Thursday, January 19, 2006

Times Union Editorial Today.

It just keeps getting Better and Better.
Skiing for dollars -- : "

Rep. John Sweeney's fundraising practices unusual for someone who wants to clean up Congress

First published: Thursday, January 19, 2006 Just two weeks ago, Rep. John Sweeney was among a stampede of congressmen, Republicans and Democrats alike, who couldn't get rid of their otherwise zealously collected campaign contributions fast enough. Any money connected, in any way, to lobbyist-turned-felon Jack Abramoff or any of his evermore suspicious associates wasn't worth keeping. It instead went to charity -- $2,000 to St. Jude's Research Hospital, in Mr. Sweeney's case. If only that more circumspect and more judicious approach to accepting campaign money had lasted much longer than the fallout from the Abramoff scandal. There was Mr. Sweeney, a Clifton Park Republican, soliciting money last weekend on a Utah ski holiday where access to power was literally for sale. It was back to the same old dunning of lobbyists for fun, games and money that's so widespread in both Washington and Albany. For a $2,000 contribution to Mr. Sweeney -- the maximum allowed by federal law -- and the not exactly cheap cost of travel and lodging, Mr. Sweeney's supporters could cozy up to a congressman -- and a lobbyist as well. The weekend in Utah included dinner at Jeff Kimbell's house. He's a lobbyist representing such clients as the Novartis and Allergan pharmaceutical companies. Not very subtle, especially when the invitation to this gathering so crassly noted that Mr. Sweeney is a member of the House Appropriations Committee, which controls a big portion of the fruits of access to government. Mr. Sweeney's office promises that his next report to the Federal Election Commission will disclose who -- as in which lobbyists -- attended the Utah fundraising event. That ought to make for some interesting reading. Why Mr. Sweeney would be taking money from lobbyists at this point, though, or even raising it in the presence of one, is its own riddle. It takes the glow off his credentials as a crusader for reforming the way the House operates. Nor is there any good reason why Mr. Sweeney's office would attack his potential challenger, Kirsten Gillibrand, a Columbia County Democrat, for questioning his fundraising practices. The words of Melissa Carlson, Mr. Sweeney's spokeswoman, are revealing enough to bear repeating. Just how is it, as Ms. Carlson says, that Ms. Gillibrand has 'chosen the low road in her first campaign for office in a district she barely knows, for people she's never met, for reasons we may never know'? Aren't the connections between members of Congress and their contributors a legitimate issue? Hasn't Mr. Sweeney, in his quest to shake up the House leadership, in effect made them one?"

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