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House Moves on Lobbying Reform Provisions

The House on Thursday passed several measures aimed at curbing how lobbyists "bundle" campaign donations for lawmakers, among other activities. Two experts debate the proposed measures.

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    After months of wrangling within their own ranks, House Democrats made good on 2006 campaign promises to bring a package of lobbying reforms to the floor for a vote.

    REP. KATHY CASTOR (D), Florida: Last November, the Congress was reinvigorated by the election of a large number of new members who were sent here by the American people to fight for reform and change and to sweep aside a previous Congress that was defined by scandal and corruption.

    REP. DAVID DREIER (R), California: Having this 213-page measure before us…


    But as debate began, Republicans, stung by the association with Jack Abramoff and others, criticized the reforms as too weak.


    This bill takes no risks, reaches no heights, and falls short of the lofty promises made by my newly minted majority colleagues.


    The bill would require lobbyists to disclose their expenditures electronically and more frequently, with a maximum fine of $100,000 for those who don't. It would prohibit lobbyists from providing meals, tickets to sporting events, and other gifts of any value, and would also bar spouses of members from lobbying their office.

    REP. RAHM EMANUEL (D), Illinois: Now it's the conduct of the member to also understand there's a new day; there's change in the way you do things here in Washington.


    However, left out of the bill was a provision that would have forced lobbying firms to disclose their expenses in promoting political campaigns posing as grassroots efforts. Also left out was the doubling from one year to two the time a former member of Congress must wait before he or she can lobby, the so-called "revolving door" provision.

    REP. STEVE CHABOT (R), Ohio: The majority has brought to the floor a package that does not quite reach the standard set by House Republicans last Congress.


    Another contentious issue actually was split off and put into a separate measure. The so-called "bundling bill" would require lobbyists to divulge the sources of multiple contributions they collect for federal candidates and officeholders. Maryland Democrat Chris Van Hollen was the sponsor.

    REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), Maryland: This bill involves simply the disclosure of information that the public has a right to know. And a vote against this bill is a vote to deny that public important information that they can use to judge the legislative process.


    However, Texas Republican Lamar Smith insisted that the bill also include bundled contributions to political action committees, which now give more money to Democrats than Republicans.

    REP. LAMAR SMITH (R), Texas: The majority has let the color of money dampen their desire for more openness and reform. The loophole in this bill that exempts bundled contributions to PACs is big enough to ride a Democratic donkey through.

    REP. JOHN CONYERS (D), Michigan: This is a poison pill amendment.

    REP. ELLEN TAUSCHER (D), California: Gentleman's time has expired. Without objection, the previous question is ordered on the motion to recommit…