign ‘contributions’ – the mother of all congressional corruption – aren’t bribery is that Congress gets to say what bribery is. … They propose that the sources of the loot be disclosed, which is already the useless law and the same as saying that robbery is OK so long as it’s daylight robbery.”

Sammy coming too late to D.C.?

Baseball insiders wonder if home-run hitter Sammy Sosa will sign with the Nationals. If he does, the likelihood of his breaking his own record is low because of RFK Stadium’s configuration – not to mention his declining ability. Sosa is the only player to have three seasons of more than 60 home runs. He’s been accused of using steroids and his numbers have declined sharply in recent years. He didn’t do well in Baltimore last year. As a young boy, he earned 35 cents in the Dominican Republic for shining shoes. Today Sosa, although still a draw, is a star with no shine.

Another Landrieu for NOLA?

Here’ s one politician helped by a disaster. Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, D-La., plans to challenge embattled New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin in the April municipal election. Landrieu, an attorney who lost a previous mayoral contest, is the brother of Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and the son of former New Orleans mayor and HUD Secretary Moon Landrieu. New Orleans likes to keep it all in the family.

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