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We share some of President Bush's concerns about the ethics bill that Democratic congressional leaders will put on his desk after Labor Day. It will not end all the hanky-panky in Washington. Not by a long shot. Still, the measure goes far enough to warrant his signature.
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The legislation does ban lobbyists from giving gifts to lawmakers and their staffs. A gift doesn't necessarily lead to a favorable vote, but gift-giving is part of the lobby culture that permeates Washington.
A nice item here and there, and soon a lobbyist becomes pals with a legislator and his aides. That, in turn, leads to the face time that lobbyists crave to talk about a client's point of view.
In recent years, there's been a lot of talk about changing Washington's culture, but we haven't seen much of a shift. However, provisions like the ban on gift-giving could bring about some meaningful change in the way the town does business.
A Bush signature also would mean a bipartisan triumph, which could help the administration start things off right in the post-Karl Rove era. Tamping down partisan bitterness could benefit both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, especially since fights over Iraq and the budget will generate plenty of passion later this fall.
Reports indicate that the president may sign the ethics legislation, imperfect though it may be. We hope that proves to be the case. That would be a good thing for a town that often has a hard time dealing with the national good.