Rep. Rahm Emanuel, newly elected chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, has sent colleagues a one-page memo emphasizing ”real lobbying and ethics reform” as the key to his party’s future electoral success.
Emanuel, architect of taking over the House as Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman, in the memo cited eight extra seats won by Democrats in Republican districts because of scandals. That included the defeat of Representatives John Sweeney (N.Y.); Richard Pombo (Calif.); Curt Weldon (Pa.); Don Sherwood (Pa.), and Charles Taylor (N.C.), plus Republicans in seats formerly held by Representatives Tom DeLay (Texas); Mark Foley (Fla.), and Bob Ney (Ohio). A ninth scandal-blemished Republican targeted by Emanuel, Rep. John Doolittle of California, escaped with a four-point victory.
Emanuel intends to push reforms restricting earmarks, gifts and travel. “Failure to deliver on this promise,” said his memo, “would be devastating to our standing with the public and certainly jeopardize some of our marginal seats.”
This really is excellent news, and one hopes that Emanuel’s newfound stardom will give his entreaty some extra weight. Ethics reform a la carte, Alcee Hastings, and the Hoyer vs. Murtha dustup all left a distinct sense that the Dems were going to be different from the GOP sleazefest only in degree but not in kind. Emanuel rightly points out that gold-standard ethics reform is a terrific opportunity to really shine up the Dem brand for ’08 and beyond.
Clean ethics as a means to preserve incumbency: Who woulda thunk it?