Lobbying, Ethics Reforms Released


The House Democrats released their proposed set of ethics, lobbying, and earmarking reforms that will be voted on early tomorrow. Over at Daily Kos new Rules Committee Chairwoman Louise Slaughter put out a list of what these reforms entail, which I have cribbed below the fold. This is pretty much the set of changes that the Democrats supported during the ethics debate last year, although some stronger measures (think the earmark proposal sponsored by Rep. Chris Van Hollen and Rep. Rahm Emanuel) have been left by the wayside. Take a look and let's talk about what's missing and where the loopholes are.

Via Daily Kos:

Ethics Provisions

Bans Gifts from Lobbyists: Bans gifts and meals from lobbyists and the organizations that employ them, and requires that tickets to sporting and other events given to Members and staff are valued at market price.

Bans Lobbyist Travel: Bans lobbyists and the organizations that employ them from planning, organizing, requesting, financing, arranging, or participating in travel for Members or staff, except for one-day travel to visit a site, attend a forum, participate in a panel, or give a speech. The ethics committee would be required to develop guidelines for minimal lobbyist involvement for one-day/one-night travel. Travel provided by a private university would not be affected by anything in the rules package.

Prohibits use of Corporate Jets: Prohibits the use of official, personal or campaign funds to pay for the use of non-commercial, corporate jets. This provision does not apply to charter plane services.

Ends the K Street Project: Clarifies that no Member can take or withhold an official act, or influence, or offer or threaten to influence, the official act of another with the intent to influence on the basis of partisan political affiliation an employment decision or employment practice of any private entity

Mandates Ethics Training: Require mandatory ethics training annually for all House employees.

Requires Certification and Pre-Approval for Travel Paid for By Outside Groups: Requires the sponsors of all other permitted travel to certify that they have abided by all restrictions on lobbyist involvement. Requires Members and staff to obtain pre-approval from the ethics committee for travel to ensure trips are connected to official duties, the amount spent is limited to reasonable expenses, and the destination is related to the purpose of the trip. Requires the full disclosure of all travel within 15 days after the trip. Travel provisions take effect beginning on March 1st.

Transparency for Earmarks: Requires the full disclosure of earmarks in all bills and conference reports before Members are asked to vote on them, and provides a more comprehensive definition of earmarks that will require the disclosure of hundreds of special spending provisions that would have remained hidden under the Republican proposal.

Civility Provisions

Curbing Abuses of Voting Time: Prohibits holding votes open for the sole purpose of affecting the outcome.

Reforms Conference Committees: Reforms conference committee process by requiring adequate notice of meetings to ensure Member attendance, ensuring information is available to all conferees, and ensuring that the text of conference reports cannot be changed after signatures.

The earmark reform measure actually goes quite further than Rep. Slaughter states. The reform would require members who request an earmark to detail the recipient, the purpose, and certify that the member or the member’s spouse has no financial interest in the earmark and prohibit the trading of earmarks for votes (a favorite practice of both John Murtha and Tom DeLay). Slaughter states that this reform will “require the disclosure of hundreds of special spending provisions that would have remained hidden under the Republican proposal” because the reform applies to “Congressional earmarks, limited tax benefits [and] limited tariff benefits”.

But please look for the loopholes. I know that Paul Miller and the other lobbyists are doing that right now.