Crucial Lobbying and Ethics Reform Bill in Jeopardy!

The House Democratic leadership is going to finalize a lobbying reform bill this Friday, sending it to the House Judiciary Committee and then to the full House next week on Friday, if all goes as planned. This bill contains important provisions about "bundling" campaign contributions, phony grassroots campaigns and the "revolving door".

The importance of this bill is that is stands as a test on how serious the 110th Congress really is on lobbying and ethics reform. Remember Jack Abramoff, 'Duke' Cunningham, Bob Ney, the raids on Reps. Doolittle and Nevis? Remember the Democrats' campaign against the 'culture of corruption' in DC? The Democrats now have to show what they're worth in ethics reform, and the public should know this.

From last week's New York Times:

If the Abramoff ghost is not enough of a prod to clean up the Capitol, members need only check out their current ranks. (...) Last November's voters are still watching for something better than business as usual.

For the interested reader, some more detail on what this bill is about:

·   Disclosure of "bundled" contributions. Using a loophole in the law, lobbyists collect numerous individual contributions and then donate these as a package to grateful incumbents. This provision would require disclosure of this practice (which 'Pioneer' Abramoff used in his 2004 Bush campaign)
·   Disclosure of paid grassroots campaigns. This provision would require disclosure by PR firms of paid (or phony) grassroots lobbying campaigns that cost $100,000 or more, such as "Hand Off The Internet", which was funded by AT&T and Verizon.
·   Slowing the revolving door. This would double the cooling-off period in which a former Member of Congress is not allowed to lobby, upping it to two years.

Now, it turns out that these provisions are in danger, and possibly that Democrats are failing on their promises. The Democratic leadership is either unable, or unwilling to produce anything more than a weak bill, in which lip service is paid to the original provisions as mentioned above. Watch the news this week!

If Democrats want to restore public trust in Congress, the last thing they should do next week is not live up to their promises to 'drain the swamp'. Otherwise, they risk becoming the subjects of the old adage, "Those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it."

Tags: Congress, Ethics, lobbying, reform (all tags)

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