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jellykans's avatar

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Quote:
The Washington Post Sunday, October 7, 2012 11:39:35 PM
National News Alert
Lawmakers can reap benefits from legislation they sponsor


Seventy-three members of Congress have sponsored or co-sponsored legislation in recent years that could benefit businesses or industries in which either they or their family members are involved or invested, according to a Washington Post analysis.

The findings emerge from an examination by The Post of financial disclosure forms and public records for all 535 members of the House and Senate.

The practice is both legal and permitted under the ethics rules that Congress has written for itself, which allow lawmakers to take actions that benefit themselves or their families except when they are the lone beneficiaries.


Read more at:


http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/congress-members-back-legislation-that-could-benefit-themselves-relatives/2012/10/07/c2fa7d94-f3a9-11e1-a612-3cfc842a6d89_story.html
David2074's avatar

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While on the surface this sounds wrong it got me to thinking how would you word legislation otherwise? The already existing part about they can't be the sole beneficiary is of course a good start. But beyond that where do you draw the line?

In theory, a lawmaker should be trying to pass laws that benefit the maximum amount of people. Or to put it another way are generally working towards the overall good of the population. If they succeed in doing this it seems logical that many of those laws would benefit them or their families along with others. So how do you word legislation to draw the line between some benefit for themselves and 'too much' benefit? I think you could write such laws but not clearly define the boundaries so implementation of them would always be subjective and case by case.

In other words I'm at odds with myself between what I would like to see in an ideal world and how you could realistically implement it.
jellykans's avatar

Playful Guildswoman

David2074
While on the surface this sounds wrong it got me to thinking how would you word legislation otherwise? The already existing part about they can't be the sole beneficiary is of course a good start. But beyond that where do you draw the line?

In theory, a lawmaker should be trying to pass laws that benefit the maximum amount of people. Or to put it another way are generally working towards the overall good of the population. If they succeed in doing this it seems logical that many of those laws would benefit them or their families along with others. So how do you word legislation to draw the line between some benefit for themselves and 'too much' benefit? I think you could write such laws but not clearly define the boundaries so implementation of them would always be subjective and case by case.

In other words I'm at odds with myself between what I would like to see in an ideal world and how you could realistically implement it.


Valid concern here - it is often very difficult to establish good legislation from legislation that can create problems or be abused. Pew Research Center A nonpartisan fact tank that provides information on the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world through public opinion polling, social ...(google search tag) is a consistently high quality source on policy. Some policy institutes offer model legislation, and they range from nonpartisan to highly partisan.

I don't expect an ideal world, but would like to see a more realistic public life.

All too often our politicians focus on fund-raising for reelection and skip voting or vote on issues where they are not fully informed. They have to rely on aides, the workload is unmanageable, and too many do not even try. Model legislation often comes from lobbyists. Too often gridlock prevents much being passed at all. Many California legislators have a small booklet available for constituents on how a proposal becomes law in the state legislature, you just need to ask for one from the person who represents you. It is very helpful. A major difference between that process and the one at federal level is that Voters here can pass laws, which often earmark funds raised for only that law - we now have so many of these that it makes the state budget a nightmare, with so many funds earmarked.

A law without funding is generally not enforced, but when too much of the income is mandated so it cannot be used elsewhere - that is a problem as well.
David2074's avatar

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jellykans
David2074
While on the surface this sounds wrong it got me to thinking how would you word legislation otherwise? The already existing part about they can't be the sole beneficiary is of course a good start. But beyond that where do you draw the line?

In theory, a lawmaker should be trying to pass laws that benefit the maximum amount of people. Or to put it another way are generally working towards the overall good of the population. If they succeed in doing this it seems logical that many of those laws would benefit them or their families along with others. So how do you word legislation to draw the line between some benefit for themselves and 'too much' benefit? I think you could write such laws but not clearly define the boundaries so implementation of them would always be subjective and case by case.

In other words I'm at odds with myself between what I would like to see in an ideal world and how you could realistically implement it.


Valid concern here - it is often very difficult to establish good legislation from legislation that can create problems or be abused. Pew Research Center A nonpartisan fact tank that provides information on the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world through public opinion polling, social ...(google search tag) is a consistently high quality source on policy. Some policy institutes offer model legislation, and they range from nonpartisan to highly partisan.

I don't expect an ideal world, but would like to see a more realistic public life.

All too often our politicians focus on fund-raising for reelection and skip voting or vote on issues where they are not fully informed. They have to rely on aides, the workload is unmanageable, and too many do not even try. Model legislation often comes from lobbyists. Too often gridlock prevents much being passed at all. Many California legislators have a small booklet available for constituents on how a proposal becomes law in the state legislature, you just need to ask for one from the person who represents you. It is very helpful. A major difference between that process and the one at federal level is that Voters here can pass laws, which often earmark funds raised for only that law - we now have so many of these that it makes the state budget a nightmare, with so many funds earmarked.

A law without funding is generally not enforced, but when too much of the income is mandated so it cannot be used elsewhere - that is a problem as well.


The problem with think tanks - or perhaps a better way of saying it is the advantage they have - is they are commenting on pending laws or just made laws. This gives them the ability to address specific issues with the advantage of hindsight (as in someone has already put the proposed law down on paper). By comparison a law about not making self serving laws has to try to look into the future and anticipate all things a legislator might do and word things to n** off the 'bad' laws he/she might make while still allowing the 'good' laws.

IMO one of the things they could do is outlaw add ons and amendments to laws that are not directly related to the main law. And if there is debate about whether it is that goes up for a vote as well. So for example there can't be a bill about military spending and some senator tacks on some pork barrel amendment for a new bridge or a farming subsidy in his state. A lot of the self serving crap slips through in the back pages as amendments and I think it is shameless.
jellykans's avatar

Playful Guildswoman

David2074
jellykans
David2074
While on the surface this sounds wrong it got me to thinking how would you word legislation otherwise? The already existing part about they can't be the sole beneficiary is of course a good start. But beyond that where do you draw the line?

In theory, a lawmaker should be trying to pass laws that benefit the maximum amount of people. Or to put it another way are generally working towards the overall good of the population. If they succeed in doing this it seems logical that many of those laws would benefit them or their families along with others. So how do you word legislation to draw the line between some benefit for themselves and 'too much' benefit? I think you could write such laws but not clearly define the boundaries so implementation of them would always be subjective and case by case.

In other words I'm at odds with myself between what I would like to see in an ideal world and how you could realistically implement it.


Valid concern here - it is often very difficult to establish good legislation from legislation that can create problems or be abused. Pew Research Center A nonpartisan fact tank that provides information on the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world through public opinion polling, social ...(google search tag) is a consistently high quality source on policy. Some policy institutes offer model legislation, and they range from nonpartisan to highly partisan.

I don't expect an ideal world, but would like to see a more realistic public life.

All too often our politicians focus on fund-raising for reelection and skip voting or vote on issues where they are not fully informed. They have to rely on aides, the workload is unmanageable, and too many do not even try. Model legislation often comes from lobbyists. Too often gridlock prevents much being passed at all. Many California legislators have a small booklet available for constituents on how a proposal becomes law in the state legislature, you just need to ask for one from the person who represents you. It is very helpful. A major difference between that process and the one at federal level is that Voters here can pass laws, which often earmark funds raised for only that law - we now have so many of these that it makes the state budget a nightmare, with so many funds earmarked.

A law without funding is generally not enforced, but when too much of the income is mandated so it cannot be used elsewhere - that is a problem as well.


The problem with think tanks - or perhaps a better way of saying it is the advantage they have - is they are commenting on pending laws or just made laws. This gives them the ability to address specific issues with the advantage of hindsight (as in someone has already put the proposed law down on paper). By comparison a law about not making self serving laws has to try to look into the future and anticipate all things a legislator might do and word things to n** off the 'bad' laws he/she might make while still allowing the 'good' laws.

IMO one of the things they could do is outlaw add ons and amendments to laws that are not directly related to the main law. And if there is debate about whether it is that goes up for a vote as well. So for example there can't be a bill about military spending and some senator tacks on some pork barrel amendment for a new bridge or a farming subsidy in his state. A lot of the self serving crap slips through in the back pages as amendments and I think it is shameless.


I absolutely agree on the face of it - I wonder if there is an unexpected downside to that. Looking at the future effects of a law ... mmm, yes.

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