Lobbying Bill Inches Forward

A slightly weaker version of House Democrats' big lobbying bill passed out the Judiciary Committee after certain contentious provisions were eliminated. Though some of the ethics watchdogs in Congress are disappointed in what got axed, there's hope that at least now that the bill is moving forward there's potential to see it strengthened down the road.

The bill had been stalled over debate on disclosure of bundlers, and the time period that must elapse before a Congressmember may take a lobbying job once they leave the Hill. Negotations left a few proposals on the cutting room floor:

The final bill lost two measures in the Judiciary Committee that congressional watchdogs and freshmen who won their seats on an ethics-reform pledge coveted. First to go was a provision that members and top staffers wait two years after leaving Congress, double the current time, before lobbying. Also eliminated was a requirement that lobbyists who orchestrate grass-roots communications efforts report their work. But a third big change survived in a separate bill, requiring that lobbyists who deliver bundles of campaign checks to members report the arrangement. Both bills will be voted on next week.

The bundling disclosure is good news -- think for instance of Alphonso Jackson, the former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development who remarked in public about discriminating against government contractors based on their political affiliation. He had been a bundler for George W. Bush's first campaign. Disclosure will let us keep a closer eye on those trading money and influence in Washington and with that information we can demand greater accountability.