Harry Reid speaks out on the culture
I have been in public service for over 40 years and never been as disillusioned as I am today. In 1977, I was appointed chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission. It was a difficult time for the gaming industry and Las Vegas, which were being overrun by organized crime.
During the next few years, there would be threats on my life, FBI stings and even a car bomb placed in my family's station wagon. What is happening today in Washington is every bit as corrupt as when Las Vegas was run by the mob, but the consequences for our country are worse. This Republican organized crime has created the most corrupt government in our history. Their "K Street Project" is a shakedown machine that would make the mafia blush. We cleaned up Las Vegas, and we will clean up Washington DC.
Today, Democrats from Howard Dean in Ohio to Nancy Pelosi and me in Washington are declaring our commitment to a government as good and honest as the people it serves. To achieve that vision, this morning we introduced the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act. Our tough, real reforms go beyond the public relations fixes Republicans suggest.
For example, a key proposal in the Act, known as "The Jack Abramoff Rule", will ban staff and members from receiving gifts, meals and travel from lobbyists. This is not just about talking the talk; we are going to walk the walk, right now. Last night I told my staff that even though this bill is not yet law our office will follow its provisions starting today. I am going to lead by example, and I challenge George Bush to do the same.
Republicans will be introducing their own ethics legislation. Quite frankly having Republicans trying to clean up the mess in Washington would be like asking John Gotti to clean up organized crime.
There is a price to pay for the culture of corruption, and we can see it in almost every major issue facing our country. Big Oil, protected by Republicans reaped $100 billion in profits in 2005 while middle class families are paying more for gas, heat, and other needs. Take the state of health care. There are the HMOs that benefited from the $10 billion slush fund in the Medicare bill. On the other side are seniors who face gaps in their coverage, and skyrocketing prescription drug costs.
And then there is our national debt. On one side are the special interests and the multimillionaires who have received tremendous tax breaks over the last five years. On the other side are our children and grandchildren who will pay for these tax cuts when they inherit billions in debt.
We are seeing what happens when lawmakers and lobbyists conspire to put the needs of special interests before the needs of the American people. Democrats will put a stop to the culture of corruption--period.
Harry Reid is the Senate Minority Leader.