June 22, 2006
Lobbying Reform Bill Introduced by Reps. Shays and Meehan Offers Meaningful Solutions So Far Ignored by Congress
Meanwhile, House and Senate Negotiators Are Working Out a Back-DoorDeal on Sham Lobbying Reform Legislation
WASHINGTON, D.C. – A lobbying reform bill introduced today by Reps. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) and Marty Meehan (D-Mass.) shows how Congress, which is squandering an opportunity to address abuses and corruption on Capitol Hill, can do it right, Public Citizen said today. The Shays-Meehan reform legislation includes meaningful measures that would squarely address the lobbying and ethics abuses sweeping over Capitol Hill.
The Shays-Meehan bill presents a comprehensive package of proposals that are necessary to clean up Congress. The reform bill would:
Prohibit special interests that lobby Congress from paying for trips by members and staff;
Require lawmakers to pay full charter rates, rather than corporate-subsidized discount rates, for travel on company jets;
Establish an independent Office of Public Integrity to monitor and enforce congressional ethics and lobbying laws;
Disclose expenditures by special interest groups and media firms on grassroots lobbying;
Disclose campaign fundraising by lobbyists; and
Slow the revolving door – the movement of government officials to lucrative, private-sector lobbying jobs – by increasing the ban from one year to two years on former public officials lobbying their colleagues.
“The new Shays-Meehan reform bill is a model for real reform,” said Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen. “This Congress is apparently both unable and unwilling to clean up its act. We will call upon the new Congress following the 2006 elections to revisit this issue, and hope that next time, lawmakers will follow the path laid out by this bill.”
On May 3, the House of Representatives followed in the footsteps of the Senate and adopted such a weak bill that it is a “lobbying reform” bill in name only. The House and Senate bills that are currently being ironed out in conference committee would do almost nothing to address today’s wave of corruption in Congress. The House bill (H.R. 4975) places no restrictions on lobbyist fundraising, imposes no ban on gifts, provides no independent enforcement of ethics rules and does not close the revolving door. The House bill calls for suspension of privately sponsored travel, but only until June 15, a deadline that has already passed. While the Senate bill (S. 2349) offers a few additional disclosure reforms, it does not go nearly far enough.
“These all are essential components of a serious lobbying reform bill,” said Craig Holman, legislative representative for Public Citizen. “It is disappointing that none of these essential reforms are likely to be included in the legislation now being crafted by congressional leaders behind closed doors.”
Public Citizen is working with a large and growing coalition of reform groups on a campaign to highlight the need for public funding for elections, as well as anti-corruption and lobbying reforms, throughout the 2006 elections. The coalition is asking all congressional candidates to sign a pledge to support real reform legislation if elected. When a new Congress steps in, Public Citizen will ask lawmakers to support the genuine reform contained in the Shays-Meehan bill.
To learn more about the pledge drive, click here.