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Outside Voices: Time to drop ethanol credit

Kansas City Star, Oct. 13: Congress has tried to create a charmed life for ethanol and Midwestern corn growers in recent years.

First came a hefty tax credit for producing the renewable fuel. And in late 2007 U.S. lawmakers passed a new standard that requires quadrupling the output of ethanol and other biofuels by 2022.

But this month the federal Government Accountability Office issued a sobering report that questioned the need for the tax credit because it’s not expected to boost ethanol production beyond already-mandated levels.

In reaction, Congress should scrap the 45-cent tax credit that artificially supports each gallon of ethanol. The credit helps keep out cheaper ethanol from Brazil, boosting the cost of driving for American motorists.

More notably, the tax credit is no longer needed now that Congress has mandated such a large increase in production. Right now the credit is a source of easy profits for the industry.

Miami Herald, Oct. 13: Reports that House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel of New York leases four rent-controlled apartments in his district and uses one of those units as a campaign office space first surfaced in July of last year.

Some might see this as small potatoes. Rangel certainly did, dismissing it as a matter of small consequence, but in the ensuing 15 months the complaints of ethical violations have piled up.

The most serious is that he failed to pay taxes on $75,000 in rental income on a beach house in the Dominican Republic. As chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, Rangel should know the rules as well as anyone.

When Republicans controlled the House, Rep. Nancy Pelosi took every chance she had to accuse the GOP of fostering a “culture of corruption.” That helped the Democrats win control in 2006, but now the shoe is on the other foot.

Corruption and its close kin, arrogance and hypocrisy, are chronic failings that afflict all political parties. In the Senate, the latest disclosures about Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., over extramarital relations with the wife of a former aide have raised serious legal questions involving secret payments to the aide. Ensign, once an outspoken advocate of “family values,” has resisted calls for his resignation.

This is not fair to Americans, who have a right to demand that Congress take ethical standards seriously and that members play by the rules – especially when they’re the ones who make the rules.

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Editorial: Washington state lawmakers scramble to keep public in the dark

State lawmakers want to create a legislative loophole in Washington’s Public Records Act. While it’s nice to see Democrats and Republicans working together for once, it’s just too bad that their agreement is that the public is the enemy. As The Spokesman-Review’s Olympia reporter Jim Camden explained Feb. 22, lawmakers could vote on a bill today responding to a court order that the people of Washington are entitled to review legislative records.