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Do-Nothing Congress Does Something to Hide Its Debt to Lobbyists

The House Ethics Committee made it easier for lawmakers to take their junkets in peace.

U.S. Capitol at night. (Photo:  Adam Fagen)

When I heard our Congress critters are taking an extended vacation for all of August and part of September, I had two incongruous reactions: gratitude and anger.

Gratitude, because their vacation gives us a five-week break from the spectacle of right-wing mad dogs in the House yapping, foaming at the mouth, and running around in circles.

“Kill the minimum wage,” they howl. “Repeal the Affordable Care Act, deport immigrant children, re-invade Iraq, impeach Obama,” they go on. Yada yada yada.

Yet, nutty as they are, it’s also infuriating that these pampered politicos feel entitled to so much vacation time. It’s another sign of their total disconnect from the hard realities of the workaday majority they’re supposed to serve.

Earth to Congress critters: Most American families are being hosed out of the middle class. They have to work harder and longer for less pay, no benefits, and they don’t even get to take two weeks off, much less a five-week getaway.

In the spirit of fairness, though, I should concede that the current do-nothing House is outperforming in one category of congressional activity: junkets.

Yes, not only do our lawmakers love to vacation, but they also tiptoe around ethics rules so lobbyists can pay for their trips.

Not since the sleaze days of pay-to-play uber-lobbyist Jack Abramoff have House members taken as many cushy trips, financed by corporate interests.

Oh, excuse me. They’re called “fact-finding missions,” not junkets. By whatever name, lawmakers, their spouses, and staff enjoyed nearly 1,900 of those free trips last year — paid for by private entities seeking legislative favors.

Do you know what’s even more disgusting? The House Ethics Committee very quietly axed an ethics requirement this summer that lawmakers must disclose these travel freebies in their personal financial reports.

It’s no wonder the public approval rating for Congress is in the ditch.

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Jim Hightower

Jim Hightower

Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, writer, public speaker, and author of the book, Swim Against The Current: Even A Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow. Hightower has spent three decades battling the Powers That Be on behalf of the Powers That Ought To Be - consumers, working families, environmentalists, small businesses, and just-plain-folks.

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