Shining light under the Capitol dome

Like the House earlier this week, the Senate should be commended for overwhelming passage today of a sweeping lobby and ethics reform bill that seeks to address abuses revealed in recent congressional scandals.

“We’re going to know a lot more about what goes on under the Capitol dome,” said Bob Edgar, president of Common Cause. “This bill will change business as usual in Washington by shining a light on how Congress conducts itself and how legislation is made. The scope and depth of the reforms is striking.”

The lobbying package contains a number of significant changes, including:

A ban on gifts, including meals and tickets to Senators and staff, from lobbyists and lobbying organizations.

Extends from one to two years the “cooling off” period during which Senators must wait before they can lobby their colleagues.

Requires pre-approval of privately funded travel and requires Senators to pay charter rates for trips on private planes.

Disclosure of fundraising and bundling by lobbyists for Members.

Requires sponsors to disclose earmarks and certify no personal financial benefit.

Requires that Members prohibit their staff from having lobbying contact with the Members’ spouse if he or she is a registered lobbyist.

Prohibits Members from attending lobbyist-sponsored parties held in their honor at the national political conventions, unless the Member is the party’s presidential or vice presidential nominee.

Requires disclosure of contributions to presidential libraries.

One area not addressed is enforcement of the new lobby and ethics reform rules. Common Cause looks to a bipartisan task force in the House that is expected to recommend the creation of an independent, outside ethics panel to assure the new and existing rules are followed.

Common Cause commends House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) for negotiating a difficult compromise on the bill.