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Lobby Reform Suggestions Have Loopholes

Interesting...

Lawmakers are about to bombard the American public with proposals that would crack down on lobbyists. Several prominent plans, including one outlined yesterday by House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), would specifically ban meals and privately paid travel for lawmakers.

Or would they?

According to lobbyists and ethics experts, even if Hastert's proposal is enacted, members of Congress and their staffs could still travel the world on an interest group's expense and eat steak on a lobbyist's account at the priciest restaurants in Washington.

The only requirement would be that whenever a lobbyist pays the bill, he or she must also hand the lawmaker a campaign contribution. Then the transaction would be perfectly okay.

"That's a big hole if they don't address campaign finance," said Joel Jankowsky, the lobbying chief of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, one of the capital's largest lobbying outfits.

This loophole is something I've mentioned before. As long as lobby interests are allowed to pass money to politicians influence peddling can and will happen.

Clearly something more is needed.

Personally, I continue to stand by a suggestion I made in this post: Constituent only campaign contributions.

When a congressman is elected their intended mission is to represent their constituents in Congress. That's it. Everything they do in Washington D.C. is supposed to serve that ultimate objective. So why then do our politicians need to accept money and contributions from anyone outside of the people, businesses and organizations that make up their constituency?

It would be a very easy law to implement and enforce. We'd simply allow for unlimited contributions to a politician as long as those contributions are coming from constituents and/or groups made up of constituents. Then, as long as politicians are required to keep their campaign accounting books open to public scrutiny, we'd have no problems. Sure politicians in California are going to get a lot more money than politicians in North Dakota or Wyoming, but so what? North Dakota and Wyoming politicians don't have to run against California politicians.

Of course, I don't foresee any such law being passed. Politicians are far to beholden to the millions shoveled into their pockets every year by special interest groups. They certainly aren't going to bite the hand that feeds, but that doesn't mean the idea is a bad one.

You can read more from Rob Port at SayAnythingBlog.com


Comments (16)

I think that's a great sugg... (Below threshold)
Sean:

I think that's a great suggestion.

"That's a big hole if th... (Below threshold)

"That's a big hole if they don't address campaign finance,"

Yeah, I saw that coming.

So, let me get this right..... (Below threshold)

So, let me get this right.....

In order for a lobbyist to be able to "grease the wheels" with free travel and a free meal, they must also GIVE MONEY directly to the congressman?

Reminds me of this line, If Pro is the opposite of Con, what's the opposite of PROgress?

Congress is not suffering f... (Below threshold)
Steve Crickmore:

Congress is not suffering from a lack of remedies for 'it's own goal'. From the liberal Washington Monthly a proposal admittedly written by Dem partisans, Carville and Begala Not One Dime More addresses Rob's transparency concerns in a radical reform, root and branch of the lobbyist influence; so radical it will almost certainly doom it, but it may at least, move the spectrum of the debate.

No shit? Loopholes that all... (Below threshold)

No shit? Loopholes that allow business as usual in Washington?

I'm aghast.

Seriously though,T... (Below threshold)

Seriously though,

There is ONE REMEDY for true reform of the Congress: As long as voters return 97% of Congressmen every year, the voters get what the voters deserve.

We could have a law outlawing corporate donations to political candidates. But we don't. Why is that? Why are corporations allowed into our electoral process?

The answer is: THATS WHERE THE MONEY IS.

Politicians don't want the money out of politics.

Money=Power

Republicans AND Democrats serve these same purposes, it saddens me to say.

Constituent-only contributi... (Below threshold)
JadePhilosopher:

Constituent-only contributions is only one side of the problem. Outside of public meetings, representatives should meet only with constituents. There are some exceptions and loopholes, but if this were followed as a general principle, it would eliminate much perception of corruption.
will never change.

Easy reform: a total ban on... (Below threshold)
bobdog:

Easy reform: a total ban on all cash and in-kind contributions except from individuals, using existing limits. Absolutely no contributions from lobbyists, PACs, corporations or George Soros, with hefty jail terms for violators.

Can a complete law take less than 100 words?

Bobdog,Not a good ... (Below threshold)
Bostonian:

Bobdog,

Not a good idea.

The MSM gives in-kind contributions to all Democrats, and the FEC is highly unlikely to stop that. (Nor should it; the FEC should stop stamping on our First Amendment rights.)

If only individuals were allowed to donate in theory, then MSM coverage would dominate, and there would be nothing on TV to combat that. Do you really want this?

You can make the laws as la... (Below threshold)

You can make the laws as labrynthine or as simple as you please, but as long as Congress has the power to control billions of dollars in domestic spending and to raise and lower various taxes on different sectors with different loopholes available, the money will find its way to them. To many businesses, Congress's power makes it one of the best returns they'll ever get on their money. Reduce that power to what it ought to be and you'll see the contributions dry up, too.

http://steelcitycowboy.harkyman.com/2005/12/only-real-solution-to-campaign-finance.html

No-I can't believe that a l... (Below threshold)
JAK:

No-I can't believe that a law written or proposed by members of the US Congress related to their fundraising would have any loopholes. I'm shocked, I tell you, shocked!

What is really needed is to... (Below threshold)
jpm100:

What is really needed is to remove jurisdiction on who monitors and sets rules on Congress' conduct when it comes to financing.

I don't know who. Perhaps it could be rolled down to state houses or something. But as long as Congress controls its own rules, this will always happen.

Like bobdog, I say eliminat... (Below threshold)
Bob Jones:

Like bobdog, I say eliminate accepting of ANY contributions and NO advertising. Right now, only the rich run for elections cause they can buy one (just look at Corzine in NJ). No spending on ads, no fund raisers, no nothing. Just run for election, do your job for two terms, then get the fuck out.

Gee, ya think our elected r... (Below threshold)
bobdog:

Gee, ya think our elected representatives in Washington could get behind this idea? Anybody know anything about the aerodynamic lift properties of pigs? Chances are zilch, and that's part of the problem. It's like asking NAMBLA to write child pornography laws or having drug addicts write drug laws. Ya kinda know how it's going to turn out. But I do like the idea that elected officials should be accountable to the people that vote them into office instead of PACs, activist groups, industry groups, and fat-cats like Soros. Political influence should come from actual voters, not dollars.

This side of the Swamp, who would not prefer smaller political campaigns, without all the divisive bile of multi-million dollar political attack ads funded by groups like MoveOn, AARP and labor unions? If the only source of campaign money was individual contributions, lobbyists would have to go get honest jobs. The same rule should apply to PACs - individual contributions only, subject to strict limits. No contributions whatsoever from corporations, trade groups, unions, or foreigners. Everybody gets to donate a total of $1,000 per year if they want to, but no more.

On a related issue, Congressional earmarks should be flat-out prohibited. How much of the pork in Washington -- such as the Bridge to Nowhere -- gets sneaked into completely unrelated spending bills without any debate or public scrutiny?

Hey, I'm on a roll here -- how about a total ban on naming publicly funded construction projects after living politicians? How about a total ban on all gifts to politicians? How about a ban on real estate transactions and the assumption of debt by third parties, Mr. Cunningham? How about backing up these laws with pension foreitures and jail time for those who violate these laws? How about 12 year term limits for both houses, Mr. Kennedy?

My, I do wax fantastical, huh? Odds? Anyone? Anyone?

Unfortunately, Rob et als, ... (Below threshold)

Unfortunately, Rob et als, as long as the act of giving money to a political candidate is deemed to be an exercise of free speech, no such limitations as you suggest would be Constitutional. You couldn't limit the right to contributing to people of one geographic area -- it violates the equal protection clause.

Now of course, it would take an extraordinarily activist Supreme Court to undo years of jurisprudence and rule that contributions of money are not speech.

I think what would work well is to eliminate the need for so much money in the first place: impose limits on the amount of money a candidate can spend, period. The problem there is that you'd have to establish limits based upon relative geographical costs -- otherwise you'd be penalizing candidates from the expensive media markets. Fun to think about, though -- imagine how much more peaceful our autumns would be without being bombarded by a procession of vile attack ads.

I'm a big fan of the British system. A strictly limited time frame during which any campaigning at all can occur.

Am I wrong, or are there cu... (Below threshold)
bobdog:

Am I wrong, or are there currently limits on contributions? It's not the hard money contributions that are the problem, it's the soft money contributions that ooze under the table.

One could make a very reasonable argument that the loosey-goosey rules we live by now makes free speech something only the rich can afford, which, in itself, is a restriction of your right to free speech. "The best politicians money can buy" is still very much in effect, and it's wrong. Your voice should be just as loud as that of George Soros. That's what this entire discussion is about, isn't it?

That said, we seem to be on the same track.




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