We are encouraged that House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) has put ethics and lobby reform on the front burner of the 2006 legislative agenda.
However, Common Cause is disappointed that the Speaker has not honed in on the most crucial element of any reform package: effective enforcement of the rules governing gifts, travel, and lobby disclosure. That's why Common Cause is strongly advocating for an independent ethics commission to monitor Congress.
"Congress has proven beyond any doubt that it is not up to the task of policing the conduct of its own members," said Common Cause President Chellie Pingree. "That's why we need strong, independent enforcement of the ethics rules by an outside commission. New rules and requirements will mean nothing without it."
Much of the gifts, travels and hospitality that are the basis of the Abramoff scandal were given in violation of existing rules. That is why enforcement is as important as any new rules.
Many of the reforms Speaker Hastert proposed today - a ban on privately funded travel, enhanced disclosure of lobbying activities, extending the moratorium on lobbying for Members of Congress from one year to two years, and denying floor and other privileges to former Members who lobby - are part of our Common Cause Ethics Challenge, and we are encouraged that they have been included in this package.
Click here to read the Common Cause Ethics Challenge: http://www.commoncause.org/Ethics.
Common Cause now calls on the Speaker to ensure that these proposals don't result in "drive-by" lobbying reform that looks good on paper but does not get to the crux of the problem. The Speaker's very ambitious goal of getting comprehensive reform legislation voted out of committee by the end of February should not interfere with the development of thoughtful, substantive legislation that will prove effective over time and not serve merely as a public relations "Band Aid."
Office: Common Cause National
Tags: Congressional Ethics
Common Cause is a nonpartisan grassroots organization dedicated to upholding the core values of American democracy. We work to create open, honest, and accountable government that serves the public interest; promote equal rights, opportunity, and representation for all; and empower all people to make their voices heard in the political process.