Albion Monitor /Commentary

Corrupt Washington Distracts Public With Sideshows

by Russell Sadler

America has the most corrupt government since the 1880s
ASHLAND, Ore. -- What passes for news from Washington these days would be laughable if it wasn't so pathetic. The lapdogs in the Washington press corps are about as predictable and reliable as old editions of Pravda.

Threatened with impeachment proceedings by a partisan congress, Attorney General Janet Reno is investigating whether President Bill Clinton solicited campaign contributions from the White House. A federal law, we are told, prohibits soliciting campaign funds on federal property.

What we are not told is that the law was passed during the Garfield administration in the 1880s to prevent corrupt elected officials from forcing federal employees to kick back part of their salaries in exchange for keeping their jobs. The law was amended In the wake of Watergate to prohibit telephone solicitation by members of Congress, but the President and Vice President were deliberately exempted because both live on federal property 24 hours a day.

The noisy investigation into the Internal Revenue Service is a smokescreen blown up by conservatives
This sideshow is a further effort to sidetrack the public from the real problem of campaign fund raising that is corrupting all political parties and all branches of government. Washington-based reporters, political handlers and "experts" are bewildered by the casual way the public accepts these "revelations."

The investigations lack credibility because they are so transparently one-sided. Americans know, if Beltway denizens do not, that America has the most corrupt government since the 1880s. That is the last time Washington was a vast bazaar and everything was for sale. The Gay Nineties was the last time a popular political ideology reduced all human behavior to a financial transaction between consenting adults.

Even if Congress had the will to reform the system -- which it does not -- no reform is possible until the Supreme Court reverses the Buckley vs. Vallejo decision that holds campaign contributions to be the moral equivalent of free speech and almost legalizes bribery. Most of the from Washington is a diet of deliberately concocted sideshows.

There is the spectacle of that Orange County loser, Bill Dornan, spraying anyone within range with congressional subpoenas and racist attacks on Latino-Americans and immigrants. Dornan's transparent abuse of the subpoena to force those he attacks to hire expensive lawyers to defend his empty charges is a new development in the new Beltway game of bankrupting opposition public figures. At public expense, politicians get the victims in the gunsights of contrived congressional "investigations" that investigate anything but what is really going on.

Republicans beat the Democrats in the soft-money derby, but the Washington press corps dutifully accepts contrived, spoon-fed "scandal" stories from "think tanks" and "foundations" instead of conducting their own investigations into the campaign fundraising abuses that give Americans the best government money can buy.

The noisy investigation into the Internal Revenue Service is a smokescreen blown up by conservatives trying to prevent an IRS probe of the practice of giving money to charitable, educational tax-exempt organizations who then launder the money for political purpose while granting tax deductions and anonymity to political contributors.

Most Americans no longer distinguish between corrupt Democrats and Republicans
In Oregon, political activist Ruth Bendel says medical manufacturer Loren Parks, a regular contributor to conservative causes, complains about the large cut the National Taxpayers Union takes before sending the money to Oregon Taxpayers United to finance a property tax limitation intiative. Campaign reports filed in accordance with Oregon election law show only a contribution from one "educational" organization to another. Parks gets anonymity and a tax deduction for a patently political contribution that should be disclosed by law.

The practice is common among interest groups throughout the political spectrum, but it was pioneered by conservatives like House Speaker Newt Gingrich to encourage contributions and launder the real identity of donors. In Oregon as elsewhere, there are calls for an IRS investigation of the practice because the organizations get their "tax deductible, educational" status from Sec. 501(3)(c) of the Internal Revenue Code. Conservatives on Capitol Hill are not about to allow the IRS to investigate their meal tickets among the "educational" foundations.

Conservative Republicans are noisily searching for "activist judges" among President Clinton's appointees. More objective authorities like the American Bar Association say Clinton's judicial appointments are usually centrist. The sideshow is deliberately designed to disguise the fact that the judicial activists on the bench are conservatives like U.S. District Judge Michael Hogan, who enjoined Oregon's voter-approved physician-assisted suicide intiative before it ever went into effect.

The case had no plaintiff, no victim, no facts to try. Hogan simply substituted his judgment for the judgment of the voters -- the very definition of judicial activism. Much of the phony search for "judicial activism" is spiteful revenge for Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, who was once rejected for the federal bench.

The boys and girls inside the Beltway do not seem to realize most Americans no longer distinguish between corrupt Democrats and Republicans. The Capitol is corrupt -- the finest government money can buy. When everything in Washington is for sale, why should we be surprised Asians or anyone else wants to buy in?

Russell Sadler is a syndicated columnist who teaches journalism and environmental studies at Southern Oregon University in Ashland

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Albion Monitor September 29, 1997 (

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