Jumping Through Loopholes
The House is on the verge of voting to pass a new set of ethics and lobbying reforms and already the lobbying community has found a loophole to jump through:
Lobbyists and their clients would continue to fete lawmakers at restaurants, sporting events and faraway resorts as long as those events are part of campaign fundraisers. Campaign finance laws, which are distinct from House rules, permit outsiders to provide all manner of benefits to lawmakers as long as those benefits are accompanied by checks written to the lawmakers' reelection coffers.
"We would be able to take people out to lunch, but only if we give them a check while we do it," said Paul A. Miller, immediate past president of the American League of Lobbyists. "That looks more corrupting than what we have under the current system."
(Hat tip: Mike Crowley at TNR)
TPM Muckraker also links to an article from Roll Call detailing the plans of one Democratic lobbyist and one Republican lobbyist to get around the new ethics and lobbying reforms. Here's some of the goods:
One said that a few colleagues have raised the possibility of terminating their lobbying registrations and moving into roles within their firms that are officially classified as non-lobbying, to avoid travel or gift bans if they apply only to registered lobbyists.
“I was at a party yesterday with a friend who said this is what he’s going to do,” said the Republican lobbyist.
And how about getting around new limits on Members using corporate jets? The Democratic lobbyist said he’d heard about lobbyists trying to get state party committees to charter corporate flights for Members.
Another GOP lobbyist said he’s been preparing himself for months to deal with a gift ban, which is expected to keep in place the numerous exceptions for widely attended stand-up receptions and for pre-existing personal friendships.
If the exemption for widely attended events holds, this lobbyist said, he would consider holding quarterly parties instead of just one holiday party each year.
“I need to have contact with staff that’s not official business,” he said. “If I can’t take them to lunch or can’t take them to sporting events, I have to figure out how I can spend some time with them without being annoying.”
Several lobbyists said that fundraising events, too, will be at a premium, especially if Congress does not enact any campaign finance reforms geared toward lobbyists.
Sounds like lobbyists want to play a game of whack-a-mole.