Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Congressional Ballgame in Peril

New ethics rules are making life difficult for the annual Democratic vs. Republican Congressional baseball game.

But the 46-year-old charity game pitting Republicans against Democrats has been unexpectedly ensnared in new Congressional ethics rules. Organizers now say they will be lucky to match the $120,000 they raised last year since the rules complicate the process of soliciting donations and have led to at least one corporate sponsor pulling out altogether.

For my day job, I have become something of an expert in legislative ethics laws, and I've observed that whenever a new party comes into power, they go way the hell out of the way to appear to be cleaning house. The usual result of this are hastily-drafted ethics laws with very few reasonable exceptions (those could be construed as loopholes!) and little regard for common sense. This seems to be one of those instances. Obviously, no one intended to scuttle a charity ballgame even if a literal reading of the rules make it difficult to pull off.

Of course, what you also tend to see after such laws are passed is the exploitation of these unexpected consequences as a means for a broader watering down of the ethics law itself. Rest assured, if some exception to the new law is rammed through in order to accommodate the ballgame, it will also serve as a greater loophole that, come next summer, will result in some donations and solicitations that have little to do with baseball.