Campaign 2010

Jan 09, 2006

Fox To Guard Henhouse?  Republicans Preach Reform

DCCC Press

Jan 9, 2006

Fox To Guard Henhouse? Republicans Preach Reform

After Creating the Pay-to-Play System and Voting to Protect it, Congressional Republicans Preach Lobbying and Ethics Reform

(Washington, D.C.) – A little over a year ago today, the Republican Congress voted to weaken the House ethics rules to protect later-indicted and former Republican leader Tom DeLay. Now, with members of their own leadership and party in legal trouble, Republicans in Congress are reversing course and pushing for lobbying and ethics reform. American families deserve more than the Republican rhetoric, especially with their record of changing the rules of the game whenever they’re in trouble. Americans deserve real, comprehensive lobbying and ethics reform.

“Finally, House Speaker Dennis Hastert and the rubber stamp Republican Congress have been shamed by Democrats into joining the call for lobbying and ethics reform, but after a decade of open-door policies to the special interests, it’s difficult to imagine them suddenly supporting meaningful reform,” said Bill Burton, communications director for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “It’s like having a fox guard the henhouse.”

The Republican Record on Ethics and Lobbying Reform:

The Republican Congress Opposed Closing The Lucrative "Revolving Door" Between Lobbying & Lawmaking. The vote was against a measure to prohibit Members of the House from negotiating lucrative job deals that capitalize on their committee membership. Politicians or federal employees frequently leave office for the insider game of lobbying and advising private interests on how to do business with the federal government. Special interests and the lobbyists they employ spent more than $13 billion lobbying Congress from 1998 to 2003. More than 250 ex-members of Congress now lobby Congress. Recently, former Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-LA) became PhRMA's top lobbyist after he helped draft a Medicare prescription drug bill as chairman of the Energy and Commerce panel. [HRS 5, Vote #5, 1/4/2005; Failed 196-219; R 1-219; D 194-0; I 1-0]

The Republican Congress Weakened House Ethics Rules. The vote supported GOP House rules curtailing the ways ethics investigations can be launched, a day after the party retreated on two other ethics moves. Republicans passed a package of House rules that requires at least one Republican to agree before the ethics committee begins an inquiry. The committee's membership is evenly divided between parties, and previously a deadlock meant an inquiry would automatically begin. Former Ethics committee Chairman Joel Hefley (R-Colo.) broke with GOP leaders on the House floor, saying he thought the changes were a mistake since they were done without bipartisan discussion. Republicans abandoned their plan to gut a rule that allows the ethics committee to admonish a member even if no specific law has been broken, and were forced by Democrats to restore a rule requiring a party leader to step down if indicted. [HRS 5, Vote #6, 1/4/2005; Passed 220-195; R 220-0; D 0-194; I 0-1]

The Republican Congress Let Lobbyists Wine & Dine Congress. The vote was for new rules that would allow lobbyists to cater meals to members' offices and let charities pay for lawmakers to travel and stay at golf resorts and other locales. The measure would allow outside interests to pay for "perishable food or refreshments offered to members of an office." In 2002, for example, a lobbying firm representing pharmaceutical interests sent in dinner for House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert's (R-Ill.) staff while they were working late on a prescription drug bill. The weaker rules passed, 221-203. [HRS 5, Vote #4, 1/7/03; Passed 221-203; R 221-0; D 0-202; I 0-1; Washington Post, 1/8/03]

The Republican Congress Voted Against Creating a Bipartisan Ethics Task Force. Twice. The panel would have equal representation of Republicans and Democrats to make recommendations to restore public confidence in the House ethics process. The measure was defeated. [HRS 213 , Vote #106, 4/14/2005; Passed 218-195; R 218-2; D 0-192; I 0-1; HRS 153, Vote #70, 3/15/2005; Passed 223-194; R 223-1; D 0-192; I 0-1]