Printer Friendly Page Reduce Corruption of White House and Congress

#9  Reduce Corruption of White House Invitations,
Congressional Junkets, Etc.

Bill Clinton was asked how he justified inviting fat-cats to White House receptions and Lincoln Bedroom stayovers in exchange for enormous campaign contributions. Discussing issues with corporate types he found to be helpful, a good learning experience that had little to do with his own positions. Yes, the president may have been getting good information but it was highly unbalanced. This article explores what can be done in a fair, open, honest and commendable way to improve the balance of personal interaction of elected officials by broadening the cross-section of participation opportunities beyond the wealthy.

Campaign contributions engendered by a president's mingling with the wealthy are enormous and have been increasing rapidly from one administration to the next. Restricting campaign contributions may be helpful to reducing bribery and hypocrisy, but the need for a president to interact with and listen to corporate viewpoints should not be curtailed. An initiative is needed that leads to federal legislation designed to give a president and other elected officials more up-front and personal interaction with people of all kinds, not just big-budget corporate leaders.

No president needed interacting with a diverse group of advisors more than George W Bush, whose planning of an Iraq invasion in secrecy with a group of pro-war neocons never allowed White House contact with persons dubious about an Iraq invasion and, even worse, never allowed contact with experts who knew first-hand both war and post-war reconstruction. No one could be better in this role than those WWII veterans who helped secure the peace within a year after the occupation of Germany and Japan, so successfully that it soon turned these once brutal enemies into cold-war allies. These occupation experts could have explained the requirements for winning the peace after the war in Iraq, that eluded both the neo-cons and top leaders Cheney, Bush, Rumsfeld, and Rice, requirements now understood in some respects in the US and around the whole world.

The proposed legislation would have these features:

Whenever wealthy individuals, seeking access to national political leaders for tax relief, easing of regulations, opportunities for lucrative contracts, etc. or for other political goals, are invited to an event (including meetings, conferences or other occasions) (a) in the White House, the president, and (b) in the Washington DC area and on junkets -- trips more remote from Washington -- the president and members of Congress, must invite on the same basis as the participating wealthy and their staffs an equal number of people from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that receive no (or less than 5% of their) revenue from corporations (which people are expert in one or more of the issues that may reasonably expect to be discussed during the event) and who are not expected to make campaign contributions (or donate money that benefits the president or legislators, their families, campaigns, or charities, etc.). All invitees must be treated alike and have access to the event equal to and on the same basis as participating corporations have.

Many of the events themselves, particularly the junkets, are financed by wealthy participants for political purposes. These participants must collectively agree to pay the participating NGO representatives expenses for travel, housing and meals and provide the amenities thereof identical to that which they selected for themselves.

There are many opportunities for political leaders and or wealthy participants to fail to honestly, clearly, and openly meet the requirements of this legislation. This weakness calls for a small independent, non-partisan Oversight Committee, independently appointed, whose functions are to ascertain that (a) both the individual NGO participants in an event and their organizations meet the requirements of the legislation and (b) all NGO participants to each event file reports shortly after the event stating that they were treated according to the terms of the legislation and affirm that the total number of them attending each event was the same as (or greater than) the number of wealthy participants in that event.

The records of the Oversight Committee must be made available to anybody requesting them at little or no cost to the public. The Oversight Committee itself must be independently appointed by a process such as the following: Each year on a random, rotating basis, one of the 10 largest US Foundations that have a 501-C3 or equivalent status and agrees to provide the small funds required by Oversight Committee operations becomes the independent appointee of the Committee. The following year, one of these Foundations not previously selected to be an appointee and on a random basis becomes the appointee for the following year.

Elected officials who ignore appointing any NGOs to an event as required by this legislation and the wealthy who do attend such an event without the required number of NGO participants should both be subject to criminal action with specifics included as part of the legislation.

>>> #10 Reining in Corporate Irresponsibility

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