Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Ethics in Government

Not much good comes out of Alaska politics.  Ted Stevens.  Sarah Palin.

Now there's Sen.  Lisa Murkowski, who wants to emasculate the EPA by cutting off its authority to prosecute industries that put poison into the air we breathe.  Her first proposed amendment to the Clean Air Act, presumably written by her own staff, went down to ignominious defeat.  Now she has turned to a couple of high-paid lobbyists for those very polluting industries to rewrite her amendment, which she is re-submitting.

This kind of sleaze is commonplace in Washington and both parties do it.

No thanks to the right-wing mainstream media, we recently learned that Jonathan Gruber, a health economist at M.I.T., has been paid a great deal of our tax money to shill for the so-called health care bill that has gone to conference in Congress.

Gruber has been depicted as an objective academic  rendering expert judgment on the costs of  legislation.  He has written op-eds for the RWMM, including the New York Times, and has been widely quoted in so-called "news" reports, with no mention of his lucrative contracts to lobby for the bill.  Those contracts -- which Gruber acknowledges -- paid him either $298,000 or $392,000 or $780,000 depending upon which published estimate you choose. Even a prestigious post at a respected institution is no guarantee that an academic doesn't indulge in a bit of political prostitution on the side.

Truly independent academics from institutions large and small, famous and not so, have been truthful in their evaluations of the health care legislation.  Their consensus is that it will do little good for anyone except the private insurers and  will not control the health care cost spiral.  But they don't get invited on TV to render expert analyses or receive precious Op-Ed space in the New York Times.

Our system is corrupt.  Neither party serves the public good.  A health care bill that is neither healthy nor caring. A Clean Air Act that suggests rather than regulates.  Our elected leaders boast about these things as accomplishments.

Why aren't more of us mad as hell?

Who Owns Lisa?

As a member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural resources, Lisa Murkowski's corporate ownership is predictable.

By industry, Electric Utilities own $231,298 worth of Lovely Lisa; Oil and Gas companies own $157,650 worth; lobbyists  (mainly from the same two industries), $114,110 (source: Center for Responsive Politics campaign contribution reports).

The top single corporate contributor was Vecco Corp., an Anchorage-based oil services design and construction firm.  In 2007, two of its top executives pleaded guilty to federal bribery charges.

Others who have bought big stakes in Murkowski are Edison Chouest Offshsore ($35,250), Constellation Energy ($31,646) and Exxon-Mobil, specialists in massive oil spills caused by drunken sea captains.

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