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Congress Delivers on Lobbying and Ethics Reform!

Finally – real ethics reform passed in Congress!  Yesterday the Senate approved S. 1 – the “Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007” – with a veto-proof majority of 83 to 14. On Tuesday, the House also passed the bill with flying colors by 411 to 8.

This terrific legislation will give the public important new information about the cozy relationships between industry lobbyists and members of Congress, and limit the outrageous gifts and travel junkets that laid the groundwork for the culture of corruption on Capitol Hill.   

Today marks the final chapter of a long struggle. We first kicked off the drive to fix Capitol Hill over three years ago. Back then, our “wish list” of reforms was largely ignored by members of Congress and the media – even laughed at as a political impossibility. Then Jack Abramoff’s world – and that of many prominent members of Congress – started to unravel. 

As the investigations into kickbacks and bribes became indictments, our call for reform – and the increased public disgust with Washington – became more and more difficult to ignore. When Abramoff worked out a plea deal in January 2006 to name those whom he bribed to the FBI, you’d have thought the gig was up. But the leadership of the 109th Congress burrowed into the warm sand like ostriches and ignored the need for reform.  In return for their indifference, the voters changed up the Congress in 2006, citing corruption as a top concern.

But institutional change is hard even for a Congress elected on a promise to “end the culture of corruption.” As the bill moved forward, the “K Street” crowd lobbied hard, warning members not to bite the hands that keep lawmakers fat and happy. Public Citizen’s activists did not back down, sending thousands of faxes, emails and making hundreds of call to the Hill to tell Congress it must see this through. 

The final legislation includes a large number of new lobbying laws and ethics rules that will open the books on the often corrupting nexus between lobbyists, money and lawmakers. It also imposes a series of new ethics restrictions to keep Congress more honest and open.

Here are some of the hard-won reforms that we all won together:

  • Requires more of the money trail on the Internet: Lobbyist fundraising for lawmakers, including direct campaign contributions, bundled contributions and the hosting of fundraising events will be posted on the Internet.
  • Slows the revolving door between Congress and K Street: The bill extends the cooling off period for senators from one year to two, and requires all members to publicly disclose any job negotiations while serving in Congress.
  • Lobbying revealed online:  Lobbyists must report their lobbying activities every three months in an electronic format, to be immediately posted on the Internet.
  • No more goody bags: The bill bans all gifts from lobbyists to lawmakers and their staff.
  • No more golf trips to Scotland: The bill ends the congressional travel junkets by:  1) Prohibiting any organization that employs a lobbyist from sponsoring trips for members longer than one-day; 2) requiring pre-approval and disclosure of all trips on the Internet; 3) restricting the use of private corporate jets to fly members around the globe; and 4) prohibiting lobbyists from going along on any of these trips.
  • Earmarks in the sunlight: The bill requires disclosure of the sponsor and recipient of earmarks to be posted on the Internet 48 hours before final approval of appropriations to tax bills, and allows any senator to remove an earmark “air-dropped” into a conference report by a point of order challenge.
  • The party’s over: The bill prohibits on members of Congress attending lavish parties sponsored by lobbyists at the national party conventions.

We should all be pleased – this long, hard fight produced real change.  We commend the leadership in Congress on this bold step to curb corruption – Speaker Pelosi, Representative Van Hollen, and Senator Feingold in particular took the concerns of Americans to heart and in hand. 

But most of the thanks is due to the many people for their thousands of e-mails, calls and meetings with members of Congress.  We would not be celebrating this victory for reform without the people-powered politics behind the call for change.

See how your representative and senators voted on the bill and call them to express your thanks or disappointment. (Find the phone numbers of your representative and senators, or call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-225-3121.)

What do you think about this victory? Do you have an interesting battle story from this fight for real reform? Let us know with a comment below.

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Comments

Adrienne Shaw

This is amazing!!! I almost got up and danced a jig when I saw this, so many issues boil down to corporate interest in government. Congrats or CW, PC, Laura & Joan...and oh yeah, THE AMERICAN PUBLIC!!!

Bill Drake

This is really great, but do not believe for one minute that this is going to materially interfere with the lobbyists and megacorporations buying access to our elected officials.

You can not legislate morals and ethics, and, as has been demonstrated over and over again, "business ethics" are mutually exclusive terms, and should never be used in the same paragraph.

Dale Reynolds

It would be very helpful to the American voting public to know the names of those members of Congress, and where they dis-serve, who did not support this bill.

Thank you,

Dale Reynolds ex-pat in London

Barbara Kabbas

This definitely was a great victory. Now we need an independent enforcement agency to make sure these rules are followed. Thank you for all the great work you do. It's a full time job trying to keep the congress honest. Please keep me informed.
Best regards,
Barbara Kabbas

al celentano

The Party,s Over!!!!!!!! YAYYYYYYY!!!!! about time too! golf trips indeed!

Leroy Stephens

Finally – real ethics reform passed in Congress! Yesterday the Senate approved S. 1 – the “Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007” – with a veto-proof majority of 83 to 14. On Tuesday, the House also passed the bill with flying colors by 411 to 8.

This President and his mega buck buddies are hell bent on showing the Legal "we the people" that nothing this body of legislators think they have control over has any real value; it is a battle of bucks and corporate America I believe would watch America decay and fade back in to the years of the great depression, if for no other reason than to prove they are the leaders of this nation and they will set the agenda and or sell America to any body that will pay the price in what ever terms that may come in including feed trade and open borders. When democracy is dominated by the elite mega buck bunch there is a transformation of power and freedom and the American dream belongs only to the elite. And again the love of money is the root of all evil. We are standing in the eye of a mega buck hurricane and the presidential candidates thus far on the platform show no real change from the status quoi and the voting machine will not bring reform from candidates with no foundation of a plan to bring this nation back to the legal “we the people”.

Shawn Sykora

Is this real ? .... this bill becomes law automatically ? .... w/out PRES.Bush having to sign it because of the " veto-proof majority " or is there a stalling technique ?

Now who is going to enforce it ? and what are the penalties for not following the law ? Maybe removal from office ?

Thank you ,
Shawn (-;

Chuck Isner

No surprise to find that Senator Cronyn voted against this legislation. Take the final "N" off of his name and it spells
"crony", and that is where his loyalties lie, not to the people, but to his cronies in the oil business, pharmaceuticals, etc. The people obviously mean little to this man. To vote against ethics in government shows just how corrupt he is.

Anita Mitchell

I listen almost constantly to National Public Radio. Yesterday afternoon they had a segment on the depth and type of reforms that were accomplished by this vote. It was not very impressive. Lobbyists can't pay for a congressperson's supper but can pay for 300 people to attend a fundraiser? This puts some new chrome on the cash spigot and, as far as I could tell from the segment, is mostly an appeasement maneuver. After all, Democrats need campaign cash too. We need a third party and real campaign reform laws. By the time most of our legislators take their seats, they are wholly-owned subsidiaries of their corporate campaign sponsors. Disgusting.

Walt Bloom

Congrats to all at Public Citizen for a job well done on lobbying reform.
Now let's get on with the business of campaign finance reform.

Teresa Medlin

This is groundbreaking wonderful, should have been done years ago after Nixon.
Thanks to all who worked so hard to make this happen.

Richard Fairfield

CONTINUE THE FIGHT for complete and unadulterated public funding of all elected officials and
NO lobbying monies given to any political candidiate/office holder (or his/her "non-profit" or other "foundations") for any reason whatsoever.

This is the only way we can begin to get honest government - as well as people with modest means being able to serve the public good.

Jake V

I live in Idaho, my two senators voted against it, which shows me who they are truly representing, I already realized as much, but this just reaffirms it. I'm glad this passed, it is a great victory, I'm sick of these representatives representing the wishes of K street, and not the American people, this needs to stop being a Democracy of the corporation, by the corporation, and for the corporation, and start being one for the people. Now if we can just take back the White House, with their totally unethical, unlawful steps, which are a slap in the face of democracy, including Bush's Presidential directives such as the National Security/Homeland Security Presidential Directive, and his executive orders such as the EO: Blocking Property of Certain Persons Who Threaten Stabilization Efforts in Iraq. Now if we can just get congress to take action on oversight of the Bush regime, and taking true action towards regulating corporations.

r c wilson

The party's not over until we have complete, unadulterated public funding of all elected officials and ALL LOBBYING OUTLAWED. This is a only a start that can soon be loopholed around. It will take a revolution to take back the government from the corporations that now own it and run it with their party with two names.

Shari B

I agree with the opinion posted above - that ALL lobbying should be outlawed - that would be a real victory. I can't even understand why it's been allowed all these years - it has always seemed so illegal to me. No more lobbyist - no more add-ons to bills (for unrelated and pork barrel projects) - one single item at a time to be voted upon. I have suggested to my senators and representatives that every item before congress be put to a vote BY THE PEOPLE since they are supposed to be representing their constituents. Thinking outside of the box in hopes of keeping them honest and making them accountable. In our electronic, wireless, internet age - it's not so far-fetched.

Sohbet

thank you

Kate M.

It should be illegal for special interest groups to lobby. It is the general citizenry that is affected by the laws that are voted on. The desire of the american citizens should be the only voice considered. Business owners and organizations can lobby as individual citizens. And I agree with one of the posters above with regard to items attached to bills. There should be only one item per bill. There should be no sneaking issues into bills at the last moment. I also think that bills that pass should be on hold temporarily. Once a year voters should vote on whether they accept the bills that have passed. Our leaders should not be the ones in control. We the People should control the country.

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