A Peek Into Congressional Corruption

Contrary to popular perception, it's actually quite easy to get the attention of most members of congress on an issue of particular concern to you -- just write your request on the back of a big campaign check.

Alas, few of us peasants have the wherewithal to spread five-figure checks around the capitol, so we're left out of this insider's game. Of course, congress critters themselves indignantly deny that any such game goes on, but every now and then, the congressional log gets lifted... and we get an eyeful of the ugly squirmies underneath.

The latest ugly incident involves a Kansas corporation called Westar Energy Inc. and four top congressional leaders. We only know about this because some Westar executives were caught this year in a mess of criminal activity, and the subsequent investigation turned up a most interesting email from a Westar vice-president to the other executives.

The company wanted an exemption from a federal regulation and hoped to have its exemption slipped into an energy bill. "We have a plan for participation to get a seat at the table," says the email, which then bluntly names the price: "The total package will be $31,500 in hard money (individual) and $25,000 in soft money (corporate)."

It then names the four congress critters who named the price -- Reps. Tom DeLay, Joe Barton, Billy Tauzin and Sen. Richard Shelby. The money was paid -- and sure enough, Rep. Barton slipped Westar's exemption into the bill.

When the email became public, all four of these congressional squirmies feigned outrage that anyone could even think they would trade legislative favors for campaign cash. But there it was -- they admit they took the cash... and promptly did the deed, all behind what they thought at the time were securely closed doors.

This is Jim Hightower saying... To stop this corrupt corporate money, we must provide public financing of our elections. To start where you live, call Public Campaign: 202-293-0222.

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