January 22, 2006 [LINK]

Bipartisan war on corruption!?

If there is one thing that all American people can agree on, it's that corruption is BAD -- especially when the other party is implicated in it! Today on ABC's This Week, Sen. John Kerry declared flat out that corruption is a Republican problem, rejecting the suggestion that Democrats might be connected in any significant way to the Jack Abramoff Web of scandals. A fair-minded person would say that corruption is a problem that has a disproportional effect on whichever party currently holds a majority. You don't bribe someone unless he or she has the power to give you want you want. Sen. Harry Reid apologized on Thursday after his office put out a news release in which he said, "The idea of Republicans reforming themselves is like asking John Gotti to clean up organized crime." See Washington Post. Well, at least he didn't make any comparisons to Hitler or Pol Pot.

To put the alleged misdeeds of the Bush administration and Republican congressmen in perspective, it would be only fair to review some of the past naughty deeds committed by the Democrats. Earlier this month, Sen. Hillary Clinton's 2000 senatorial campaign received a fine of $35,000 for failing to report over $700,000 in fund-raising expenses. This was part of an agreement under which the Federal Election Commission declared that Mrs. Clinton did not violate any campaign finance laws. This will allow her supporters to claim that it was just an "innocent oversight." Perhaps. (See Washington Post.)

The ten-year inquiry into former HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros for tax evasion and was finally closed without any indictments, and the prosecutor blamed former Clinton officials for successfully stonewalling. Independent counsel David M. Barrett "a coverup at high levels of our government," citing FBI and IRS employees who complained that their findings were being ignored by higher officials. Cisneros was indicated on 18 counts, but pleaded guilty to a single count, for which President Clinton pardoned him, along with Marc Rich and dozens of other swindlers. Barrett was criticized by various people for wasting taxpayer money in pursuit of a grand conspiracy which he never could prove. (See Washington Post.) In a court of law, we are all presumed innocent until proven guilty, but we also know that crooks do get away with it some times.

Meanwhile, reform-minded Republicans are quietly lining up votes for new leaders and new ethics rules for the post-DeLay era. A third contender for the House Majority Leader position has emerged: Rep. John Shadegg, of Arizona; he first drew my attention on July 30. In opinionjournal.com, he calls on Republicans to recapture "The Spirit of 1994." Well, they'd better get a move on if they hope to retain a solid majority after next fall's elections.

Tax hike for transportation?

Not content to have enacted one of the biggest tax hikes in Virginia history two years ago, creating a huge and wasteful surplus in the state treasury, "moderates" in the General Assembly are taking a cue from new Governor Tim Kaine, proposing a sweeping set of tax increase related to transportation. I'm on record as supporting tax increases on energy (especially petroleum fuel) to encourage conservation by consumers and businesses, as well as for environmental and revenue reasons, but the proposed package goes way overboard. I was encouraged that Virginia Centrist cried out against this unwarranted grab by the politicians in Richmond. I felt compelled to join in and make a point in a comment:

Why doesn't anyone make a distinction between different kinds of taxes, i.e., income vs. excise? Excess truck traffic is in part a result of the huge implicit state subsidy to highways from the general fund. This problem would remedy itself if there were a constitutional amendment barring any spending on highways from revenues other than those raised by taxes on fuel or vehicles. People who drive should bear the full cost of highway construction and maintenance.