House conservatives just passed their lobbying reform bill by a narrow 217–214 217–213 vote. The Washington Post called the legislation a “sham,” “diluted snake oil” and “an insult to voters.” Instead of the comprehensive reform promised by lawmakers in early 2006, this bill fails to reform parts of the system most in need.
A look at what this bill is missing:
— No Restrictions on Lavish Gifts: Current gift limits will remain unchanged.
— No Ban on Free Exotic Trips: Lawmakers will still be able to accept lavish privately-funded trips from lobbyists.
— No Increase in Lobbyist Transparency: Lobbyists can continue to pay $25,000 or $50,000 for a campaign fundraiser, with no oversight.
— No Ethics Training for Members: Ethics training will be mandatory for all congressional staff, but not for members.
— No Revolving Door Slow-Down: A companion piece of legislation to the lobbying bill would require administration officials to wait at least two years after they leave office before becoming lobbyists. But there is no legislation to create a similar two-year waiting period for lawmakers.
— No Grassroots Lobbying Regulation: There are no disclosure rules “for professional lobbying firms that are retained to spend money on campaigns aimed at stimulating the public to lobby Congress, including multimillion dollar advertising campaigns.”
— No Enforcement of Existing Rules: The bill “includes no mechanism for enforcing and monitoring old and new rules.”
— Weak Earmark Reform: The bill restricts appropriations earmarks, but does not reform earmarks in tax and authorization bills.