- The Washington Times - Monday, January 23, 2006

Lobby disinfectant

If he cared to, Wisconsin Rep. Mark Green, an assistant House majority whip who serves on the Republican Policy Committee, could say, “I told you so.”

Every year he’s been in Congress — count six — Mr. Green, of Green Bay, has introduced a measure to strengthen lobbying-disclosure laws. In fact, before being seated on Capitol Hill, he guided the successful passage of a similar lobbying-reform measure through the Wisconsin state Assembly — an effort named one of the 25 most significant innovations in American government in 2000 by Harvard University.

Now, in light of perhaps a wide-reaching Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, Mr. Green is counting on Congress to finally follow suit by adding his reintroduced proposal (it would allow Americans, through an electronic filing system for lobbyists, to view all lobbying efforts, reports and disclosures) to the broader lobbying-reform legislation set to be considered in the House later this month.

Mr. Green has sent his reform request in writing to both House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois and House Rules Committee Chairman Rep. David Dreier of California.

“We haven’t found out definitively yet” if it will be included, Mr. Green’s spokesman, Luke Punzenberger, tells Inside the Beltway. “But we’re keeping our fingers crossed.”

Meanwhile, another Republican, Rep. Walter B. Jones of North Carolina, is introducing two narrow solutions that, if enacted, might work to restore public trust in Congress. One would make member and staff travel-disclosure forms publicly available within 48 hours of being filed, while the other would suspend floor privileges for all lobbyists, and that includes former members of Congress who now represent special interests.

“Special interests … should not be given access to [congressmen] on the House floor, period,” says Mr. Jones. “Sunshine is often the best disinfectant.”

Bigger than Barney

Ask Common Cause and it will tell you that Jack Abramoff is at the heart of the “biggest congressional scandal to hit Washington in decades.”

Therefore, on the subject of “Restoring Ethics in Washington,” Common Cause President Chellie Pingree — herself a one-time Democratic Senate candidate from Maine — this morning will welcome to the National Press Club former House general counsel Stanley M. Brand, American Enterprise Institute resident scholar Norman Ornstein, Harvard political philosophy professor Dennis Thompson and the executive directors of both the Florida and Kentucky commissions on ethics, Bonnie J. Williams and Anthony M. Wilhoit, respectively.

Common Cause has blasted the House and Senate ethics committees for being “silent” during the 18 months that Abramoff’s affairs have come to light. It’s calling on Congress to create a new independent ethics commission.

Point of entry

Book readers coast-to-coast — and especially border-to-border — are picking up Washington native Peter Schechter’s debut geopolitical thriller, “Point of Entry,” which we hope isn’t the timely tome one former CIA operative suggests.

“‘Point of Entry’ is to the war on terror what ‘Hunt for Red October’ was to the Cold War, a timely and evocative piece of fiction set in the context of current history,” says Jack Devine, former acting director for the CIA’s Directorate of Operations.

Scary story short: Renegade Syrian intelligence operatives have found the most effective way of smuggling Uranium 235 — the principal material needed to build an atomic weapon — into the United States undetected.

“Writing it a year ago, I was obviously worried that a lot of the issues might be out-of-date by publishing time. Luckily enough, they only became more relevant,” Mr. Schechter tells Inside the Beltway.

Enough, already

We’ve been inundated with correspondence after pointing out the amazing similarity between the frustrated look on Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s face at Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr.’s Supreme Court hearings and the condemned figure in the famous Sistine Chapel fresco.

“I have an all-female household (sans self), and so have had to watch ‘Phantom of the Opera’ on cable five times this week — my 4 year old is in love with the tortured protagonist — so I am intimately familiar with the entire movie,” writes Inside the Beltway reader John H. Quigg.

“Take a gander at the phantom holding his face when his mask is taken off … and he turns, holding his hand over his scarred visage. It is a ‘separated at birth’ moment for the good senator.”

John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or [email protected]

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