House takes first step toward lobby reform

The House Judiciary Committee today approved a lobbying reform bill that includes some valuable reforms, but is disappointing in certain areas.

“As it stands, there are positive changes in this bill that would put some distance between Members, senior congressional staff and well-funded lobbyists,” said Jon Goldin-Dubois, executive vice president of Common Cause. “But the bill is not as strong as the lobby reform bill passed by the Senate.”

Specifically, the bill failed to extend from one year to two years the so-called revolving door rule prohibiting Members and senior staff who become lobbyists from lobbying their colleagues for a certain period of time. And it remains to be seen whether the bill will include a provision that would require lobbyists to disclose the campaign contributions they bundle for Members. That proposal will be considered by the full House next week when it votes on the lobby reform bill.

But the legislation approved does require Members and senior staff to disclose to the Ethics Committee negotiations for future employment and also requires job seekers to recluse themselves from consideration of conflict of interest legislation; it prohibits a Member from influencing a private entity’s hiring choice on the basis or partisan political affiliation and it requires the House Clerk to post on a public Internet site for six years all advance authorizations, certifications and disclosure regarding transportation, lodging and related expenses for travel.

“If some of these provisions were in effect and enforced in recent years, they would have stopped some of the abuses around travel and self-interested job hunting that we’ve seen,” Goldin-Dubois said.