Dirty Harry Reid and a Corrupt Congress

By: Greg C. Reeson

News reports about Democratic Senator Harry Reid’s Las Vegas land deal had just begun to fade into the distant memories of most Americans when new allegations surfaced about the Nevada Congressman’s possible illegal use of campaign funds. With two reports of alleged impropriety in less than two weeks, I can’t help but wonder what’s going to come up next.

First, Senator Reid allegedly violated Senate ethics rules when he failed to report a real estate transaction that netted him $1.1 million in 2004 for property he had sold three years earlier. The Senator has attributed his failure to report the deal to a “clerical error” and promises to amend his ethics reports to account for the transaction. While he’s at it, Senator Reid has revealed that he will report two additional land deals that were also omitted from his ethics filings because of “clerical errors.”

The most recent news reports allege that Senator Reid used campaign donations instead of his personal funds to pay Christmas bonuses to the support staff at the Ritz-Carlton, where he maintains his Washington residence.

Such a disbursement of donated campaign funds for personal use would be a serious violation of federal election laws. Again, a “clerical error” seems to be the culprit since the bonuses were listed as campaign salary for two years and a contribution for one year. Now, I’m not real sure how campaign salaries and contributions are related to holiday bonuses for the staff at the Ritz-Carlton, but I’m certain that Senator Reid and his lawyers will clarify that for us soon enough. In the meantime, though, the Nevada Senator has agreed to reimburse his campaign for the bonuses that were paid out because of the “clerical error.”

Senator Reid certainly has some questions to answer, but he is not alone in his troubles. From Duke Cunningham and Bob Ney to Mel Reynolds and William Jefferson, and a host of others in between, congressional scandal has become the norm in our nation’s capitol. It seems like every time I turn on the television, news channels are talking about a sex scandal, bribery allegations, or ethics violations involving our elected representatives.

Personally, I think they should all go. Power tends to corrupt and virtually the entire Congress has been in Washington way too long already. Never before has a Congress been in such need of a complete overhaul, and I mean on both sides of the aisle.

I used to be opposed to term limits because I felt, and still do feel, that they deprive voters of their choice of candidates by automatically excluding a person based on time already served in Washington. But I have gradually come to the conclusion that term limits are a necessary evil.

Incumbents have a significant advantage over their challengers. Reelection rates in the Congress are typically over 90 percent, with Senate rates slightly higher than House rates. Are we to believe that this is because of the great job they are doing representing the American people? I find that a hard pill to swallow. The truth is that current electoral rules and congressional benefits, such as free travel and free mailing, favor incumbents and unfairly disadvantage potential challengers.

The November elections will be interesting this mid-term, with no one really sure just how the results will turn out. Democratic pollsters predict a sweeping victory for Howard Dean and crew, and Republican pollsters claim they will hold on to power in both the House and Senate.

But one thing is certain. Our Congress needs help, and not just on the Republican side of the aisle. The two-party system that is dominant in this country excludes viable candidates, deprives voters of choice, and all too often leaves Americans deciding on what they believe to be the lesser of two evils. Until voters are given real choice, the people of America will be faced with the corruption and scandal of Dirty Harry Reid and a corrupt congress.

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