Wednesday, January 18, 2006

When Lobbyist Reform Is Not Really Lobbyist Reform

Yesterday, House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) and Rep. David Dreier (R-CA) embraced lobbyist reform in a big way, or did they? The two specifically called for a ban on meals and privately paid travel for lawmakers. But as the Washington Post observed today, there’s one small problem: there’s a loophole big enough to drive a truck through.

Under the proposal put forward by Hastert and Dreier, a lawmaker could still travel anywhere in the world with a lobbyist and eat at the fanciest of restaurants on the lobbyist’s dime as long as the lobbyist hands the lawmaker a campaign contribution at the same time he foots the bill for the travel or meal.

As the Post reports, the lobbyist reform would only apply to congressional rules that limit gifts to lawmakers and the laws that dictate the amount of disclosure that lobbyists must give to the public. The lobbyist reform proposal makes no changes in the campaign finance laws, creating “a gaping loophole in efforts to distance lobbyists from the people they are paid to influence.” Political contributions are not considered gifts under Senate and House ethics rules.

Nice try guys, but we think you better go back to the drawing board and come back and talk to us when you are serious about real lobbyist reform. You fooled us once before with your so-called McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law, which, if anything, made matters worse than they already were because of the soft money loophole for 527 organizations, so shame on you. Fool us twice with this so-called reform, then shame on us.

1 comment:

chicagomom said...

Well, there is the giant loophole, true.

There's also the fact that it was Hastert himself who undid these rules in 2003, blindsiding his own Republican Ethics Committee members with a last-minute addition to the Ethics rules package they said they didn't even know about until it was too late for them to change anything.

Now it's him crying "Reform!" from the rooftops - reform of rules he instituted.

Denny is the grand master of the sneak-it-in-the-bill-when-it's-too-late-to-change move. One only hopes someday it'll cost him.