“No Man’s life liberty or property is safe while the legislature is in session”.

- attributed to NY State Judge Gideon Tucker

Friday, June 24, 2011

Congressional Aide Income from Private Corporations

Wednesday's edition of the Wall Street Journal carried a long article discussing the practice of Congressional aides being retained by, and receiving large payments from, firms which have business with the committees on which the aides' Representatives or Senators sit.

Several examples were cited by name, with Senate Majority Leader Reid's aide, David Krone, being paid $1.2MM by Comcast. The table in which the information was highlighted attributed the payment notionally to "reimbursement for a condominium," but you'd have to be an idiot not to expect that, after all the paper trails and laundering are parsed, Krone basically got paid for Comcast's access to his boss, Harry Reid.

The article, and quotes accompanying the various, bi-partisan examples of Congressional aides enriching themselves for access to the members for whom they work, all swear that appropriate conflict-of-interest policies were followed.

But that isn't the point, and it never has been. Which is, I suppose, what these Representatives, Senators and aides all choose to ignore.

I don't care whether David Krone directly helped Comcast in exchange for the $1.2MM in a way that is or was a "conflict of interest."

I care that David Krone is allowed to personally enrich himself way beyond anything sensible simply because he is Harry Reid's aide.

Krone is a federal employee whose job is, or should be, assisting his boss to do the public's business. It isn't right to the other 200MM+ employable Americans that David Krone should make $1.2MM simply because he's a key aide to the leader of the Senate. That's obscene, offensive and insulting to every other American.

If David Krone wants to make millions, he should pursue work in the private sector. Being a federal employee who is gifted such a large sum by a private corporation tells you that influence and/or access is for sale in Washington.

I seriously doubt Brian Roberts and Comcast simply decided that they like David Krone and decided to do him a $1.2MM favor for nothing.

I'm not in favor of numerous laws policing the behaviors of federal employees and elected officials, but when I read of Krone's magical good fortune, I think it's high time for at least one more.

Aides to members of Congress should be prohibited from receiving money from other sources, above some limit (perhaps $25,000), that does not arise from sale of an asset or previously-owned wealth. Sale of real estate and the like should be audited for possible evasion of the policy if the amounts exceed the limit.

It's sad that such mechanisms would have to be considered. But it's evident that it never occurred to Harry Reid that allowing his aide to book a $1.2MM income from a private firm while employed by the Senator looks bad and corrupt, and further lowers the public's trust of Congress.

Has Harry Reid no sense whatsoever? Or does he condone a 'grab all you can while you're here' attitude for members of Congress and their aides? Either way, it's disgraceful for Reid and the other Congressional members mentioned in the Journal piece, including Olympia Snowe and Barney Frank, to be allowing their aides to pad their incomes in such questionable manners.

It's emblematic of the low ethics which obviously rule in Washington, and which so many of us voters realize govern how our tax dollars and the public's business is done by our elected Representatives and Senators- of both parties.

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