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Remarks affirm good riddance to Breaux, Johnston

Do we need any more reason to breathe a sigh of relief that former Sen. John Breaux is happily enjoying retirement than remarks he made in conjunction with Congressional ethics reform? And to do the same concerning the previous Louisiana Sen. J. Bennett Johnston?

While most on the scene applaud these rules that ban meals, gifts and travel paid by lobbyists for members of Congress, Breaux complains. “When you restrict a member from interacting with the people he represents then you have a Congress that is isolated,” Breaux said. “If you’re only talking to yourself, you’re not going to get any ideas.”

There is so much ignorance wrapped up in this remark that we’ll have to look at it piece by piece. First of all, how does the banning of the perks have anything to do with restricting interaction? Is Breaux saying that you have to buy him meals, take him on trips, or give him stuff in order or else he feels that restricts interaction with him? Or, because he as a senator was the one to decide who did and did not get access to him, in other words Breaux wouldn’t give you the time of day unless you gave him perks?

And how does lobbyists not being able to give stuff to Members of Congress make Members any more isolated? Something Breaux could have done, and anybody can do now as a Member is to circulate among the people of his district or state, and just listen to concerned citizens and there’s no isolation. If there’s any isolation, it’s self-imposed by Members too willing to hang out with lobbyists and not willing enough to move among their constituents and to find out their real needs and concerns (and from his voting record, one can see how little attention Breaux paid to what was best for Louisiana.)

Of course, who Breaux said he “represents” in those days likely was not the entirety of Louisiana. In his mind, he probably believes that the people he represented themselves were represented by lobbyists he favored (now his own profession). Again, a liberal voting record against the desires of a more conservative Louisiana (who also expressed in these instances, contrary to Breaux, in terms of the right thing to do, what was correct), as well as his current career choices, shows he places more faith in special interests than he did in the people of Louisiana.

Finally, I guess Breaux never had much of an original thought in his head, nor any desire to learn things on his own, leading to his love of incessant chatter, food, and trips from lobbyists. He only had a staff of a few dozen, the entire Library of Congress, opportunities for hearings, communications from those pesky constituents, etc. to learn from. A denseness and stubbornness are the only things that could explain that, despite all of these opportunities to get ideas, he feels without lobbyists that as a policy-maker “you’re not going to get any ideas.”

Another rocket scientist legislator-turned-lobbyist, Johnston, said one gets “weaker government” by not allowing the likes of his former colleagues to partake of hundreds of thousands of dollars of perks now banned. That’s because making lobbyists pay these things to get access to Members apparently robs newly-elected members of a “useful and pleasant way for new members to learn.” Heaven forbid that Members actually use the resources listed above to learn. But even if they don’t, why don’t they learn from lobbyists without having to have the latter pony up food, travel, and gifts? Is it so painful not to be an empty suit that you have to have these perks as palliatives so you can learn about policy?

These insipid remarks shows how lucky Louisiana is to be rid of these good-old-boy, get-along-go-along dinosaurs, out of the way of progressive policy-making in this state desperately needs that they never provided. (That Breaux’s replacement Sen. David Vitter pushed wholeheartedly these reforms not only is stunningly refreshing but alone probably constitutes more good policymaking from Louisiana senators than these two brain surgeons ever managed in 42 years service.) And it reinforces the fact that in this year’s upcoming state elections that the citizenry must avoid electing lower-level clones of these clowns if that progressive policymaking is to come.

1 comment:

Lake Fred said...

Years ago, I worked for one of Louisiana's major gas producers. I was working on putting together a meeting or conference of all the gas players (producers, users, and shippers) in the state to meet in New Orleans. We contacted Sen. Johnston about addressing our group. We were told that his fee was $10,000 to speak to us. Needless to say, our group passed on that request and held our conference without the good Senator.