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Congress Delivers on Lobbying and Ethics Reforms

Aug. 2, 2007

Congress Delivers on Lobbying and Ethics Reforms

Landmark Legislation Awaits the President’s Signature

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Public Citizen heartily applauds the 110th Congress for delivering on its promise of enacting far-reaching lobbying and ethics reforms. Today, the Senate, following in the footsteps of the House of Representatives just two days ago, overwhelming approved S. 1 – the “Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007” – whose bill number reflects the Senate’s professed priority for this legislation. The bill now awaits the signature of the president to become the law of the land.

“This is landmark legislation that addresses head-on the lobbying and ethics scandals that have engulfed Capitol Hill,” said Laura MacCleery, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “The 110th Congress deserves praise for recognizing that there is a problem and for enacting meaningful new regulations on codes governing the conduct and disclosure of influence-peddling in Washington.”

The new legislation imposes a wide array of lobbying laws and ethics rules designed to shed light on the potentially corrupting nexus between lobbyists, money and lawmakers. It also imposes a series of new ethics restrictions on Congress.

Specifically, the legislation:

  • Requires disclosure on the Internet of lobbyist fundraising for lawmakers, including the amount of direct campaign contributions and bundled contributions, who raised them, which lobbyists hosted fundraising events and how much was raised;
  • Prohibits members of Congress from attending lavish parties sponsored by lobbyists at the national party conventions;
  • Requires lobbyists to report their lobbying activities every three months in an electronic format, to be immediately posted on the Internet;
  • Bans all gifts from lobbyists to lawmakers and their staffs;
  • Bans travel junkets for members of Congress by 1) prohibiting any organization that employs a lobbyist from sponsoring trips for members longer than one day, 2) requiring pre-approval of all trips, 3) requiring disclosure of all trips on the Internet, 4) restricting the use of private corporate jets to fly members around the globe, and 5) prohibiting lobbyists from going along on any of these trips;
  • Requires disclosure of the names of the sponsor and recipient of earmarks to be posted on the Internet 48 hours before final approval of appropriations and tax bills, and allows any senator to remove by a point-of-order challenge an earmark “air-dropped” into a conference report; and
  • Slows the revolving door between Congress and high-paying lobbying firms by extending the “cooling-off” period for senators from one year to two and by requiring all members to publicly disclose any job negotiations they engage in while serving in Congress.

The House of Representatives approved the legislation on Tuesday by a vote of 411-8. The Senate vote today was 83-14.

“While this measure is significant, there is always room for improvement,” said Craig Holman, lobbyist for Public Citizen. “For example, the revolving door restriction should apply to the House and Senate equally and include a ban on any lobbying activity, rather than just lobbying contacts, during the two-year cooling-off period. But the few weaknesses should in no way distract from the great accomplishments of this legislation.”

After the president signs the bill into law, Public Citizen will turn its attention to the next step necessary to clean up Washington: full public financing of federal elections. Legislation to do this has been introduced by Sens. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and Arlen Specter (R-Pa.).

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