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Lobbyist Fundraising Banned, Revolving Door Slowed, in Tennessee


Feb. 17, 2006

Lobbyist Fundraising Banned,
Revolving Door Slowed, in Tennessee

Public Citizen Urges Sen. Bill Frist to Follow Lead of Own State’s Lawmakers

     WASHINGTON, D.C. – While Congress ponders how to salvage its credibility in the wake of numerous ethics and lobbying scandals, Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen has signed into law sweeping reform legislation for the state that addresses head-on many of the problems plaguing Capitol Hill.

The Tennessee legislation is far bolder than any of the proposals being debated by Congress. It tackles the corrupting nexus between lobbyists, campaign cash and lawmakers, and shows the state’s senior U.S. senator, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, what he needs to do to stop the corrupting ways of Washington.

 The new Tennessee law, signed on Feb. 15, fundamentally reforms lobbying by: 

  • Prohibiting lobbyists from making direct campaign contributions to state candidates.
  • Slowing the “revolving door” – the movement of government officials into lucrative lobbying jobs in the private sector – by prohibiting officials from conducting any lobbying activity or contacting public officials as a paid lobbyist for one year after leaving public service.
  • Banning privately sponsored travel for public officials outside the state and severely restricting how much private groups may pay for in-state travel for public officials to $50 per person per day.
  • Establishing an independent ethics agency to monitor compliance with the law and enforce it.

 “These are the types of reforms that Sen. Frist must get Congress to adopt for the federal government,” said Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen. “To prevent the kind of corruption and scandals that have pervaded the Congress, lawmakers must do as Tennessee has done and break the nexus between lobbyists, money and lawmakers.”

 Congress is currently debating proposals to reform ethics and lobbying on Capitol Hill. But none of these proposals have yet addressed the money problem, in which lobbyists buy access to legislators by making direct campaign contributions, soliciting campaign contributions from their clients, hosting fundraising events for those whom they lobby, and serving as campaign treasurers of officeholder PACs.

 “Not only has Tennessee shown Congress how to deal with a critical aspect of the money problem, but Tennessee’s new reform law also prohibits former lawmakers from becoming lobbyists – period – for one year after leaving public service,” said Craig Holman, legislative representative for Public Citizen. “The current congressional proposals on Capitol Hill would only restrict former lawmakers from making ‘lobbying contacts.’ Unlike Tennessee, former officials on the Hill would still be permitted to cash in on their government networks by directing the lobbying work of their firm immediately after leaving public service.”

For more information about reforms needed to clean up the corruption in Washington, go to www.CleanUpWashington.org.