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Abramoff Scandal
Column: Don't expect lobbying reform to lead to reform


"If you think lawmakers are about to crack down on lobbyists, think again.

Sure, something called lobbying reform will slice through Congress like a warm knife through butter. But don't expect the legislation to transform how Washington works.

The only way to achieve fundamental change is to reduce the influence of money. Anything short of that is window dressing.

Unfortunately, superficial alterations are all that most lawmakers will accept. To go deeper and attack the capital's cash-driven culture would threaten what they care most about: getting reelected.

How else to explain the craziness on Capitol Hill?

Members of Congress are falling over themselves to denounce Jack Abramoff, the lobbyist who pleaded guilty to conspiring to bribe lawmakers and bilk his clients. They say they want to prevent Abramoff-like scandals in the future.

Yet a lot of what they're suggesting would do nothing of the sort. Abramoff and his business partner, Michael Scanlon, have admitted to violating laws that were already on the books. In other words, not a single new rule or statute is needed to serve as a deterrent to others for the crimes they committed.

So why are lawmakers so eager to act? One word: politics."

Get the Story:
Jeffrey H. Birnbaum: The Capitol's Culture of Capital (The Washington Post 1/23)
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Lobbying Reform Bills:
S.2128 | S.1312

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