A year ago, there were only a few lone voices on Capitol Hill calling for lobbying and ethics reform. Now it seems that all of God's children have a plan to limit the grip that K Street lobbyists have on your elected officials. It is amazing how a few guilty pleas and a handful of Justice Department investigations can give so many people religion.
Republicans and Democrats have unveiled their plans for lobbying reform. Having studied these two plans extensively, I have been impressed with just how similar they are. Both parties say they want to end the revolving door that allows former members to quickly become lobbyists. Both sides want greater disclosure of lobbyist activity. Both parties call for a ban of lobbyist gifts and travel and there is growing consensus on both sides to end the practice of inserting "dead of night" special interest provisions — known as earmarks — in appropriations bills.
You might think since both sides are presenting similar plans, getting real and meaningful reform through your Congress in short order would be a slam dunk.
You would be wrong.
That's because 2006 is an election year. The entire House of Representatives and one-third of the Senate is up for reelection. Democrats sense that the Abramoff investigation will take down more Republicans than Democrats and they are anxious to impress on voters that Republicans are responsible for what they call — and they use this phrase endlessly — a "culture of corruption." The Democrats want the election-year issue more than they want to pass reform legislation.
I could be wrong about this. And I confess I have become a tad cynical after many years of watching Congress up-close. It is possible that after a round of finger-pointing and attempts to gain political advantage, both sides will settle into meaningful negotiations that will result in legislation which gives voters renewed confidence that their elected officials are looking out for their best interests — instead of the desires of special interests.
Forgive me, however, if I do not hold my breath.
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Brian Wilson is a congressional correspondent for FOX News and anchor of the Sunday edition of "Weekend Live."