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Posted by Richard on January 16, 2006

Chris Wallace interviewed the three candidates to replace Tom DeLay — Congressmen Blunt, Boehner, and Shadegg — on Fox News Sunday this morning. It’s clear to me that if the Republicans in the House are serious about cleaning up their act, instituting serious reforms, and returning to the spirit and vision that brought them into the majority in 1994, they should elect Rep. Shadegg of Arizona. Instead, they seem poised to elect Blunt, who’s been the acting majority leader since DeLay stepped down. Blunt mouthed a few platitudes about reform, but certainly gave me the impression that he represents business as usual in Washington.

I’m therefore enthusiastically joining the growing list of self-described "center-right" bloggers, led by N.Z. Bear, Hugh Hewitt, and Glenn Reynolds, who’ve signed onto the following statement:

We are bloggers with boatloads of opinions, and none of us come close to agreeing with any other one of us all of the time. But we do agree on this: The new leadership in the House of Representatives needs to be thoroughly and transparently free of the taint of the Jack Abramoff scandals, and beyond that, of undue influence of K Street.

We are not naive about lobbying, and we know it can and has in fact advanced crucial issues and has often served to inform rather than simply influence Members.

But we are certain that the public is disgusted with excess and with privilege. We hope the Hastert-Dreier effort leads to sweeping reforms including the end of subsidized travel and other obvious influence operations. Just as importantly, we call for major changes to increase openness, transparency and accountability in Congressional operations and in the appropriations process.

As for the Republican leadership elections, we hope to see more candidates who will support these goals, and we therefore welcome the entry of Congressman John Shadegg to the race for Majority Leader. We hope every Congressman who is committed to ethical and transparent conduct supports a reform agenda and a reform candidate. And we hope all would-be members of the leadership make themselves available to new media to answer questions now and on a regular basis in the future.

Earlier today, Reynolds mentioned a Howard Kurtz report about Shadegg and the "spirit of 1994," and added:

CNBC commentator Larry Kudlow said on his blog that if Shadegg were to succeed Tom DeLay in the No. 2 House post, it ‘would stop the misbegotten march toward big government conservatism and budget excess which has gotten the Republican Congress into so much trouble.’"

I don’t know enough about Shadegg to be sure, but somebody needs to stop that "misbegotten march." And regardless of who’s elected, we need to see reforms that will ensure a lot more transparency and accountability.

I don’t know a lot about Shadegg myself, but I liked what I heard this morning. Shadegg called for an end to secret "earmarks" by committee chairs and party leaders. These are the pork projects added to bills without discussion or even ordinary members’ knowledge, the process by which we got Alaska’s "bridge to nowhere" and a thousand other such abominations.

I like Shadegg even more after reading what Kurtz said about him:

In arguing that the Republicans have "lost sight of our ideals," Shadegg, 56, is espousing not only tighter ethics rules, but also a return to the smaller-government ethos that has been lost in an era of ballooning budgets and pork-barrel spending.

"I think he’s by far the most conservative guy who’s acceptable to a broad ideological spectrum in the [Republican] Conference," said former representative Pat Toomey, president of the Club for Growth, who encouraged Shadegg to run. "He’s a very easy guy to get along with, a very good-natured guy. He doesn’t make enemies." While clearly an underdog, Toomey said, "John is in the best position to demand a departure from the old ways of doing business."

… Steeped in free-market libertarianism, Shadegg became a lawyer, worked in the state attorney general’s office and then served as counsel to Republicans in the Arizona legislature.

He won a House seat in his suburban Phoenix district in 1994, the year that Newt Gingrich and the Republicans won control of the House. Soon afterward, he opposed a measure to phase out federal support for the National Endowment for the Arts, saying the funding should be ended immediately.

The Arizona Republic has called Shadegg a "firebrand" and "equal-opportunity iconoclast." He argued in 2001 that Bush’s $1.6 trillion tax cut was not big enough. He has bucked the administration on a number of issues, refusing to vote for the aviation security act or Medicare prescription-drug benefits, one of only 25 Republicans to oppose the costly program.

So, listen up, Republicans: it’s time to clean up your act, return to the principles that brought you to the majority, and live up to the promises you made to get elected. That means no more business as usual and no more back-room dealmaking as usual. That means electing a leader like Steve Shadegg who will really clean House, not just mouth platitudes while conducting business as usual.

If you’re represented by a Republican, contact your congresscritter and ask him or her to support John Shadegg and serious reform. Ask him or her to use Hugh Hewitt’s leadership job application questionnaire to screen all candidates for leadership posts.

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