CONGRESSMAN Mike Oxley evidently feels that if he can t dole out favors to the financial services industry as chairman of the powerful House Financial Services Committee, he might as well hang it up and reap the benefits of his good works for the corporate community.
Of course, the Findlay Republican framed his retirement announcement in more benign terms Tuesday, but the 12-term congressman remains saddled with his reputation as a wholly owned subsidiary of special interests.
To be sure, Mr. Oxley went to Washington 24 years ago with great expectations his and ours and in his early years on Capitol Hill, he pushed for many of the same Reagan initiatives that The Blade supported.
Although he was in the minority for his first seven terms, he worked well with the Democratic majority and helped craft several pieces of major legislation, including the Clean Air Act of 1990.
But a congressional career that began with such promise ultimately became a disappointment. When his party finally gained control, and the face of Congress changed, so did Representative Oxley.
The label of pro-business Republican certainly fit him well; he was a reliable vote against any progressive reform or regulation that would restrict business.
He managed to weaken strong accounting-reform legislation, despite major corporate scandals like Enron and WorldCom in 2002, successfully diluting tougher legislation that would have barred prosecution of reckless misconduct. The resulting Sarbanes-Oxley Act bears his name.
Findlay, it seemed, had ceased to be home for Mr. Oxley, who immersed himself in political fund-raising, at which he excelled, and frequent political junkets.
As a powerful Washington wheeler and dealer, he was happy to accommodate the businesses he helped to oversee. In return, grateful special interests like bankers, brokerages, insurance and accounting firms, and others, kept the campaign warchest full.
Investors with deep pockets got a warm reception from the GOP power-broker; locked out steelworkers once had to settle for a form letter.
Mr. Oxley had just one close race his first when he won his seat in 1981 by only 341 votes.
He did get a scare last time out when Democrat Ben Konop pulled in a respectable 41 percent of the vote and won Allen County, despite a district skewed heavily to Mr. Oxley s benefit.
Maybe Mr. Konop s performance helped Mr. Oxley see a pattern of diminishing political returns down the road.
Besides being term-limited out of his committee chairmanship next year, he might have had to deal soon with redistricting that could finally make his district legitimately competitive. Add to that the uncertainty among Ohio Republican officeholders resulting from the ongoing Coingate scandal, and Mr. Oxley s decision was probably a lot easier.
It s regrettable that we must consider his career a disappointment, but power pulled Mr. Oxley away from his constituents. It has been clear for several years that the hometown dearest to his heart is Washington.
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