Thursday, May 17, 2007

Lobbying Reform Stalled & Losing Steam

Last fall, the new Congress drew in voters with the promise of lobbying reform; but now it seems as though they're going to break that promise.

Both the House and Senate introduced bills early last year in the face of the Cunningham and Abramoff scandals to restrict lobbying practices. The provisions of the House bill were inserted into the Senate bill, passed through the Senate with amendments, and sent to the House in January. Since then, it has been stalled, awaiting House approval of the amendments.

The legislation includes proposals that would:

"Require lobbyists to disclose details about large donations they arrange for politicians.

Make former lawmakers wait two years, instead of one, before lobbying Congress.

Bar lobbyists from throwing large parties for lawmakers at national political conventions."

However, it now seems that the House will not agree to these provisions. Likewise, there are lobbying rules in effect in the House that do not exist in the Senate.

"Within hours of taking control of the House and Senate, Democrats engineered rule changes to bar lawmakers and their aides from accepting meals, gifts or trips from lobbyists or groups that employ lobbyists.

They also made it far more difficult for lawmakers to slip targeted items, known as earmarks, into spending bills without divulging the source. Such "pork projects" have greatly benefited some companies with well-connected lobbyists.

These rule changes are now in effect in the House. But they will not apply to the Senate unless both chambers reconcile a lobbying bill that the president signs into law."

These rules and provisions can be worked into a single bill with a little hard work and compromise between the two houses; but there is a bigger problem. The House has taken issue with a whole slew of tough restrictions present in the Senate bill:

"The chief stumbling block in the House centers on whether to require disclosures of a fundraising practice called bundling. It involves lobbyists soliciting and collecting campaign donations from other people and then presenting them in one package to the targeted candidate."

"Some House members also oppose the Senate bill's tougher restrictions on retired lawmakers who plan to become lobbyists."

"Some House members also dislike a Senate provision that would bar lobbying groups from throwing parties in honor of lawmakers at national nominating conventions."

Craig Holman, of Public Citizen, said "the longer we wait, the weaker the bill seems to get," and that "the sense of urgency is fading."

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1 comment:

  1. I can see the WaPo bullblab column 2 yearsa from now...The House has finally voted overwhelmingly for a fully-funded bi-partisan commission recommended to be established as an oversight department separately but as a joint arm to the Ways and Means Committee sending selected Representatives to study and "embed" in locations deemed to have exemplary and innovative controls over lobbying such as Monaco, St. Moritz and Las Vegas on a 2-5 year collegiate rotation policy.