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Abramoff Scandal
Editorial: Lobbyists not only ones in need of reform


"The lesson of previous reforms is that tightening up in one area while leaving others unaddressed can simply shift abuses elsewhere. Is it really more corrupting for a lobbyist to buy a lawmaker dinner (a practice that would be barred under some of the leading proposals) than to hand him a campaign check over dinner paid for by the lawmaker's campaign committee (a practice that would remain untouched)?

More fundamentally, if lobbyists wield undue influence, much of the fault lies with other aspects of the system. The relentless hustling for campaign cash, and the role of lobbyists in collecting and delivering those checks, isn't so much a function of lobbyists and lawmakers behaving badly as of a campaign finance regime that puts both sides in this unseemly position. Absent an overhaul of that system, lobbyists should be required to disclose not just their own contributions but also the checks they have harvested from others -- the real measure of their influence. And lawmakers ought to disclose the dates, venues and attendees at their fundraisers. If dozens of lobbyists ante up to spend the weekend with a key lawmaker, that ought to be made public.

Consider, for example, the eighth annual Burns Winterfest, a Big Sky ski weekend fundraiser in March for Montana Sen. Conrad Burns (R). It's not just the "private powder" that's luring the lobbyists: As the invitation helpfully notes, "Senator Ted Stevens, Chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, and Senator Judd Gregg, Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, have agreed to join us for the weekend as my special guests.""

Get the Story:
Editorial: A Rush on Lobbying Reform (The Washington Post 1/20)
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Lobbying Reform Bills:
S.2128 | S.1312

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