While the recent corruption scandals involving Reps. Tom Delay, 'Duke' Cunningham and Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff have shocked and insulted most hard-working Americans, they have also reminded us that the principle of governance by 'We the People' is in jeopardy. The good news is that America is now poised to have a real debate about principled leadership, honesty, and integrity in government.Nowhere is this debate more needed than in California's 4th Congressional District. Despite his undeniable connections to Delay, Abramoff and contributors implicated in the Cunningham bribery scandal, Rep. John Doolittle has repeatedly declared that he is innocent of any impropriety. What the Congressman is failing to understand is that this debate is not about innocence or guilt - it's about questionable judgment and poor leadership from one of the few members of Congress who has been in a position to do something about corruption and influence peddling.As a member of the majority party on the powerful House Administration Committee, Doolittle has had oversight responsibilities over member travel, lobbyist gifts, reporting and use of campaign contributions, and use of postal franking privileges by members of Congress (among other things) - the very same privileges abused in the Cunningham, Delay, and Abramoff scandals.Instead of providing principled leadership on these issues, Doolittle has been asleep at the switch; repeatedly siding with Delay and voting to weaken House ethics rules, voting against campaign finance reform, calling for elimination of the publicly funded Presidential Election Fund, taking numerous cash and in-kind contributions from self-proclaimed criminals like Abramoff, and using that money to strengthen his own power base in the 4th Congressional District at all levels of government. Just last week, Doolittle's district director sent out an e-mail to supporters in the district asking them to defend the Congressman against charges of corruption in the local media - hardly a proper use of our hard-earned tax dollars. As for the Abramoff money, Doolittle says it was received in an "ethical and legal" fashion. Abramoff has pled guilty to charges ranging from tax evasion, to fraud and conspiracy. How does one of the most well-funded members in all of Congress justify keeping money contributed by those whose crimes violated the highest levels of public trust as ethical?With his connections to his "good friend" Abramoff also including his closest circle of advisors, I am left wondering about the judgment of a man who seems to keep picking the wrong friends, contributors, and associates, and who has sat at the leadership table of one of the most secretive and divisive administrations in U.S. history. I can only surmise that he is dangerously out of touch with the concept of a government by and for "We the People." The people of California's 4th Congressional District, not to mention the United States, deserve better.Charles Brown is a retired Air Force colonel and Democrat candidate for Congress in the 4th District. He is a Roseville resident.
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