Senate Passes Lobbying Bill

The Senate recently voted to require lobbyists to provide far more information about their dealings with lawmakers, a response to the Jack Abramoff political corruption scandal with a plan for more disclosure than tougher enforcement of ethics laws.

According to Washington Post, the Senate approved a bill that would force the disclosure for the first time of indirect lobbying, such as grass-roots activities, and prevent registered lobbyists from paying for lawmakers’ meals or giving them gifts such as sports tickets.

Abramoff, the former lobbyist who bribed public officials with expensive trips, meals and campaign donations, was sentenced last month to nearly six years in prison on separate charges for his role in the fraudulent purchase of a fleet of casino cruise boats.

“This legislation contains very serious reform,” said Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.) in Washington Post reports, one of the architects of the Senate bill. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who also wrote large portions of the measure, said the bill goes a long way toward restoring “the bonds of trust with our constituents [that have been] frayed.”

Specifically, the measure would require lobbyists to file quarterly reports, rather than the current biannual ones, on their activities, as well as a new annual disclosure that would detail their donations to federal candidates, officeholders and political parties. Lobbyists would also have to disclose all travel they arrange for lawmakers.

Supporters of the bill think it is a good idea.

“I think it’s a good idea. Lately we have seen all types of corruptions in politics. It’s interesting because it’s the lobbyists job to get support from Congress, so instead of relying on their money they are going to have to rely on the merit of their agenda,” Abdul Ali Abdurrahman, junior English major at Howard University.

However, critics of the bill want tougher ethics rules to be apart of the bill.

“It’s extremely weak,” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in Washington Post reports, one of several lawmakers active in pushing ethics rule changes. McCain voted against the bill.

Senate and House leaders will have to reconcile differences before Congress can send a final bill to the president.