The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Eight Senate Democrats vote for corruption

That gargantuan porker, the highway bill HR 3, sailed through the Senate yesterday, as expected.

I had failed to notice along the way the fascinating insight into political practice offered by the Corzine amendment on pay to play [1] - which was tabled on May 11.

The Cliff Notes version is, I gather, something like this: New Jersey is among several states that have been plagued by pay-to-play scandals - the most notable case being that of Parsons Infrastructure - and legislation was enacted in the state to combat the practice.

Former Governor James McGreevey issued an order under the NJ law which
barred state contracts worth more than $17,500 from being awarded to a contractor that made political contributions to a state candidate or officeholder or a state or county political party committee.

In response, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) withheld $260m of Federal funding, on the ground that the order infringed 23 USC 112 (which limits such funding to contracts subject to competitive bidding).

The Corzine amendment was designed to eliminate this problem.

The motion to table it passed 57-40; Dems voted for were

Baucus (D-MT)
Byrd (D-WV)
Conrad (D-ND)
Dorgan (D-ND)
Landrieu (D-LA)
Murray (D-WA)
Nelson (D-NE)
Reid (D-NV)

Senate Minority Leader votes for corruption - not a hed widely seen in the public prints!

Meanwhile, on the side of the angels, we had

Chafee (R-RI)
Collins (R-ME)
Gregg (R-NH)
McCain (R-AZ)
Snowe (R-ME)

Now, the vote was one requiring a simple majority; it would have passed even if all eight renegade Dems had voted against it. Ergo, those Dems had chosen to make a public demonstration of affection towards the construction industry and their lobbyists.

And the kicker? The House passed the equivalent, the Pascrell amendment, on a voice vote. Tom DeLay's cess-pit shows an example on clean government! Why wasn't that on every front page?

The explanation for Harry Reid's coming out in favour of the brown envelope? He's not personally in hock to the construction industry, apparently. But, no doubt, he views himself as bearing a wider responsibility to maximise the funds available to Dem senators as a whole.

  1. A definition:
    Broadly defined, pay to play refers to the solicitation and receipt of campaign contributions by corporations and individuals who do business with the government, or who want to, and whose bottom line would be affected by decisions made by public officials, whether in the executive or legislative branch.

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