Congress

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Big Money Mitch

The commercial banking and credit card industry has no better friend in Congress than Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY). They've given him $535,000 in campaign contributions, and he's given them legislation that boosts their profit margins and makes life harder for Americans struggling to get out of debt. So, we're rolling out a campaign to put McConnell on notice, and hope you'll join us: he needs to put the interests of voters ahead of his biggest campaign contributors.

 

The Traveling Congressman

USA Today has been hammering Congress for talking tough on ethics and lobbying reform while poking loopholes in legislation. They're at it again today, pointing out the numerous exemptions to the ban on lobbyist-funded travel and whether the way around the loopholes is to publicly fund congressional travel.

 

Congress Looks to Limit 527s

According to The Hill Democratic leaders are beginning to look at ways to limit the influence of independent "527" groups whose relatively unregulated activities are growing more influential each election cycle. This interest in imposing limits on 527s comes as a number of other measures are being considered to reduce the influence of money on congressional elections, including Senator Richard Durbin's (D-IL) anticipated congressional public financing bill.

 

Cashing In On Corruption

For a few congressmen booted out in 2006 amid charges of corruption, nothing says "turning over a new leaf" like taking high-powered lobbying jobs with people you used to help steer money too. Former Rep. Curt Weldon (R-PA) and former Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT) who found themselves embroiled in corruption scandals last year have both landed jobs as lobbying advisors with groups they had a history of helping financially.

 

Hang On, Hoyer

NPR's Marketplace did a story last night on the loophole that allows lobbyists to fund lawmaker getaways to exotic locales by calling the trip a fundraiser and funneling the lobbyist money through the lawmaker's political action committee (PAC). Of particularl interest to Marketplace are the travel plans of House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), who campaigned last year on cleaning up corruption.

 

Power Players

Think the latest series of lobbying reforms is going to cut the cord between lawmakers and lobbyists? Says the Wall Street Journal: think again. The story highlights activities of top lobbyist Heather Podesta to illustrate, among other things, the prevailing power of campaign cash and challenge in overcoming an atmosphere of exclusivity around our lawmakers and their lobbyist friends.

 

How Congress Learned to Stop Worrying

...and Love the Loophole. The start of 2007 saw Congress rally support behind a series of lobbying reforms to ban lobbyist-funded meals, travel, and other tools used to curry favor with lawmakers.

First, Clean Elections

Robert Fowler writes in The American Chronicle about changes he'd like to see in American elections. Chief among them is a move to a Clean Elections model of full public financing for federal elections.

 

He argues that entrenched incumbency, the high cost of campaigning, and the perpetual dash-for-cash push out all candidates but those with access to large amounts of cash -- or those already in office. In return, we can a government unresponsive to our needs:

Freshman Orientation

It. Never. Ends. The Hill covers the sad reality of Washington: on the heels of promises to clean up Congress, freshman congressmen and women are out on the special interest fundraising circuit -- not because they want to be, but because if you want to survive re-election you have to raise money from the moment you win your seat, even before you're sworn in.

Toad-Free Campaigning

Newsday joins the growing chorus asking Congress to fix the presidential public financing system (read: more money -- sooner) before it's gone for good. Cautioning a return to candidates "toadying" to special interests in exchange for campaign cash should public financing be abandoned, the paper tells Congress to get on it already before the fundraising situation gets any worse.