Reform Groups Urge Members
to Oppose H.R. 4975 and
Support Real Lobbying and Ethics Reform
In a letter sent today to all Representatives, reform groups urged House members to oppose H.R. 4975, the lobbying and ethics legislation recently proposed by the House Republican leadership, and to support alternative measures to provide real reforms in these areas.
The reform groups include the Campaign Legal Center, Common Cause, Democracy 21, the League of Women Voters, Public Citizen and U.S. PIRG.
According to the letter, ''Our organizations support strong, effective and comprehensive lobbying and ethics reforms as essential to address the corruption and lobbying scandals in Congress.''
The letter continues, ''H.R. 4975, recently proposed by the House Republican leadership, fails to meet any of these standards.''
The letter from reform groups states, ''We strongly urge you to oppose this legislation in its current form, and to support alternative measures that will provide real and effective reform of the lobbying laws and congressional ethics rules.''
According to the letter, ''In January, our organizations set forth six benchmarks that we believe are required to achieve real lobbying and ethics reform.''
The letter continues, ''These benchmarks include overseeing and enforcing ethics rules and lobbying laws through an independent congressional Office of Public Integrity; breaking the nexus between lobbyists, money and lawmakers; preventing private interests from financing trips and from subsidizing travel for members of Congress and their staff, and executive branch officials and federal judges; banning gifts to members of Congress and staff; curbing the revolving door; and placing sunshine on lobbying activities and financial disclosure reports.''
The letter states, ''H.R. 4975 fails to effectively deal with any of these areas.''
According to the letter, ''The legislation leaves in place the failed and totally discredited system for enforcing House ethics rules. It does nothing to address the complete breakdown and paralysis of the House Ethics Committee and the House ethics enforcement process in this Congress.''
The letter adds, ''The legislation also fails to prevent corporations from making their company planes available for Members' trips at deeply-discounted costs.''
The letter continues, ''And while the bill provides a temporary suspension of privately-funded trips for Members, it does so in a way that raises deep concerns that these trips will be reinstated as soon as the 2006 congressional elections are over.''
The letter states, ''The legislation provides for the House Ethics Rules to recommend travel rules for Members by December 15, 2006, and sets the stage for establishing in future years an ineffective 'pre-approval' system by the House Ethics Committee for Members' privately-funded trips. This approach would not end the travel abuses that have occurred, even if there was a publicly credible House Ethics Committee to approve the trips, which there is not.''
According to the letter, ''Under this approach, furthermore, the temporary suspension of privately-funded trips could be ended after the November elections without any direct vote occurring on ending the suspension or on adopting new travel rules. This could be done by simply incorporating changes in the travel rules into the full package of House rules submitted to the House for a single up-or-down vote by Members at the outset of the new Congress in January 2007.''
According to the letter, H.R 4975 also:
does not ban gifts, and it does not close the huge loophole in the current gift rules that allows lobbyists, corporations and others to spend $50,000, $100,000 or more, to finance lavish parties at the party conventions to ''honor'' a Member;
does not provide for new, essential information to be disclosed by lobbyists on their disclosure reports, including the presently undisclosed, multiple ways that lobbyists solicit and arrange campaign contributions and provide other financial benefits to members of Congress, and the huge amounts being secretly spent by professional lobbying firms to stimulate grassroots lobbying efforts, including multimillion dollar advertising campaigns; and
does not provide any new reforms that would curb the revolving door of Members leaving Congress and lobbying their former colleagues to influence congressional decisions.
The letter concludes, ''H.R. 4975 is not real lobbying and ethics reform. We strongly urge you to oppose and vote against this legislation in its current form and to support alternative measures that would achieve strong, effective and comprehensive lobbying and ethics reform.''
Capital Bits & Pieces Vol. VI , No. 29 Released: Friday, March 24, 2006
Contact: Elenia Saloutsi