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Headlines: Corruption in the News, Jan. 23rd, 2006

The Washington Post reports on Public Citizen’s expose of how lobbyists are using the "non-profit" Ripon Society to launder millions of dollars used to ferry Republican lawmakers around the globe.

The LA Times provides a lengthy profile of embattled Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio) and his extensive ties to Jack Abramoff and other Washington lobbyists. However, Ney says that “if I’m indicted, I’m running,” reports the Hill.

Former Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Aurthur Levitt, Jr. published an oped in the Washington Post today that reveals that several members of Congress threatened his independent agency with budget cuts in order to scuttle SEC actions on behalf of lobbyists. He calls for reforms including stopping the revolving door between Congress and lobbying, extensive new disclosure rules for lobbyists, a travel and gift ban, limited public financing and an independent ethics commission, all reforms that Public Citizen supports. See here for Public Citizen’s complete reform agenda.

The Houston Chronicle reports that the Republican governor of Texas, Rick Perry, has paid more than $1 million in state money to two Washington lobbying firms connected to Reps. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and admitted felon/super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Perry is the first Texas governor to ever award such contracts, which some are calling redundant in light of the existence of a state office specifically tasked to lobby for the state. Democratic representatives from Texas also note that the lobby firms have never contacted them.

The LA Newspaper Group profiles just how pervasive lobbying has become in Washington.

The Orlando Sentinel says that even lobbyists acknowledge the system needs reform.

Some members of Congress appear not to have gotten the memo: several flew to Detroit last week for the big auto show at the expense of the auto industry, the Hill reports.

The AP notes that Republican activists are concerned about how the Abramoff scandal is going to hurt their 2006 fortunes. [Via TAPPED]

However, while the season of scandal may take down Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas), a sign of our corrupt times is that his aides can expect cushy lobbying jobs if and when he is booted out of office, the Hill reports.

The Washington Post reports that the RNC led the DNC in fundraising $102 million to $51 million in 2005. However, it also notes that the DNC has been putting some major investments into its local and state level organizations (and fails to note that Dean has been turning over a lot of the money raised in local appearances directly to those organizations).

Knight Ridder reports on the competing Democrat and Republican ethics proposals and notes that Sen. Rick “K Street Project” Santorum (R-Penn.) has been tapped to lead the GOP effort. It also points out that even some lobbyists admit that unless the issue of lobbyists performing fundraising for politicians is addressed there will be no reform (public financing, anyone?). The Washington Post’s Jeffrey Birnbaum also rounds up the competing proposals and also notes the need for fundamental fundraising reform. He quotes former Rep. James Blanchard as saying “If Congress doesn’t reform fundraising, lobbying reform will be meaningless.”

Speaking of the public financing of elections, George Skelton of the LA Times, wrote a good piece on why it’s the only way to truly clean up politics and points to Gov. Schwarzenegger as example #1.

For more on this subject, see James Carville and Paul Begala’s new plan, currently outlined in the Washington Monthly.

Roll Call reports that Sen. Ken Salazar (D-Colo.)is replacing Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) on the Senate ethics panel. Is there more to this story than meets the eye?

-Conor Kenny