Twixt the Cup and the Lip

by Russ Roberts on February 28, 2006

in Politics

When the Senate springs into action, it springs into action, boys and girls.  Check out the opening of this AP story:

WASHINGTON — The public would know when a senator has a drink on a
lobbyist’s tab or quietly inserts a pet project into legislation under
a measure that won unanimous approval Tuesday by a Senate committee.

Will technological wonders never cease?  The public will know when a senator has a drink on a lobbyist’s tab!  How will that work exactly?  Will lobbyists be required to use special drinking glasses that when touched by senators will cause an alarm to sound, akin to one of those hurricane warning blasts?  Or maybe lobbyists will be required to purchase their drinks for senators from special bottles that contain some chemical that will change skin tone of anyone who drinks from the bottle:

"You’re looking a little jaundiced, this morning, Senator."

"I’m fine.  But I was out drinking with the Cattlemen’s Association last night."

Or maybe when a lobbyist pays for a drink, the swipe of the credit card signifying payment will send an email to every email account in the nation.  The public will know!

The actual answer is a bit disappointing.

Under Lott’s proposal, lawmakers could still accept food and drinks
from a lobbyist but would have to post the values of their meals on
their Web sites within 15 days.

That’s Trent Lott, for those of you keeping score at home.  Is he vigilant or what?  You’d only have 15 days to post the values.  Pretty tough, huh?  But then what are the requirements for a serious cash bribe, say a bag of hundred dollar bills.  They haven’t figured that one out, yet.  Maybe you’d have to post that on your web site within a week.

And how is the Senate going to monitor compliance with this 15-day food and drink requirement?  A senator-cam, maybe that the senator would wear on his lapel.  If it sensed food or drink, it would come on automatically and post video to a neutral site.  The video could then be compared to the web site of the senator to if all food and drink had been posted.

A better strategy would be just the cam without the web page requirement.  Let’s just follow senators around all day with a video camera to make sure they don’t get influenced by lobbyists.

What a charade.

Don’t miss Fred McChesney on the Abramoff scandal here.  You’ll actually understand the real scandal when you’re done.

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