Q: Some newspapers have said that the view of the general public on ethics reform borders on insurrection. Is this owing to the inability of the present regime to reform itself?
A: The short answer is “yes.” The general public is frustrated and angry. And we all know where that leads. Pretty soon, everyone will be turning to religion as a means of abating their anger. Tell you the truth though; a few prayers might be in order. There’s always the possibility that God is still listening to us.
Q: But seriously now…
A (Big sigh) I’m inclined to adapt a phrase from one of Hitler’s enforcers and say that when ever I hear the word “reform,” I reach for my Lugar.”
Q: But seriously now…
A: Look, the best ethics reform is term limits. With term limits, at least we can be certain that the same crooks are not plundering the public till.
Q: Are you finished now? Got it all out? I want to have a serious discussion about the new ethics reform bill. The legislature appears to be having a bit of a problem steering that sausage through the legislative grinder.
A: Where’s my Lugar?
Q: Come on!
A: Okay. The elements of the bill proposed by Republicans now up on their web site are pretty good. This is what the Republicans want to do:
1) Revoke pensions for elected officials, state and municipal employees convicted of a crime related to their employment.
2) Make the failure of reporting a bribe a class A Misdemeanor if the public servant witnesses the offer.
3) Bar chiefs of staff in the Capitol from soliciting campaign contributions from staff members for state of municipal elections.
4) Provide mandatory ethics training for newly elected officials and refresher courses for incumbents every four years.
5) Impose a one year restriction on employment with state contractors for state employees or officials who played a significant role in awarding a state contract.
Now, those provisions answer all the ethical scandals that have surfaced over the past few years.
Under the provisions listed above, future Rowlands could be more easily prosecuted (Number 1), and their pensions would be revoked on the commission of a crime. Ex post facto legislation specifically targeted at Rowland that would have eliminated his pension was always an unconstitutional “rat” designed to sink the bill. That has been eliminated from the proposals.
Making the failure to report a bribe a class A Misdeameanor would make easier the prosecution of future DeLucas and Newtons (Number 2).
Number 3 would prevent future Lisa Moodys from muscling campaign contributions from state workers.
Number 4 is a waist of time; the application of the provisions listed and the prosecution of corrupt politicians is the best education for newbies and seasoned crooks…
Q: Come on, will’ya?
A: The provisions are great. Will they be passed? You can be sure of this: There is more than one way to kill a bill. There are three kinds of people who may thwart the proposed reforms: Republicans who anticipate some cataclysmic event that will sweep them all into office, at which point they will not want to poison the well through reforms that might rob them of their perks; Democrats who want to blow the whole thing up because they perceive that these measures do indeed remove campaign advantages; and Rep. Caruso, the patron saint of ethics reform, always willing -- to borrow a phrase from Bill Curry, the patron saint of lost elections -- to sacrifice “the good” to “the perfect.” Saints will never be satisfied with anything less than failure.
Q: So, do you think the bill will pass?
A: Come on, will’ya?