To no one's surprise House Democrats are backing off tough lobbying reform they campaigned on last fall. From ABC News:
Now that they are running things, many Democrats want to keep the big campaign donations and lavish parties that lobbyists put together for them. They're also having second thoughts about having to wait an extra year before they can become high-paid lobbyists themselves should they retire or be defeated at the polls.
The growing resistance to several proposed reforms now threatens passage of a bill that once seemed on track to fulfill Democrats' campaign promise of cleaner fundraising and lobbying practices.
The situation concerns some Democrats, who note their party campaigned against a "culture of corruption" in 2006, when voters ended a long run of Republican control of Congress. Several high-profile issues remained in doubt Friday, five days before the House Judiciary Committee is to take up the legislation.
They include proposals to:
Require lobbyists to disclose details about large donations they arrange for politicians.
Make former lawmakers wait two years, instead of one, before lobbying Congress.
Bar lobbyists from throwing large parties for lawmakers at national political conventions.
All appeared headed for adoption in January when the Senate, with much fanfare, included them in a lobby-reform bill that passed easily. But the provisions, plus many others in the bill, cannot become law unless the House concurs and that's where feet are dragging.
The issues are in danger of being dropped from the House version, a Democratic member close to the negotiations said Thursday, speaking on condition of anonymity because sensitive discussions were continuing.
A controversial section in the Senate bill was removed:
The provision removed from that bill, Section 220, would have required certain people engaged in "grassroots lobbying" to register with the government or face civil and criminal penalties, including up to 10 years in prison.
However, according to the American Family Association, amendment H.R. 2093, sponsored by Rep. Marty Meehan (D-MA) and co-sponsored by Rep. Christopher Shays (R-CT) threatens to put similar requirements into the House version. According to the wording of the amendment, it would only apply to lobbying firms:
The amendments made by this section shall not apply to any person or entity other than a lobbying firm that is retained on behalf of a client other than that person or entity. No person or entity other than a lobbying firm is required to register or file a report under the amendments made by this section.
I'm not sure the amendment poses such a threat but the same groups that opposed the measure in the Senate bill are also concerned it will be included in the House bill:
Meanwhile, public advocacy groups want the House and Senate to adopt tougher reporting requirements for groups that hire lobbyists to help organize supposedly grass-roots campaigns to influence Congress. One proposal would require disclosures by lobbying firms that receive at least $100,000 in a quarter for "paid communications campaigns" aimed at mobilizing the public on a given issue.
Groups such as Common Cause and Democracy 21 say massive special-interest campaigns can largely hide their donors' identities because current disclosure laws apply only to direct lobbying of Congress.
But organizations spanning the political spectrum oppose the idea, saying it could discourage citizens from exercising their right to petition the government. Groups urging lawmakers to reject the proposal include the American Civil Liberties Union, National Right to Life Committee and Eagle Forum.
House members and aides said it was unclear whether the grass-roots proposal, which is not in the Senate bill, will be added to the House measure.
The bottom line here is grass-roots lobbying is not the problem. The problem is our representatives in Congress do not want to give up the lavish parties and they don't want American voters to know who's bankrolling their campaigns. They don't want the voters to know what groups are influencing their decisions (and in too many cases writing the bills).
How many times did we hear during the 2006 campaigns that Democrats were going to clean up the "culture of corruption" the Republicans were responsible for in Washington? What a joke.
Wasn't it the Democrats who insisted that the Republicans jumped into bed with lobbyists and special interests? Well, now we have a senior Democrat who made sure that over a billion dollars of federal money got routed through her own checkbook, with her husband as proxy. When can we expect to see a Democratic investigation into this brand of corruption?
The Democrats have no credibility on in the issue whatsoever. If the drastic changes needed are going to be made it will be up to the grassroots many in Washington want to silence. As for lobbying reform, by the time it gets passed it will be so watered down it will be meaningless.