Louisiana Senator David Vitter, until now, has not been regarded as one of the more ethical members of Congress thus far in his otherwise lackluster career. But he may have outdone himself this time. He has decided to openly offer Interior Secretary Ken Salazar $25,000 per year if he would authorize increased oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.
Under the Constitution, if compensation to an office was increased during a senator’s term in office, then that senator cannot be appointed to the office. Salazar was a Colorado senator from 2005-2008. During that time, the pay for Cabinet Secretaries was increased. When Obama was elected, he chose him as Secretary of the Interior, and Salazar was one of the first appointees to be confirmed. In order to be eligible for the appointment, President Bush signed an order reducing the pay for the position until he was nominated.
Apparently, this is all typical in DC. The next step normally is to increase the pay back to its previous level once the person is placed in office. In Salazar’s case, Vitter has placed a hold on the pay increase until six additional oil drilling permits are granted in each month. This puts an interesting spin on oil drilling that may have not been considered by our senator. If drilling permits actually would increase, then Salazar could be accused of accepting a bribe; thus, he could be indicted if this were to occur.
Yesterday, the members of the Senate Ethics Committee of both parties issued a report that Vitter had violated the public trust by his actions, but decided that, since there were no guidelines on issuing this type of bribe, they would not claim that he violated any rules. They then issued a ruling instructing him to stop his silliness, saying that his actions ‘will be viewed as improper conduct reflecting dishonorably upon the Senate.’ Vitter, in response, issued a statement that the committee had validated what he had done by dismissing the ethical charges.
Vitter, who will be the Louisiana Senator until the end of time, is now in his second term in office. His first term was most notable for his being one of the more famous clients of the DC Madam. He could have been claiming to be doing an undercover investigation, but instead he manned up, claimed he had sinned, and asked for forgiveness. He then called a press conference, where his wife Wendy showed up in one of the greatest dresses ever worn. Later, when running for re-election in 2010, Vitter easily won the support of the Family Research Council. Since the only Democrats who can possibly get elected in this state are named Landrieu, and since they both have jobs right now, Dave’s position is assured.
A couple of things should be noted here. First, exactly why is there a Senate Ethics Committee? I’m pretty sure that this is the definition of an oxymoron. Second, wouldn’t it be nice if we down here actually had one senator at some point that wasn’t a joke. Third, this position might actually be effective if we used it for some important part of the budget. For example, if the Secretary of HHS was told that their pay would be cut by $25,000 unless they cut the Medicare/Medicaid budgets by 10%, then we might actually make some headway in reducing the deficit.