It's the special day we've all been waiting for. A "week of choreography designed to deliver the message that [Democrats] did not intend to do business as usual in Washington," as the New York Times described the majority party's introduction of proposed ethics reforms, has now reached its pinnacle.
The 110th Congress begins work today and the front pages are buzzing about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's ethics overhaul package -- "a down payment on her pledge to run 'the most ethical Congress ever,'" writes the Washington Post. Ever!
The irony there is not lost on newspapers' front pages, which note the inconvenient reminders of the Democratic Party's own ethical lapses – like Rep. William Jefferson and the FBI raid that uncovered $90,000 in his freezer and a taped conversation in which he appeared to solicit a bribe.
Jefferson's presence in the House (while he has been stripped of his position on the Ways and Means Committee) "will be a constant reminder of the fine line the new speaker will have to walk between rhetoric and reality, between the cross-cutting demands of her caucus and the demands of the public," writes the Post.
The proposed ethics changes in the Democratic House (which appear in traditional convenient bullet-point format in USA Today) include a ban on gifts and meals from lobbyists, barring congressional travel on corporate jets and limitations on trips paid for by lobbyists. As for much-maligned pork barrel legislation, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer "predicted there would be fewer earmarks in the Democratic Congress because of new rules," writes USA Today.
But Somebody Forgot Campaign Contibutions ...
What don't the new rules address? Campaign donations! The presence of lobbyists and other contributors was indeed not limited at the host of fund-raisers this week, including this evening's event thrown by Pelosi. The NYT describes it as a "$1,000-a-head fund-raiser with performances by Tony Bennett, Carole King, Wyclef Jean and the surviving members of the Grateful Dead. 'Ms. Pelosi is a huge Dead fan,' her spokeswoman said."
Nancy Fest 2006
The Los Angeles Times takes note of Pelosi's own "three-day celebration of her ascension" as House Speaker, which began yesterday and was apparently "packed with more product placement than an infomercial." The products, of course, were symbols of her identity (cannoli from a Baltimore bakery, white lilies on the altar of a chapel at her alma mater.)
Some critics derided the events as a "Nancy Fest," but supporters, like Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, told the paper: "We've eaten so much crow over the last 12 years I have no problem with popping the champagne, if only to remind us we've worked hard but now it's time for us to work for the American people."
Spy Pooh-Bah Hooks Up With Condi
As a new Congress begins its work, the nation's first Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte will take on a new role, according to "administration officials." He'll resign as DNI to become deputy secretary of state, a position that apparently no one is too interested in. The New York Times notes that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice "asked several people who have turned down the post."
It's a "critical job that has been vacant for months," and is a "leading role in shaping policy in Iraq." But it's also a job that "on paper," is of lower ranking than the DNI, "raising questions about why the White House would seek — and why Mr. Negroponte would agree to — the shift."
The Price Of Failure
Finally, in what appears to be the "personnel changes" edition of The Skinny today, the ouster of Home Depot CEO Robert Nardelli is gaining front-page attention. Mostly because he's a bazillionaire. The Wall Street Journal is all over it, but the L.A. Times wins the prize for blunt headline of the day ("$210 Million To Step Aside," a reference to Nardelli's $210 million severance package, which included $20 million in cash severance.) It's one that "dismayed some corporate watchdogs who have seen a string of departing CEOs collect high-dollar payouts in recent months," writes the LAT.
In addition to a host of other factors (sagging stock prices, an "autocratic" management style) it was the compensation that lured Nardelli to the company that "became a lightning rod for criticism that the board felt compelled to address," writes the Journal.
An anonymous "director" told the New York Times that "compensation was not the reason for Mr. Nardelli's departure and that there was no 'smoking gun' behind his resignation." According to the Journal, over his tenure at Home Depot, Nardelli "received compensation valued at more than $240 million."
As for the compensation of Nardelli's incoming replacement, Frank Blake, "[d]irectors are still working out final details" and a "person familiar with the matter" tells the Journal that the "elements of his pay package will resemble 'what shareholders have been asking for.'"