Lobbying Reform Action – Live from the House Judiciary Committee

I watched this morning as the House Judiciary Committee, voting generally along party lines, approved its version of the "Lobbying Transparency and Accountability Act of 2006" (H.R. 4975) to send to the House floor, by a vote of 18-to-16. Republicans generally supported the measure and Democrats widely opposed it.

The bill is a cynical approach to reforming lobbying behavior on Capitol Hill, which is why it’s opposed by Public Citizen and other reform groups. Originally introduced by Rep. David Dreier (R-Cal.), the bill fails to restrict campaign fundraising activities by lobbyists; fails to ban gifts from lobbyists; fails to restrict the revolving door abuses; and fails to offer an independent enforcement office. The only thing it does offer – a ban on privately-sponsored travel – sounds positive but is actually the most cynical act of all: the "reform" only runs until after the next election!

Various parts of the bill has been sent to five different House committees, depending on jurisdiction, so today’s House Judiciary Committee focused primarily on disclosure and revolving door provisions. While the bill does provide additional disclosure requirements of political contributions by lobbyists, it in no way restricts lobbyist fundraising activities. Amendments by Rep. Marty Meehan (D-Mass.) to include 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 become lobbyists after leaving public service, were rejected by the committee.

Similar mark-ups of different parts of the bill must now be done by the House Administration Committee, Rules Committee, ethics committee, and Government Reform Committee, before the entire bill is considered on the floor of the House, which should be sometime later this month. You’ll find all the updates here at the Clean Up Washington.