Thursday, January 18, 2007

Lobbying Reform Frustrated

Republicans are actually claiming that this move is in the furtherance of ethics reform.

Senate Republicans scuttled broad legislation last night to curtail lobbyists' influence and tighten congressional ethics rules, refusing to let the bill pass without a vote on an unrelated measure that would give President Bush virtual line-item-veto power.

The bill could be brought back up later this year. Indeed, Democrats will try one last time today to break the impasse. But its unexpected collapse last night infuriated Democrats and the government watchdog groups that had been pushing it since the lobbying scandals that rocked the last Congress. Proponents charged that Republicans had used the spending-control measure as a ruse to thwart ethics rules they dared not defeat in a straight vote. ...

The bill matched the rule changes approved earlier this month in the House, banning meals, trips and gifts from lobbyists. But it went beyond those internal alterations to effect legal changes that would have reached far beyond Capitol Hill. Democrats pushed amendments that would have forced lobbyists to publicly divulge the small campaign contributions they collect from clients and "bundle" into large contributions. Lavish gatherings thrown by lobbyists and corporate interests at party conventions would have been banned.

And interest groups would have had to reveal the money they spend on campaigns to rally voters for or against legislation, a provision that had raised the ire of conservative activists such as Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform as well as the National Right to Life Committee.

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