January 04, 2007

Less Corruption in US Politics? New Promises to Ban Perks From Lobbyists

As we've reported in the past, many political analysts believe that one of the key reasons that mental health insurance is so poor in the US (we are the only developed country in the world without universal health insurance coverage of serious mental illnesses) is because of the ability for US companies to pay lobbyists large amounts of money - who in turn funnel the funds to politicians and their staff in the form of gifts, special trips around the world, campaign contributions, and so forth - to influence how the politicians vote on key bills (i.e., bills that would support required mental health coverage and would thus incur a cost to US companies) before the House of Representatives and Senate.

News on this topic has been covered in the following stories:

US Congressmen took $50 million in free trips & Why Health Insurance is So Poor in the USA

US Citizens without Health Insurance Climbed to 46 Million in 2005

Recent news from Bloomberg.com suggests that the new politicians in charge are going to be trying to change the lobbying rules, which would be great news for the 100+ million people who have poor or limited mental health insurance coverage in the US.

Bloomberg News states

"House Democratic leaders said they'll act quickly to ban gifts and meals from lobbyists, prohibit lawmakers from flying on corporate jets and prevent them from taking overnight trips arranged by lobbyists.

Votes on the rules will be the first order of business tomorrow for the House in Washington, which will be under democratic control for the first time in 12 years.

The proposed rules were released today after the House ethics committee said Representative Tom Feeney, a Republican from Florida, will pay the $5,643 cost of a 2003 trip to Scotland arranged by Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff. The panel also said outgoing Representative Curt Weldon, who lost his re-election campaign in November, agreed to repay more than $23,000 for a January 2003 trip funded by private interests."

Given the failure of many past efforts to curb corruption in politics, we'll have to wait to see how this actually pans out. It seems that there are still many potential loopholes and a lack of enforcement and oversight (by independent groups) that would make the new legislation less effective than it could otherwise be, or in the worst case, completely ineffective.

Read the full story here: House Democrats Plan to End Lobbyist Gifts and Meals

Related Reading:

Foster Care as a Last Resort to Obtain Psychiatric Treatment for One's Children

Mental Health Parity: What Can It Accomplish?


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