THE BLOG
02/28/2006 05:00 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Congress laughs at corruption -- and you

Tired of Congress doing nothing about corruption? You've got a chance this week to do something about it from the comfort of your home by joining with citizen activist groups, including Public Citizen and Common Cause.

But the members of Congress are counting on you not caring -- or doing anything -- so they can return to business as usual. During the recent Congressional recess, the insider paper The Hill reported one of the dirty little secrets about ethics reform: constituent indifference. As the paper noted:

Medicare attracts headlines. Lobbying reform does not.

Or so this week's message war seems to suggest.

Republicans and Democrats are drawing clear battle lines for and against the Medicare prescription-drug benefit during this week's Presidents Day recess, but the communications kits that leaders distributed to their individual members last week ignore a brewing standoff over changes to lobbying rules.

The absence illustrates a difficulty Republican leaders have encountered in trying to rally their members around a set of common reform principles, as well as a general lack of voter interest in lobbying reform throughout the country.

While Democrats in the House and Senate have rallied around a single set of reforms, Republicans in both chambers are splintered on the extent to which Congress should amend the laws governing member and staff interaction with lobbyists.

But Democrats are not attacking that impasse in their messages to voters. Instead, they are focusing on how "the culture of corruption" has affected drug prices and undermined the prescription-drug plan.

Meanwhile, The New York Times editorialized in Tuesday's paper, "Congress"s Search for Courage," this obvious point: "It is time to end the lip service and outright evasion that Congress has been devoting to its most flagrant scandal -- the money-soaked symbiosis of lawmakers and Washington's runaway lobbying industry." But there won't be any Congressional profiles in courage on this front unless we all pressure them to show some backbone.

Unfortunately, it seems that Congress, so far, is avoiding tough measures, including proposals to have an independent ethics commission, as proposed by Sen. Barack Obama. This week, Senate committees are considering a variety of reform proposals, some far weaker than others.

Public Citizen hosted a national call-out corruption day on Tuesday , with a chance to call your Senators. Also, if you live in selected states with Senate Governmental Affairs members, you can still call them to "bird-dog" them on ethics reform after signing up to be a Citizen Watchdog with regular legislative updates and pointers on promoting reform.

Common Cause also has an easy email letter to send to your Senator and other opportunies to challenge Congress to take ethics and campaign finance reform seriously.

Don't just read blogs. Do something about corruption -- now.