Democrats Do Themselves Proud on Ethics Bill

Prepost: I have been asked why I am posting national news all the time when this is primarily a site for NC political news. My answer: what is done on the national level soon affects North Carolina so it is best to keep informed about both. And, this site already has a lot of superb writers of NC news.BB)
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I honestly didn't think the Senators would back the provisions put in the House version of the Ethics Bill, but they did and even went a bit further. The Democrats came thru this time because they want to be seen as the "clean" party and get the White House back and a larger margin of Dems in Congress in 2008. But Hey, who cares why they did it, just that tougher ethicls legislation is passed. Read on:

“Senate Passes Ethics Package

Parties Reach Hard-Fought Deal On Lobbying and Other Reforms

By Jonathan Weisman and Jeffrey H. BirnbaumWashington Post Staff Writers
Friday, January 19, 2007; Page A01 96 to 2 expansive legislation to curtail the influence of lobbyists, tighten congressional ethics rules and prevent the spouses of senators from lobbying senators and their staffs..

Senate Democrats and Republicans broke a difficult stalemate last night and approved

"The Senate legislation, hailed by proponents as the most significant ethics reform since Watergate, would ban gifts, meals and travel funded by lobbyists, and would force lawmakers to attach their names to special-interest provisions and pet projects that they slip into bills. Lawmakers would have to pay charter rates on corporate jets, not the far-cheaper first-class rates they pay now.” The House bill passed earlier this month was very much in accord with these provisions.

Other provisions in the Senate bill but not in the House bill is to curtail the activities: “…… lobbyists to publicly disclose the small campaign donations they collect from clients and "bundle" into large donations to politicians. Bundling is a way for lobbyists to contribute far more money to candidates and thus wield more influence."

And, “Former lawmakers would no longer be able to engage in any lobbying activity for two years after they leave office.” and “the lobbyist spouses of senators would no longer be able to take advantage of their family status” to lobby with the exception of the spouse having been a lobbyist before the other spouse took office.

“….the Senate overwhelmingly defeated a proposal to create an independent ethics counsel to investigate allegations of wrongdoing in the Senate. The 71 to 27 vote was the second time that Congress has rejected the proposal in recent years”. I saw no reason for one more watch dog group to see that the laws are prosecuted if broken we already have adequate laws to take care of these people.

Well I really don’t know how many trips on a corporate jet can be called campaign activities or funds before the users are brought before the public eye. And the provision against bundling goes a long way towards curtailing excessive influence with large amount contributed to campaign funds. I believe the lobbyist will have to be more inventive to get around this bill. I also have no doubt that given a bit of time they will find a way!Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), its sponsor, called it a modest proposal to help ferret out egregious waste that leaves Congress the final say.” This is also a good provision and will help considerably with those pesky ear marks we hope.

Senator “Pork Barrel” Byrd (Dem) of West Virginia stopped and important provision from being attached to the bill but Senator Reid (Rep) was able to get it attached to a bill coming up later this month that is sure to pass. The provision gave in to “Republican demands on a measure long sought by President Bush that would allow the president to submit to Congress a list of spending items that the White House wants to strike from congressionally passed spending bills. Under the measure, Congress would then vote on whether to sustain or accept those rescissions.

Lobbyists and lobbyists groups fought hard against the bill which they called ineffective “….lobbyists' organizations worked against many parts of the Senate bill, arguing that lobbyists would still be able to spend lavishly on lawmakers under its provisions. They would just have to do so in the context of political fundraisers because fundraising activities are not addressed in the bill.”