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Opinion
Editorial: Lobbying reform doesn't go far enough


"Here's a simple way to judge the lobbying reform bill just approved by the Senate: The leading advocates of reform, including the parties' two designated point men on the issue, Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.), all voted against it. Their objection to the measure, which passed the Senate 90 to 8 on Wednesday, isn't about what's in it but what's missing.

The measure improves the existing system. It would stop lobbyists from paying -- at least directly -- for meals and gifts for lawmakers. It would make it easier to identify which lawmakers sought government funding for earmarked pet projects, and easier to knock those earmarks (along with other provisions inserted at the last minute) out of House-Senate conference reports. Lawmakers would have to provide more detailed disclosure of the privately financed trips they take; under a little-noticed amendment, lobbyists couldn't arrange trips or go on them. Lobbyists would have to include on their reports the campaign contributions they make to lawmakers, the fundraisers they host and the donations they steer to lawmakers' charities. The bill would double -- from one year to two -- the waiting period for lawmakers who become lobbyists to buttonhole their former colleagues. All this is good -- as far as it goes.

But the measure doesn't include any new enforcement mechanism: an important proposal for a new Office of Public Integrity, an independent, nonpartisan entity empowered to conduct investigations and make recommendations to the House and Senate ethics committees, failed on the Senate floor, as it had in committee. It doesn't clamp down on lawmakers' ability to accept cut-rate jet travel from companies with interests before them. In fact, it doesn't put any new restrictions on the kinds of privately underwritten trips that lawmakers can accept."

Get the Story:
Editorial: Flubbing Lobbying Reform (The Washington Post 3/31)
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Senate Lobbying Reform Bill:
Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act of 2006 (S.2349) | Section-by-Section Summary

Other Lobbying Reform Bills:
Sen. McCain: Lobbying Transparency and Accountability Act of 2005 (S.2128) | Sen. McCain: Reducing Conflicts of Interests in the Representation of Indian Tribes Act of 2005 (S.1312)

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