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It seems to us . . . Circus atmosphere, the smell of money and a call to bring out your dead

IN THIS RING: News surfaced this week that the Common Council later this month will consider proposals to limit circus acts in Buffalo.

We kind of thought that was the purpose of the control boards.

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FOLLOWING THE MONEY: Amid all the hoopla surrounding the Democrats' moves to tighten congressional ethics and limit the influence of lobbyists, it's worth remembering we've been down this road before -- and often it involves a detour, not a roadblock.

When Republicans wrested control of Congress from Democrats in 1994, they also took the high road and instituted bans on meals and gifts -- to the point that committees had to differentiate between meals and reception finger-food, deciding eventually that it was a meal if you sat down and used a fork to eat it (New York's Susan Molinari, then pregnant, needed special permission to sit during receptions). Over time, exceptions eased the rules and cleared the way for last year's scandals.

Now it's the Dems' turn. They immediately banned member junkets funded by lobbyists or any group that employs a lobbyist -- but that doesn't include educational or advocacy foundations, currently the biggest funders of congressional travel anyway, so long as the Ethics Committee approves. Several of those foundations were started by or are linked to lobbying firms. It'll be interesting to see how this evolves, but we have our suspicions.

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PAYING MORE THAN RESPECTS: OK, the money was recovered and the process was corrected, but it's still more than a little disturbing that the Buffalo School District shelled out half a million dollars in health insurance premiums for 15 retirees and 14 of their spouses whose health was no longer in question. Insuring the dead is a school system lesson in bad management. It took a state audit to uncover the problem and recommend corrections. Hopefully, it's now a dead issue.

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