Strange bedfellows? Corporate lobbyists and government watchdogs work together to reform congressional earmarks

Corporate lobbyists and government watchdog groups are combining efforts to put an end to the corruption associated with congressional earmarks. The coalition hopes to limit campaign contributions from earmark beneficiaries and ban congressional aides from attending campaign fundraisers, according to the New York Times.

Public Citizen has joined the coalition and Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen, has drafted legislation to limit campaign contributions from earmark recipients based on a New Jersey state law.

This is not a campaign finance reform measure,” Holman told the Hill. “This is a policy to ensure integrity in the earmarking process, just like it has ensured integrity in the government contracting process in New Jersey.”

Lawmakers have tried to impose some restrictions but the only results have been  inconsistencies between House Democrats and House Republicans. The Senate has remained quiet. The coalition’s plan would do more than Congress has done.

The five proposed principles include:

  • limiting campaign contributions from earmark beneficiaries to $5,000 for the two-year election cycle
  • banning congressional aides from attending campaign fundraisers; creating a searchable
  • sortable and downloadable earmarks database on a public website;
  • tasking the Government Accountability Office to perform a random, regular audit of earmarks
  • and having lawmakers certify that their earmark recipients are qualified to complete the project.