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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Finally Lobbying Reform! But Why Now Suddenly?

I'm back, and back for good.

Lobbying Reform? What is lobbying reform? What is lobbying? If you really want to be blunt, it is paying lawmakers (though not directly) to forward your interests in Congress. But do not ask lawmakers to admit to that. Ever since Ulysses S. Grant named those he met in the lobby of the Willard Hotel in Washington D.C. lobbyists, Republicans and Democrats alike have all pandered to the benefits and extravagances that these folks have offered for over 130 years. In 1994 it was the Democrats that had their troubles with corruption. They were voted out overwhelminngly. Now, it is the Republicans with sleazebag of the year lobbyist Jack Abramoff that are in trouble. Make no mistake, this a REPUBLICAN problem. They have been trying to claim that Abramoff tainted both parties. Let's be clear, 66% or more of Abramoff's campaign donations and favors (paid by his clients) went to Republicans. Every personal donation made by him went to Republicans exclusively. So yes, this is a Republican problem. Maybe if the Democrats were in control of Congress it would have been them in hot water, but they are not so that argument is dead in the water.

Republicans played their hand yesterday and tried to one up the Democrats again. They presented their lobbying reform plan a day before Democrats revealed theirs. Essentially getting to the plate before the other team does. It is clearly a stunt, but in all honesty, it just shows how disorganized the Democratic party is that they cannot even hit a homerun in a short field. Both lobbying reform plans are very similar. Republican's plan bans all travel paid for by lobbyists, it reduces the amount of gifts allowed from $50 to $20, it doubles the amount of time a lawmaker or aide has to wait before going to work for lobbyists, and it bans any former lawmaker from setting foot on the House floor. The Democratic plan is very similar but it has certain provision not addressed in the Republican plan:

The Democratic proposal would stop special interest provisions slipped into legislation in the final moments before passage. Hastert commented he would be willing to discuss earmarks in unison with the Senate.

The Democratic measure also favors stopping "pay-to-play" activities like the "K Street Project" where Republicans pressure lobbying groups to hire Republicans and direct money to the GOP agenda.

Hastert admitted that not all Republicans favored a total ban on privately funded trips.

If you notice, Republicans are more hesitant to let go of some of the perks lobbyists have to offer. But faced with such a large scandal in the horizon, one that could possibly change power in Congress, they do not have much of a choice. I suspect that Democrats will eventually win this round, and a big round it is. If Republicans put up too much resistance to curbing lobbyist influence, they will look guiltier than they already look. It would seem as if both parties have moved decisively to undertake lobbying reform, but let me make a very important point. Lobbying has been around for over a century. Everyone with an open eye knows this. It is also common knowledege that Congress prostitutes itself for lobbyists that have the goods to offer. Nothing knew here. What is new is that the Republican party is addressing the issue they largely helped get out of control. And it is of essence to point out that, with the exception of John McCain who tried to introduce lobbying reform and was denied, Republican lawmakers did not want lobbying reform. Point to fact is that Several House Democrats have introduced legislation to reform lobbying in the last few years (and very similar to what Republicans introduced yesterday), only to be rebuffed by House Republicans and Speaker Dennis Hastert, who is leading the House effort to reform lobbying. Let's recognize that the only reason the Republican Congress is introducing reform is because they have to, or they face losing all that power in November. And let's face it, all that power is too intoxicating to let go.

Democrats Seek Political High Ground
Frist Weighs Ban on Lobbyist Gifts, Travel

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