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Charity Begins With A Scandal

Weekly commentary by CBS Evening News anchor and Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer.

Here are several ways to know that something's wrong: the sun rises in the West, a teenager laughs at a parent's joke, or, even more improbable, a politician gives away a campaign contribution.

So we knew something bad happened last week in Washington when we saw that cloud of dust raised by the stampede of politicians racing to give campaign contributions from Lobbyist Jack Abramoff to charity.

This epidemic of charity enveloped Washington after Abramoff pleaded guilty to corruption charges and agreed to help prosecutors track down members of Congress who took bribes.

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I'm glad for the charities, but many of the givers would have been wiser to use that money to retain lawyers.

What's been a windfall for charities, will be a bonanza for lawyers when Abramoff starts to name names--and make no mistake, he will. Anyone who'll extort money from Native Americans who live in trailer houses and tin-roofed shacks will do whatever it takes to get a reduced prison sentence.

To fill its time while waiting to see who gets indicted, here are a couple of things Congress may want to consider: Take New Gingrich's advice and ban all political fundraisers in Washington. I'd even take it another step: Make it illegal to contribute to someone's campaign unless you are registered to vote in the Congress member's home district or the Senator's home state.

And I'd make it illegal for a registered lobbyist to contribute to anyone's campaign. You know who would back that? The lobbyists. The office holders' insatiable demand for money is bleeding them dry.

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