As the Senate this week took up a controversial proposal for a federal asbestos compensation trust fund, the legislation’s Republican sponsor, Pennsylvania’s Sen. Arlen Specter, unwittingly provided yet another demonstration of why the current corruption scandals cry out for reform.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) called the plan to create a $140 billion fund a terrible idea, Reuters reported, saying the bill was on the Senate floor only because lobbyists representing companies that would benefit had dumped $144 million on lobbying efforts to get it there. That enraged Specter: "To accuse us to have been pawns in the hands of lobbyists is beyond slander, beyond insult, beyond outrage," he thundered.
Reid was certainly playing games. Still, he spoke to a political reality in this age of scandal: even if a member might not be in the pocket of lobbyists, the money mess makes it easy for people to assume that they are – and public confidence goes in the tank, whether perception matches reality or not. It’s just one more reason why we need to clean the whole town up.