Chicago Sun-Times
The scoop from Washington

Obama, weaned off of subsidized corporate planes, urges colleagues to do same in Senate ethics push.

| 19 Comments

By Lynn Sweet
Sun-Times Washington Bureau Chief
WASHINGTON -- In symbol and substance, Senate Democrats are testing their new power, offering tougher ethics and lobbying rules as their first piece of legislation.

''At the end of the day, the Senate will pass the most sweeping reforms since Watergate,'' predicted Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Monday.

Reid was joined by Senate Democrats Barack Obama and Russ Feingold and eight Democratic freshmen sworn in last Thursday.

Reid sponsored S. 1, making the first bill an ethics and lobbying crackdown. The Senate starts debate on it today. It's not as strong as the resolution the House passed last week, but Reid said he welcomed amendments to make it tougher.

''Hopefully I can support Senators Obama and Feingold and the freshmen on things they feel is important to do,'' Reid said.

Obama and Feingold, in their ethics bill, call for the creation of an independent Office of Public Integrity; Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) also plans to call for the same in a bill he will sponsor.

Last year, GOP and Democratic senators rejected the proposal, and Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have not supported an outside ethics office.

Obama and Feingold also want to require senators and their campaigns to pay the full costs for use of a corporate jet, rather than the much cheaper first-class airfare now required.

Use of discounted corporate planes is a perk senators have been resisting giving up. In 2005, Obama accepted this corporate discount 23 times before ending the practice in January 2006, after he was named a Democratic spokesman on ethics. Now when he travels on a charter plane, he pays for it with campaign funds.

Obama wrote in his latest book, The Audacity of Hope, about the seduction of plush corporate aircraft and how his staff advised him to quit taking the perk.

He revisited the subject on Monday, after being asked why senators have a hard time giving up subsidized plane rides.

''I'm somebody who transitioned from having used them,'' Obama said.
''Now, why do you think there's resistance? Well, because corporate jets are nice. You know, they're convenient. They're waiting for you. You don't have to take your shoes off.''

Obama later told the Sun-Times that the Democratic leaders will not demand party line votes, which will make it easier to form coalitions with Republicans to get something enacted.

19 Comments

Lynn,
Lots of folks are bashing Obama as the media darling and showing disgust over articles such as your previous one about his shirtless photo. But whenever some legislation is being proposed, there is no comment, no rangling nothing. It goes to show that the haters are there only to bash B.O. and have nothing substantial to hit him with. Where are all of the right wingers who wish he had some sort of record or would do something to help the citizenry when you put forth a piece regarding his actual work? This legislation seems trivial but I believe it will go a long way in cleaning up our federal gov't.

K.Brown-
Lynn is about 1 for 15, in that for every 15 gossip columns she writes, there is 1 with substance on Obama. Look at her article histories! She belongs at 'Fashion weekly', or 'Celeb watch'.
Since when is Lynn the official 'Obama watch' writer for the suntimes.

Right wingers are all for cleaning up government. It's great that Obama doesn't want to fly on corporate jets for free anymore. But trying to imply that the Dems' are going to clean up congress is a far cry, especially when you have democratic freezers literally filled with cash from bribes, and reps up for the ethics panel who are actively investigated for crimes, and have already broken campaign promises with an official 'hard 3 1/2 day work week'!!

If Obama has done sooo much K.Brown, name several things that Obama has recently done for his constituents in Illinois? It sure as heck has not been speaking out against the rampant corruption in his home state!

All this style over substance gushing simply proves America has become an Obama nation.

to mark-

first of all it is wrong to point to the one instance of impropriety from the democrats in the last congress, (the congressman jefferson who got caught with frozen money), and to claim the GOP is all about cleaning up the government, when their house majority leader, Tom Delay had to resign and is currently under indictment from a grand jury for a number of offenses. The Jack Abrahamoff scandal was focused, mostly but not entirely in the GOP, so don't act like they are the promoters of ethics and decency.

As far as what Obama has done, I'll give you three things:
(and if you'd like more before your next rant go to http://thomas.loc.gov/ or www.barackobama.com and you can look up his positions and accomplishments yourself)

1) Posting of all government expenditures online. Obama sponsored a bill to post all government spending online for public examination, thereby hoping to limit some of the shameless porkbarrel spending that wastes taxpayer money.

2) Worked with Senator Richard Lugar (R) to halt the proliferation of the Soviet nuclear arsenal, which is currently a great threat to the US, with many of the former bases and weapons residing in countries with far less law and money than they had during the USSR, which could raise the possibility of their spread.

3) Worked with Senator Lugar again on the Lugar-Obama bill, to halt the spread of conventional weapons, (Rocket Propelled Grenades, shoulder launched missiles, etc.) that are currently the weapons being used to kill US soldiers and bring down helicopters in Iraq.

Keeping in mind he has only been in office 2 years, those are some good accomplishments, in addition to the many others he has made.

If you are going to rate politicians on how well they clean up the cesspool of Illinois or Chicago politices, no politician of the last 50 years measures up, but Obama is accomplishing good things for his constituents and all Americans.

Mike-
If you'll note; I was responding to K.Brown about his implication that right wingers don't want to reform congress. You missed the point on that.

And for accomplishments; it's a lot of rhetoric, not a lot of action. Sponsoring bills and working with Sen. Luger doesn't mean anything. I could sponsor a bill to give everyone $100 but it doesn't mean anything if it's not done.
And I'm wondering about the constituents that elected him, Illnois. What has he done? Seems like it would be too simple to speak out against corruption and bad Illinois politics.

Mark,
I never implied that the right didn't want to reform congress, but if you read Sweet's article they did kill a similar bill last session. I stated that the right likes to say Obama has done nothing to deserve the status he has gained and done nothing to help the citizenry, which as Mike pointed out is patently false. Senator Obama is not a State Senator his job is to legislate on the Federal level. If you want him simply to speak on the corruption in Illinois, I'd say that is a waste of time as we all know that politics here has been corrupt for quite a while. What has Denny Hastert or any of the states other red reps. done to curb it? To say that sponsoring legislation is meaningless is ignorant at best. The job of the Senate is to create laws. You can't do that if you never introduce them. Last session Obama was a junior Senator who had minimal chance of getting any of his bills passed even though he often reached across the isle to get things done. We'll see how effective he can be with a majority behind him. The point of my first post is haters red and blue blame the media for the trivial attention but fail to do their own research when it comes to his record and accomplishments. If you don't like B.O. that is your prerogative, but for the sake of arguments a little fairness and a lot of education would help your stance.

mark,

you made a comment impuning the intentions of democrats to clean up congress by pointing to jefferson, while claiming Republicans "are all for cleaning up government" even though they passed no substantial ethics or lobbying bills during the 109th congress.

As far as your comments that his accomplishments are "a lot of rhetoric not a lot of action" and that sponsoring bills means nothing, I'd refer you to the US Constitution Article 1 which deals with the powers of the legislative branch. Sponsoring bills and passing laws are what senators do, so your comment just makes no sense. To further educate you on US government, since you obviously show a lack of knowledge with comments like "they can pass a law to give everyone $100 etc. etc." the Congress passes things called Laws. These laws are then enforced by the power of the judicial branch, there is a nice episode of schoolhouse rock you can watch to bring you up to speed.

As far as what he has done for the people of Illinois, first he has given them a representative they can be proud of, instead of Jack Ryan or Alan Keyes, and second, while I am not familiar with every appropriations bill coming out of the Congress, I'm sure he has directed funds and programs their way. He did many good things while a state senator in Illinois, such as passing better gun control laws, and creating a law to ensure that all interrogations for offenses that could carry the death penalty are videotaped. Like I said, if you really want the information, instead of just making rhetorical statements, you can go to http://thomas.loc.gov/ and research it, otherwise the schoolhouse rock would serve as a good starting point.

mark,

you made a comment impuning the intentions of democrats to clean up congress by pointing to jefferson, while claiming Republicans "are all for cleaning up government" even though they passed no substantial ethics or lobbying bills during the 109th congress.

As far as your comments that his accomplishments are "a lot of rhetoric not a lot of action" and that sponsoring bills means nothing, I'd refer you to the US Constitution Article 1 which deals with the powers of the legislative branch. Sponsoring bills and passing laws are what senators do, so your comment just makes no sense. To further educate you on US government, since you obviously show a lack of knowledge with comments like "they can pass a law to give everyone $100 etc. etc." the Congress passes things called Laws. These laws are then enforced by the power of the judicial branch, there is a nice episode of schoolhouse rock you can watch to bring you up to speed.

As far as what he has done for the people of Illinois, first he has given them a representative they can be proud of, instead of Jack Ryan or Alan Keyes, and second, while I am not familiar with every appropriations bill coming out of the Congress, I'm sure he has directed funds and programs their way. He did many good things while a state senator in Illinois, such as passing better gun control laws, and creating a law to ensure that all interrogations for offenses that could carry the death penalty are videotaped. Like I said, if you really want the information, instead of just making rhetorical statements, you can go to http://thomas.loc.gov/ and research it, otherwise the schoolhouse rock would serve as a good starting point.

You guys are hilarious!
I understand you have to introduce bills to get them passed!!! If you read my words, sponsoring bills is meaningless if you don't actually get anything done!! Mike- Read my statement again- you completely misqoute what I say and it is evidence of you'r reading what you want to hear.

When did I say one party is better at ethics or reform?? I didn't. Why you think I'm proclaiming that one is, is beyond me. Lynn Sweet suggests that the Dems' are 'finally' going to clean up, and I'm saying thet Dems don't have a lot of ground to stand on when it comes to ethics and reform.- Again read my statements

-If Obama is supposed to direct all of his efforts towards national legislation, why did the state of Illinois elect him? I'm sure there is a little school house video you could watch to teach you the state responsibilities senator's have. You seem to be an overeducated underachieving elitist they way you revise history and misqoute.

I'll start at the beginning of your argument.

The bills he passed are aimed at limiting the spread of dangerous weapons being used against US soldiers. That is getting something done. If you disagree look up:

"Cooperative Proliferation Detection, Interdiction Assistance, and Conventional Threeat Reduction Act of 2005" (the official name of the Lugar-Obama bill) on http://thomas.loc.gov/.

The bill calls for increased funding and military assistance to go to foreign governments and armed forces to help them intercept these weapons and get them off the black market. It also calls for reviews of efficiency and a presidential report on how the money is being spent and ways to spend it more efficient and prevent graft. Since it has already been passed, I can only assume your incoherent ramblings are trying to say it will not be effective, which a reading of the legislation will put to rest.

You never said outright the dems are worse at reforms, but you certainly implied they are not serious about it by bringing up the one highly publicized incident about the FBI raid on Congressman Jefferson's office where they found cash in his freezer. Just one question on that: If the Dems are not serious about ethics and lobbying why are they introducing reforms to the lobbying system to limit the potential for conflicts of interest? This is the ground they are standing on, and the "finally" Lynn Sweet is referring to, is that the Republicans had control of both the Congress and the Presidency during th 109th Congress '04-'06, and did not pass any reforms despite the ongoing problems and the catastrophe of the Abrahamoff scandal. That seems like they are not very serious about it to me.

Finally, as far as Obama's efforts on a localized level for his state of Illinois, he has done these three things, amongst many others:

(1) Garnered $13 million for Illinois agricultural projects allocated by the appropriations committee.

http://durbin.senate.gov/record.cfm?id=239519

(2) Attempts to make homeland security funding more risk based (i.e. making sure that a proportionally larger amount of funds are directed to high-risk targets like Chicago, New York, and L.A., as opposed to Kalamazoo, Tennessee, where the funds are used as pork barrel spending to gain political favor)

http://obama.senate.gov/podcast/060713-homeland_security_appropriations/index.html

(3) Making sure Illinois stays free of nuclear waste, in the face of new regulations with hazy interpretation possibilities.

http://durbin.senate.gov/record.cfm?id=258262

As an underachieving elitist I just get frustrated when people make ridiculous statements, I hope this answers your questions.

Hey Elitist- Lets hook up on some projects. I always knew I could make a comeback. I just needed somebody who believed with their whole heart that I was right! With my 'connections' and you'r 'arguments' and 'logic', the whole world couldn't stop us!!! I'll look you up in 2010. Be ready !!!!!!!!!!

Good job on doing your homework. Once again, you did not read what I said.
-I know Obama has responsibilities to Illinois, it was you who said he was elected to work soley on federal legislation.

Everytime I nail your question you make up a new one, what exactly is your problem with him then?

I don't see a question in my last comment. Or are you still reading what you want to hear.

The question "-If Obama is supposed to direct all of his efforts towards national legislation, why did the state of Illinois elect him?"

Since we've established his credentials and looked at a number of the good pieces of legislation he has helped pass, what's your problem with Bama-rama?

Your question was:

If Obama is supposed to direct all of his efforts towards national legislation, why did the state of Illinois elect him? (notice no misquote)

Another one of your questions was:

And I'm wondering about the constituents that elected him, Illnois. What has he done?

Another was:

Sponsoring bills and working with Sen. Luger doesn't mean anything. I could sponsor a bill to give everyone $100 but it doesn't mean anything if it's not done.

Since we've established that he does not direct all his efforts to national legislation, and we have also established that the subjects he sponsors legislation for on a national level are very important and well put together (to allow for oversight and review), what your problem with my man bama?

This sounds great the way everyone is quoted. But Barack Obama and congress will still get to companies to provide corporate jet service for them. Barack Obama uses charter jets. Barack Obama won't fly with the masses. Dick Durbin flies public planes. Why won’t Barack Obama?

Your man bama is a closet socialist.
I'm done with this stupid lynn sweet junk, I've wasted 10 minutes of my life on this.
Mike- you've wasted about 2 hours!

I'm at work and was getting paid for all that time, lets count it up to some much needed tutoring.

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on January 9, 2007 8:07 AM.

Sweet column: The barechested Obama. "Stop looking," he says. was the previous entry in this blog.

Dick Durbin: On Senate priorities. is the next entry in this blog.

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