Perriello challenges the untouchable
By Luanne Traud, Roanoke Times
Tom Perriello isn't behaving like a freshly minted member of Congress. New back-benchers generally hope that one day, they, too, might rise to prominence. But first they need to demonstrate they are reliable, loyal party stewards so that they can gain the right assignments and, eventually, when they've put in the time, rise to chair an important subcommittee.
Perriello's independent streak has no time for rank-and-file allegiance. He has made haste to challenge entrenched House practices.
He's already pushed for transparency that requires members to post on their Web sites requests for earmarks. And now, he has signed on as an original cosponsor of a bill that would prohibit members from taking campaign contributions and awarding earmarks to the same people.
It's a courageous move, made all the more so because Perriello isn't just challenging the opposition party but is taking on power brokers within his own Democratic Party. Few are more powerful, more wedded to earmarks, more capable of dealing out harsh punishment to those who buck them than John P. Murtha. [link]
Perriello may be "independent." Though there's been no indication of it in his voting, which is where it counts. But he's also pathetically naive. He thinks he can stop John Murtha from rewarding constituents with earmarks who donate to his reelection campaigns? Has he never heard of PMA?
For those not familiar with the now-defunct Washington lobbying group, PMA took on clients that were seeking federal contracts (and earmarks), took handsome payments from those clients with the promise to lobby on their behalf before specific congresspersons, do just that, and donate large piles of cash to those same congresspersons (including - famously - John Murtha). So Perriello's effort that "would prohibit members from taking campaign contributions and awarding earmarks to the same people" is already being gotten around by the use of a middleman. Yesterday it was PMA; if Perriello's naivete becomes law, tomorrow there'll be a host of PMA's.
Contributor → PMA → Congressman → Contributor.
So what would Perriello's legislation have accomplished?
No, the better way to approach the problem would be to shine the light of day on the corruption (as well as the glaring waste) and resolve to throw the bums out. It's amazing what a few upsets on election night will do to get career politicians to listen. Think gun control and Jack Brooks.
You can't fault Tom Perriello for trying. After all, he's new to this and doesn't know any better. But someone should inform the rookie that he's barking up the wrong tree. His effort to stop his compatriots from earmarking? As the saying goes, that dog won't hunt.