What Happened to Lobbying Reform?
by Jonathan Singer, Sun Mar 12, 2006 at 01:41:22 PM EST
Remember when Republicans were clamoring publicly about tightening the rules regulating lobbying? Because they sure aren't anymore.
Following the convictions of Jack Abramoff and Randy "Duke" Cunningham and the indictments of Tom DeLay and others, the Republican Party began talking a good talk when it came to lobbying reform. But just a few months later, the GOP has done litte to clamp down on the system that allowed for such shady activities to take place, and increasingly it appears that they aren't going to reform the system any time soon, as Sheryl Gay Stolberg reported for The New York Times yesterday.
The drive for a tighter lobbying law, just two months ago a major priority on Capitol Hill, is losing momentum, a victim of shifting political interests, infighting among House Republicans and a growing sense among lawmakers of both parties that wholesale change may not be needed after all.
In the Senate, debate on a lobbying bill was derailed this week by the fracas over port security, and it is unclear when the measure will return. A chief architect of the legislation, Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, said Friday that the bill was "way off track" and that she feared its chances had been jeopardized.
"People have turned to other issues," Ms. Collins said in a telephone interview from Maine. "This was our window, and I'm afraid it will be slammed shut."
In the House, Representative David Dreier of California, the Republicans' point man on lobbying legislation, said reaching consensus on what the bill should include had been more difficult than he had expected.
Can House Majority Leader John Boehner, who handed out campaign checks from tobacco lobbyists on the House floor during a debate on issues related to the tobacco industry, really reform lobbying? Can Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, who has been investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission for insider trading, really clean up Congressional ethics? Can the party of Jack Abramoff and Randy "Duke" Cunningham rid Capitol Hill of the crooks?
Americans want to see Congress cleaned up, but Republicans are clearly unable and unwilling to get it done. And it's not long until voters will be able to send a message to Washington that they want to see change now. In just under a month, residents of California's 50th congressional district will go to the polls to select a replacement to the ethically challenged jail bound Cunningham, an election in which they can send a strong signal to Washington by electing Democrat Francine Busby, who is calling for widespread reform; in just eight months, voters across the country will be able to do the same thing. The writing is almost on the wall for the Republican Party, and if they don't get serious about reforming their ways immediately, happy days will be here again for Congressional Democrats.