Muckrakers Rejoice!

As a professional muckraker, I wouldn’t mind so much if this whole lobbying reform effort just passed on by without much more of a fuss. True reform would be bad for business.

But as a citizen, I must admit to some frustration.

Say it with me: There is a bipartisan reluctance to pass strong ethics reform. How does that sound to you? It’s true.

Yesterday, Democrats had another chance to help set themselves apart from Republicans on this issue and to really push it. Without getting mired in the specifics, here’s the thing: Sens. Collins (R-ME) and Lieberman (D-CT) put forward legislation that would establish an Office of Public Integrity, an external agency to investigate ethics complaints. Sen. Obama put forward something very similar last month and it didn’t make much of a splash.

It didn’t go over any better this time around. Three Senate Democrats on the committee helped vote it down 11-5.

Now, two of the three Dems – Sens. Akaka (D-HI) & Pryor (D-AR) – who voted against it sit or recently sat on the Senate ethics committee. Apparently they agree with Sen. Voinivich that “The ethics committee is already doing those things.” Fine. How many voters think that? Do you?

The Republicans haven’t had to stick their necks out on this one yet. Make them fight for their gifts and meals. And make them, again and again, get up in front of cameras and say that the ethics process is working.

If they don’t, then nothing meaningful will come of any of this. And the muckraker in me would rejoice.