May 4, 2005
Meehan-Emanuel Legislation Would Help Significantly Curb Corruption in Congress
Statement of Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook
Public Citizen heartily congratulates Reps. Marty Meehan (D-Mass.) and Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) for doing what too few members of Congress have the courage to do – promote legislation that would slow the revolving door between serving the public and serving special interests, bringing much-needed sunshine to the influence-peddling business and preventing lobbyists from secretly funding congressional junkets. Their legislation would help significantly curb corruption in Congress.
The “Lobbying and Ethics Reform Act of 2005” proposes mainstream good-government reforms that close many of the gaping loopholes in the nation’s current ethics rules and lobbying disclosure system. These reforms are not the property of any one party – just as the problems they address are not particular to any one party. In fact, both parties have engaged in these unsavory activities. Whoever is the majority seems to stake their own claim. The real fault lies in lax ethics rules, monitored by an even weaker disclosure and enforcement system.
If enacted into law, this desperately needed legislation would, among other things:
- Strengthen the revolving door restriction so members of Congress could not make direct lobbying contacts for two years after leaving office, rather than the current one-year cooling off period.
- Enhance the disclosure system for lobbyists’ activities so that lobbyists have to reveal their contacts with senior government officials and the amount they spend on grassroots lobbying, and so that the public has full and timely access to lobbying information on the Internet.
- Ensure that congressional travel junkets are not organized or paid for by clients of lobbyists, are subject to reasonable spending limits and are fully disclosed to the public.
Before finalizing their legislation, Public Citizen encourages Reps. Meehan and Emanuel to take one more courageous step – propose establishing an independent ethics agency. Congress needs to move beyond the bipartisan bickering and partisan posturing over ethics issues. It is abundantly clear that self-policing too often results in self-preservation. An independent ethics agency would remove the conflicts of interest that riddle the current system and reassure the public that the highest ethical standards are being upheld.