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House Judiciary Committee Blocks Important Improvements to the Lobbying Reform Bill

April 5, 2006

House Judiciary Committee Blocks Important Improvements to the Lobbying Reform Bill

Statement by Joan Claybrook, President, Public Citizen

If you think the U.S. Senate let down the American people by failing to pass meaningful lobbying reform legislation, take a look at what is coming out of the U.S. House of Representatives.

After blocking several amendments that would have greatly strengthened the Lobbying Transparency and Accountability Act of 2006 (H.R. 4975), the House Judiciary Committee today voted nearly along party lines to send an extremely weak lobbying reform bill to the House floor. By a vote of 18-16, Republicans generally supported the measure and Democrats almost universally opposed it.

The bill takes a cynical approach to reforming lobbying disclosure and behavior on Capitol Hill and is opposed by Public Citizen and other reform groups. Introduced by Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.), the bill fails to restrict campaign fundraising activities by lobbyists, fails to ban gifts from lobbyists, fails to curb revolving door abuses, fails to create an independent oversight and compliance office, and bans privately sponsored travel – but only until after the next election.

Various parts of the bill have been sent to five House committees. The House Judiciary Committee today focused primarily on the disclosure and revolving door provisions. While the bill provides additional disclosure requirements of contributions by lobbyists, it in no way restricts lobbyist fundraising activities. The committee rejected amendments by Rep. Marty Meehan (D-Mass.) to require disclosure of media ads and direct mail grassroots lobbying activities by professional lobbying firms and to strengthen the revolving door restriction so that members of Congress cannot immediately conduct lobbying activity after leaving public service.

Lawmakers obviously prefer perks over the people’s interests. They do not want to stop the free dinners or cut themselves off from the gobs of cash that lobbyists raise. This measure is a charade that will whitewash corruption, not clean it up.