Friday, January 27, 2006

Howard Dean's Honesty in Government Speech, 1/18/06

When I got the email from Tim Tagaris inviting me to be one of the bloggers at Howard Dean's January 18 events in Columbus, I was, of course, thrilled to have the opportunity. I was also in the middle of a very busy time, so I have struggled to make good on my part of the deal as far as reporting on the events. The evening of the 18th, after coming home from teaching my night class, I stayed up and transcribed Howard Dean's afternoon speech to Democracy Bond holders in Ohio. The next day, in an open thread, I wrote up Howard's response to a question about the Alito nomination.

This week, a my daytime temp project has ended, allowing me a bit more time to blog (when I'm not working on finding work to replace that income stream). But before I could get back to writing up Howard's visit to Columbus, that very busy party chair of ours went on the Randi Rhodes radio show, and then on The Today Show. I made the choice to write up those transcripts in a timely manner before getting back to the January 18 Columbus events. This morning, I transcribed the audio I recorded at Howard Dean's speech at the Ohio Statehouse. I know this is pretty far after the fact, but I wrote it up in case anyone would find a record of what Howard Dean said here worth having. Just for myself, I'm glad that I went back to listen to what Howard said, especially after hearing that one of the Democratic candidates for governor in Ohio, was "insulted" by Howard Dean's visit to our state. He certainly wasn't "picking on" Ohio in any way. Below, you can see a picture of Howard Dean signing the Honesty in Government pledge, followed by my transcript of that speech. (There were a few points where I couldn't make out words, and anywhere you see ... that's what happened.)

Thank you very much for inviting me here. I'm very proud to be up here with your legislative leadership who, in Ohio, if they do what I think they're going to do, are going to the the majority in the Senate and the majority in the House next go around. The truth is that we do have a real problem of corruption in this country and, of course, in this state, which has become now the center of some of the Republican corruption scandals. And one of the things we're going to do today is to sign a petition--We hope to get a million signatures, standing up and... We want real change, and the Democratic party is going to be the agent of real change. So I just want to read a few pieces of this petition, because I think it speaks very well to what this is about.

Our demands are simple. We want a truly democratic government served by elected representatives who uphold the highest standards of honesty and integrity. We want legislators that are models of integrity for our children. We want sweeping reform to return our government to its basic responsibility, which is to serve all Americans.

The history of America tells a story of expanding democracy, expanding opportunity, and accountable governance. Throughout our history, the American people have demanded that their government reflects our nation's highest ideals or openness and honesty, transparency and integrity, and a commitment that the interests of the American people, not the special interests which we have been protecting in Ohio and in Washington. This cycle of corruption must be broken, and we will break it. The cost of corruption is enormous. It's not just the tens of millions of dollars that the Ohioans have lost in pension fund scandals. It is the bill that's causing every senior citizen now to struggle in getting help for their pharmaceutical needs. When that bill was passed, it was written for the drug companies and the insurance companies, because of the corruption in Washington in the Republican caucus. That bill was written to benefit the insurance industry and the drug companies, and so costs have NOT come down for seniors, and seniors can't figure out how to make this system work. That is the cause of corruption, not just simply lobbyists passing around money on K Street. It hits home to every senior citizen in America.

Gas prices. While gas prices were three dollars and 2.50 a gallon, our taxpayers money, OUR money was being shoveled out the door by a corrupt Republican Congress, for tax credits for Exxon Mobil, Chevron, and other oil companies. They'd already made 9 billion dollars in a single quarter, yet *our* taxpayers payed them another 3 billion courtesy of corruption in Congress. Bridges to nowhere, 450 million dollars to an island with a population of 50 people in Alaska because of corruption that goes on in the Appropriations Committee in the halls of Congress. Those are real costs, can you imagine what 450 million dollars could do in the state of Ohio? First of all, it could bail out your pension plans which were looted by Republicans. The cost of corruption is real in Ohio, and it's real to Americans.

Speaking of corruption, there are other forms of corruption as well. It is corrupt to suppress Americans' votes. And the bill that was passed by the Senate and is now in the House is also part of the culture of corruption. We want every American and every Ohioan to be able to vote. I always said when I was governor that *everybody* was my boss. If you were a Republican and you voted against me, you were still my boss, because you were part of the hiring committee. The right wing Republicans in this state and elsewhere in America believe that your vote ought not to count unless you vote for a Republican. We believe that every American vote ought to count, because that's what makes this country great. We are tired of seeing our country dragged down by folks that are more interested in their own power than they are in what's good for the country.

I'd like to be very specific about what's going to be unveiled in Washington this afternoon by leader Pelosi and leader Reid. First of all, we're going to close the revolving door between Congress and lobbyists by doubling the time that you have to serve outside Washington before you can come to work as a lobbyist. Right now, it takes a year, when you leave Congress, a year later you can go to work as a Washington lobbyist. We're saying, it's going to be two years.

Secondly, we will publicly require disclosure of all lobbyist activities, including any contributions they've ever made to any campaign.

Third, a total ban on lobbyists' travel and gifts to any member of Congress. These people are the biggest propagandists--I saw the Speaker yesterday talking about, "Well, we want to make sure $20 t-shirts can still be given by high school students. Those are not registered lobbyists. The high school kids will still be able to give t-shirts away to good legislators and good representatives, but NOT ONE DIME to members of Congress, and particularly the corrupt Republican caucus.

We're going to replace things like the K-Street Project, where Tom DeLay, and Roy Blunt, and Rick Santorum and others told lobby firms that they'd better hire Republicans in order to do business. That is wrong, and we're not going to do that any more when the Democrats take over in 2006.

Fifth, the head of PhRMA, the pharmaceutical organization, was a chairman of the campaign that regulated their activities. Negotiating for his job with PhRMA while he served in Congress. That is going to be gone--every member who's negotiating for a job from now on will have to fully disclose negotiations before they vote on any legislation.

They know what the rules are, and the rules are fairly common in all states. I know what the rules are--I served in our legislature, and I served as Governor and Lieutentant Governor for 12 years. In Congress, they now sneak provisions in that have not been voted on by members of Congress, *after* the fact, and the members that voted on them don't even know they're there. That is ultimate corruption--sneaking stuff in that hasn't even been voted on and having it become law. That is going to end as well when the Democrats take over.

And there will be zero tolerance for contract cheaters. We will not tolerate enormous no-bid contracts. We will put people in office who actually respect the voters (applause drowned out the end of this sentence).

Finally, where public safety is involved, we are going to *demand* an extra level of scrutiny so that that person must have credentials for the job. No more Arabian horse minders for FEMA. Republicans, of course, are great propagandists. They came out with a bill yesterday. Of course it doesn't do anything.

So let me just review for you what the differences are between the Democratic approach and the Republican approach. We believe that you ought not to be able to trade jobs for access, which is what the K Street project is. The Republicans do *nothing* about that. We believe there ought to be full lobbyist disclosure and enforcement on their behavior; the Republicans do nothing about that. We believe there ought to be full disclosure of job negotions by members of Congress and senior congressional employees and executive branch officials when they're seeking outside jobs; the Republicans do nothing about that.

We believe they ought not to stick ... provisions in there that have not been voted on, or seen by the Congress committee; the Republicans do nothing about that. We believe there ought to be increased oversight and accountability through new disclosure, aggressive contract competition and examination of no-bid contracts when they are allowed at all: the Republicans do nothing about that. And we require that appointees in public safety positions be qualified for the job, their position is " a heck of a job, Brownie!" (Laughter)

We simply want honesty back in our country. We want honesty in the voting booth, so that every American knows that their vote counts (applause). We want honesty back in Congress, and these rules will apply to everybody--Democrats and Republicans alike. We need a real change in this country. The Democratic party is prepared to offer this country and this state a real change. Thanks very much. (Loud applause and cheering.)

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