Republicans in Iowa who’re running for Congress suggest Republicans in the nation’s capitol are failing to enact enough ethics reforms. A former Republican leader in the U.S. House is under endictment over campaign issues, a Republican congressman from California resigned after admitting to taking bribes, and lobbyist Jack Abramoff has been convicted of conspiracy.
Jeff Lamberti, a Republican from Ankeny who’s hoping to unseat Democrat Congressman Leonard Boswell, says Republicans in Washington need to do more to respond to those and other ethics questions. “They’ve spent some time talking about it, but they haven’t taken that much action at this point,” Lamberti says. Lamberti says lobbyists or corporations do not need to pick up the travel tabs for members of congress, and Lamberti suggests the Iowa law which forbids state lawmakers from accepting anything worth more than two-dollars-and-99 cents might be something congress should consider.
Mike Whalen, a Republican businessman in the Quad Cities who’s running for the seat now held by Congressman Jim Nussle, agrees. “It works well in Iowa. I don’t see why it can’t work well in Washington,” Whalen says. “When you send somebody out to do a job in congress, I don’t think you’re sending them out there to have an array of perks.” Whalen says those posh perks are one reason the public approval rating for Congress stands at about 28 percent today. “I just read that former members of the House and Senate have access to the floor and to the gym facilities,” Whalen says. “I’m a little confused as to why when someone leaves the job they would still retain those perks.”
Whalen says it’s “not unreasonable” to call for an end “to a lot of what goes on” in Washington. Whalen, for example, says each member of Congress gets a million dollars a year to run their office, and there should be enough money to pay for their own travel rather than dipping into “some lobbyist’s pocket” to cover their fare. “Every few years we have these kind of brought-to-light deals and a little gets done but not enough,” Whalen says. “Hopefully, they’ll go far enough this time.”
Bill Dix, a state Representative from Shell Rock who is competing against Whalen for the G-O-P nomination in the first congressional district. Dix says people who’re breaking current law need to be punished, but reforms are necessary. “I think anything that can be done that provides more disclosure and let’s people know who is supporting the campaigns is a good thing,” Dix says. But Dix is not calling for congress to live under the three-dollar gift limit that he abides by as a state legislator. Dix does say there’s no reason that members of congress should go on “extravagant trips” paid for by lobbyists.
Brian Kennedy, the other Republican hoping to replace Nussle, says corruption is a “cancer on congress” and it must be cured by reform. “In order to make sure that people have faith in their institutions of government, we need to have some reform in congress,” he says. Kennedy’s number one recommendation is that lobbyists should be barred from donating money or giving personal gifts to members of congress.
In addition, Kennedy says there’s no reason members of congress should be allowed to fly at very low cost on corporate planes. Kennedy’s also calling for what he calls “real time lobbying disclosure” — requiring an immediate internet posting to show when a lobbyist is meeting with a member of congress. Kennedy is a long-time Republican party operative who currently lives in Bettendorf.