WASHINGTON - September 7 - Reform groups sent a letter today challenging members of Congress on their failure to deal with the corruption scandals in this Congress and calling on members to make a commitment to fight for the lobbying and ethics reforms that are essential to restoring the integrity of Congress.
The groups include the Campaign Legal Center, Common Cause, Democracy 21, the League of Women Voters, Public Citizen and U.S. PIRG.
According to the letter sent today by the reform groups to House members, "As we head into the final weeks of the 109th Congress, this Congress has done nothing to address the worst congressional corruption scandals in decades. Congress has enacted no reforms to address the ethics, lobbying and influence- money scandals that have been a hallmark of the 109th Congress."
A similar letter was sent to all senators.
The letter to House members continues, "As of today, one former member of the House in this Congress sits in jail convicted of bribery; a second House Member is under criminal investigation for potential bribery, having been found with $90,000 in cash in his freezer; a third House Member, who has resigned, is under indictment for criminal campaign finance violations and is a central figure in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandals; and a fourth House Member, who has also resigned, is another key player in the Abramoff scandals and reportedly is under criminal investigation for participating in corrupt activities."
The letter states, "In addition, as of today, the Justice Department is conducting a criminal corruption investigation into the Abramoff lobbying scandals in Congress, with several additional members of Congress reportedly also under investigation for their activities in connection with Abramoff. Another criminal corruption investigation is being conducted in the aftermath of the Cunningham bribery conviction that reportedly may involve other House Members and their roles in earmarking federal funds for private interests; and yet another investigation of a House Member reportedly is being conducted by the FBI in connection with the Member's real estate interests, nonprofit groups he founded and federal earmarks he provided to the nonprofits."
According to the letter, "There are no new laws and no new congressional ethics rules to deal with the campaign contributions that influence-seekers provide for members of Congress, the domestic and foreign vacation-type trips they pay for, the company planes they provide at bargain rates, including for campaign fundraising trips, and the numerous other financial favors and perks they make available to Members."
The letter continues, "Furthermore, the lobbying and ethics legislation passed by the House and Senate, and purportedly waiting to go to conference, is not expected to produce meaningful lobbying and ethics reforms, even if a conference agreement is reached."
The letter adds, "There are reports that the House and/or Senate may enact some earmark reforms in September. This, however, does not address the fundamental problems that exist with the lobbying laws and congressional ethics rules. These critical issues must be dealt with to address the widespread corruption problems that have been revealed in this Congress."
According to the letter from the reform groups, "The failure of Congress to respond in any real way to the congressional corruption scandals is a national disgrace."
The letter states, "While there have been serious lobbying and ethics reform bills introduced in the House in this Congress, such as H.R.5677, introduced by Representatives Christopher Shays (R-CT) and Marty Meehan (D-MA), none of these reform bills has been passed by the House."
The letter adds, "We deplore the failure of this Congress to take any meaningful steps to deal with the extraordinary congressional corruption scandals that have occurred."
According to the letter, "We are committed to continuing to fight a major battle in this Congress, and the next Congress, to enact the fundamental lobbying and ethics reforms that are essential to restoring the health and integrity of our democracy and of the House as an institution."
The letter states, "We believe it is time for members of Congress to make this commitment as well."
A copy of the House letter is available at http://www.democracy21.org.