May 24, 2007
Congress Delivers on Bundling
Statement of Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook
The hotly contested lobbying bill the House passed today is a major achievement toward ethics reform, but there are significant holes left to be filled. After an intense backroom struggle for the heart and soul of the bill, the House voted to require disclosure of bundling activity by lobbyists. The bundling provisions were adopted in a separate, up-or-down vote on the floor from the remainder of the lobbying and ethics provisions, which also passed overwhelmingly.
We are grateful for the strong support of the House leadership and the freshman class, whose backing of the bundling measures with their commitment to achieve real ethics reform assured its victory.
Left on the cutting room floor in committee, however, were crucial revolving door restrictions stripped from the bill in a last-minute deal in exchange for a vote on the bundling provisions. The revolving door requirements were the subject of many unseemly protests by members, who opposed a brief but meaningful two-year, cooling-off period for lobbying contacts as interfering with their ability to fully cash in on public service soon after leaving office.
We hope that the critical revolving door measures contained in the Senate companion bill, S. 1, will be included in the conference version of the bill, and that even the reluctant House members will set aside their narrow self-interest for the good of the Congress and the American people.
It is also a disappointment that the House bill, like the Senate bill, omits crucial provisions that would have shed sunlight on the activities of lobbying firms that engage in massive and costly grassroots lobbying and television campaigns. Ironically, a successful stealth effort against disclosure of funding behind grassroots lobbying, funded by these for-profit firms and some ideological groups, brought about the demise of this disclosure provision in both chambers.
The long-awaited bill can now move forward quickly to conference, where the leadership of both the House and Senate must continue to protect its clear gains.
The House is still considering the much-needed independent ethics enforcement office.