Campaign 2010

Jan 05, 2006

DCCC: Democratic Vision for Lobbying Reform Will End Era of the Abramoffs on Capitol Hill

DCCC Press

Jan 5, 2006

DCCC: Democratic Vision for Lobbying Reform Will End Era of the Abramoffs on Capitol Hill

(Washington, D.C.) – In light of recent claims by Congressional Republicans that they favor ethics and lobbying reform to clean up Washington, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Executive Director John Lapp released the following statement to set the record straight about the real Republican record on reforming the culture of corruption:

“Judging from their recent media appearances and headline-chasing press conferences, Republicans in Congress seem to have finally discovered the need for ethics and lobbying reform in Washington. After Democrats have spent years pushing for real ethics and lobbying reform to clean up Washington, it is disgraceful that it took the indictments of Tom DeLay and the guilty pleas of super-lobbyist and K-Street aficionado Jack Abramoff to shake them to their senses.

“The reality is, after 11 years in the majority, the world in which a corrupt lobbyist like Jack Abramoff was allowed to thrive was created and protected by Tom DeLay and his Republican colleagues. This week’s Republican efforts to talk about ethics and lobbying reform is far too little, and far too late.

“Democrats in Congress have introduced legislation that will mean aggressive, groundbreaking, meaningful reform of the ethics and lobbying practices in Washington. Republican alternatives are weak answers to the systemic corruption in Washington, and they only scratch the surface of the ethics scandals plaguing the Republican Congress. Congressional Democrats have been pushing to clean up Congress since long before the indictments started coming down on the culture of corruption. We continue to wait for Republicans to join us.”

The Republican Record on Ethics and Lobbying Reform:

Reps. Rahm Emanuel and Marty Meehan Introduce Aggressive Ethics and Lobbying Reform Legislation. Reps. Emanuel and Meehan introduced their Special Interest Lobbying and Ethics Accountability Act on May 17, 2005. The groundbreaking ethics and lobbying reform legislation would address the very problems that Jack Abramoff has come to represent. The bill reforms the relationship between Congress and K Street in four central ways: enhancing disclosure, curbing privately funded junkets by members of Congress, slowing the 'revolving door' between public service and lobbying, and putting real teeth in how the rules are enforced.

The Emanuel-Meehan Proposal has Received Strong Support in the House and has been Endorsed or Supported by Newspapers and Campaign Finance Organizations. More than 80 Democratic co-sponsors have signed onto the Emanuel-Meehan legislation, and a similar measure has been introduced in the Senate by Sen. Russ Feingold. The bill is also supported by the New York Times, Washington Post, Philadelphia Enquirer, Public Citizen, Common Cause, and other organizations. But not one Republican has agreed to support the bill. [see below].

DeLay Dismissed Emanuel-Meehan Proposal. In 2005, following the announcement of Emanuel and Meehan’s lobbying reform bill, Tom DeLay offered his response to the proposal. He dismissed it, saying, “I’m not interested in the water that they are carrying for some of these leftist groups.” When told that the bill’s sponsors were looking for bipartisan support, Delay responded, “I bet they are.” [Chicago Tribune, 5/5/05]

LaHood Said There Was No Problem With Lobbying in Congress. In 2005, LaHood responded to Meehan’s lobbying reform bill, saying, “There’s not a problem, and the issue does not resonate back home, not when gas prices are above $2 a gallon, healthcare costs are rising and Social Security remains an issue.” LaHood added that the rules in place were “fine.” [The Hill, 5/25/05]

GOP Aide Called Lobbying Bill a Tactical Move, Said There Was No Rush to Pass or Counter It. In 2005, a senior GOP aide called the Meehan lobby reform bill a tactical move. “There's no rush to pass this bill, and there's no rush to counter this bill. It's a tactical move by Democrats to say they did something on ethics.” [The Hill, 5/25/05]

Endorsement and Support for the Emanuel-Meehan Ethics and Lobbying Reform Legislation

“A good starting point is a measure drafted by Reps. Martin T. Meehan (D-Mass.) and Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.). Their proposal, unveiled last week, is important in part because it doesn't simply deal with the scandal of the day -- congressional travel -- but would improve the entire lobbying system. Some of the changes they recommend, particularly on the disclosure front, are no-brainers: requiring that lobbying reports be filed quarterly, rather than twice a year; making the forms available, searchable and downloadable on the Internet; and beefing up the current level of enforcement, which is lackadaisical at best.”

--“Sensible Lobbying Reform,” The Washington Post, May 9, 2005

“It is slowly dawning on Congress that the deepening influence of lobbyists' money on the inner workings of the Capitol is looking bad back home….The timing is perfect, then, for the tough and long-overdue controls proposed by two Democratic representatives, Martin Meehan of Massachusetts and Rahm Emanuel of Illinois.”

--“The Bedfellow Disclosure Act,” The New York Times, May 6, 2005

“Congressional leaders of both parties should send this legislation on a trip to the President's desk.”

-- “Put Brakes on Free Rides,” Philadelphia Inquirer, May 9, 2005

"Recent revelations about influence peddling by super-lobbyists and interest-group financing of congressional travel underscore the inadequacy of current law and House and Senate rules governing lobbying disclosure, congressional travel and the revolving door. The "Lobbying and Ethics Reform Act" … is a very constructive move toward remedying that shortcoming. Meehan and Emanuel appropriately place most of their chips on increased transparency and strengthened enforcement. These are essential steps in fighting a "pay to play" system that threatens the legitimacy of Congress and the policy-making process."

--Tom Mann, Brookings Institution

“The past few months have underscored the gaps that exist in current law and House rules about ethics, lobbying and congressional travel. There are some commonsense, easy to implement changes that would strengthen the law and the rules without causing damage to lobbyists, lawmakers or the opportunity to travel by legislators and staff that is good for Congress and for the country. The Emanuel/Meehan package does just what is needed, in a constructive and sensible fashion. It deserves immediate consideration and early action by Congress.”

--Norm Ornstein, American Enterprise Institute

"Public Citizen heartily congratulates Reps. Marty Meehan (D-Mass.) and Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) for doing what too few members of Congress have the courage to do – promote legislation that would slow the revolving door between serving the public and serving special interests, bringing much-needed sunshine to the influence-peddling business and preventing lobbyists from secretly funding congressional junkets. Their legislation would help significantly curb corruption in Congress.

--Joan Claybrook, President of Public Citizen

"Democracy 21 strongly supports the legislation introduced today by Representatives Marty Meehan (D-MA) and Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) to strengthen the House ethics rules and the lobbying laws that apply to Congress and the Executive Branch. The proposal could not be timelier given the serious ethics matters facing the House.

-- Fred Wertheimer, President, Democracy 21

"It's always heartening when members of Congress call attention to the need for lobbying and ethics reforms like those included in this bill. We hope it goes on to win bipartisan support."

-- Chellie Pingree, President, Common Cause