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Public Citizen Lauds Reps. Shays and Meehan’s Attempts to Clean Up Congress

June 28, 2006

Public Citizen Lauds Reps. Shays and Meehan’s Attempts to Clean Up Congress

Statement of Joan Claybrook, President, Public Citizen

Public Citizen applauds the courageous efforts of Representatives Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) and Martin Meehan (D-Mass.) to address the corruption and lobbying scandals that have festered in Congress and reduced voters’ confidence in their public servants.

While the House and Senate have been dithering over a sham bill that would do little to address real reform, Reps. Shays and Meehan have introduced their own bill, H.R. 5677, that would squarely address the lobbying and ethics abuses sweeping over Capitol Hill.

Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert would not allow the House to vote on key amendments proposed by Reps. Shays and Meehan when it considered the lobbying and ethics reform legislation last month. On June 22, Reps. Shays and Meehan introduced those amendments as legislation to highlight the need for these changes and to generate public support.

Their reform bill restricts lobbyists from paying for getaway trips, requires lawmakers to pay full charter rates for the use of corporate planes and bans all gifts. It sheds daylight on the money flowing from lobbyists into the campaign coffers and fundraising events of members of Congress. It would also require disclosure of the big bucks spent by professional lobbying firms to stimulate public response with media and advertising campaigns. Most importantly, it would create an independent Office of Public Integrity to assure enforcement of ethics rules and slow the revolving door of government officials into lucrative, private-sector jobs. In short, it would require our public servants to get back to doing what they were elected to do: the people’s business.

Public Citizen is working with a large and growing coalition of reform groups on a campaign to highlight the need for anti-corruption and lobbying reforms, as well as public funding for elections. The coalition is asking all congressional candidates to sign a pledge to support genuine reform efforts such as the Shays-Meehan bill and the public funding of elections if elected.

Public Citizen congratulates Reps. Shays and Meehan for tackling the thorny issue of congressional ethics head-on. Their bill, and their public conduct, is a model for real reform. If only the rest of Congress would follow their example.