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.
The piece features Joan Claybrook of Public Citizen and Melanie Sloan of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington criticizing Congress for disregarding the spirit of the recently passed lobbyist-financed trip ban by circumventing the rules in this manner. Sloan points to Rep. Hoyer's signing of the Voters First Pledge sponsored by our organization along with Public Citizen and Common Cause. The Pledge included support for banning lobbyist-funded travel and other perks, along with support for full public financing of Congressional elections.
If anything, this story demonstrates that we must move past incremental reform that only begins to chip away at the lucrative trading of money and access between lawmakers and lobbyists and instead admit that money has become far too influential in our political process, and a public financing alternative is needed to thwart it.