If they don’t know a bribe when they see it … | NevadaAppeal.com

If they don’t know a bribe when they see it …

Nevada Appeal editorial board

You can’t legislate morality. Or ethics, for that matter.

Oh, you can try – as evidenced by the hundreds of such laws on the books across the land. But at some point, elected officials either get it or they don’t.

That’s our reaction to the proposal by House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., to ban all privately funded congressional “fact-finding” trips as a response to the Abramoff lobbying scandal.

Other, similar proposals by Republicans such as John McCain and Rick Santorum would also attempt to strip away the practice of “earmarking” legislation – that is, tacking pork-barrel projects onto bills as a way to buy votes.

As usual, some members of Congress got into trouble because they abused their positions. Is there anybody out there who can’t figure out that a “fact-finding” trip to play golf in Scotland is a thinly disguised bribe? Only a congressman would think otherwise, and that just shows how out of touch they are with the real world.

We agree legitimate “fact-finding” travel shouldn’t be paid by the private companies or individuals who stand to benefit from such junkets. It should come out of Congress’ budget.

Of course, that sticks taxpayers with the bill. And if members of Congress still can’t tell the difference between business and pleasure, then no such legislation is going to solve the problem.

Only two solutions remain.

• Vote the ethically challenged out of office. Until constituents demand a higher standard from their elected officials, they’ll continue to get the elected officials they deserve.

• Enforce existing laws and ethics rules. Senate and House ethics committees are in shambles, because leaders in both chambers have allowed politics to take precedence. Is it any wonder that a scandal such as Abramoff festered for so long?

No, you can’t legislate morality or ethics – especially if the people doing the legislating can’t recognize either.