Update: The bill passed the House at 11:58 with a vote of 411-8.
The House and Senate Democratic leadership released their new versions of lobbying and ethics reform today containing unprecedented disclosure in for members of Congress and lobbyists. While this bill is not perfect (what bill ever is?) it contains numerous provisions to put more information about what lobbyists are doing and more information about members of Congress online in searchable databases. Below is a list of what is new that is disclosed:
- Lobbyists must file quarterly disclosure reports with more detailed payment information.
- Lobbyists must file new semiannual disclosure reports regarding certain contributions to legislators, organizations associated or named after legislators, Presidential libraries, and Presidential inaugural committees.
- Bundled campaign contributions must be reported semiannually by all candidate committees, leadership PACs, and party committees.
- All of these lobbyist reports must be disclosed online in a searchable database.
- Disclosure of lobbying by organizations previously exempt from disclosure.
- Disclosure of past executive branch and congressional employment in the past 20 years.
- Foreign agents must file electronically and the Justice Department must supply all reports in a searchable, sortable, and downloadable manner.
- The House of Representatives will require the public, online disclosure of personal financial disclosure forms and travel reports in databases (hopefully these databases are searchable).
- Each Senate committee and subcommittee shall post online a video, audio, or written transcript ofany meeting within 21 days of it taking place. (There are certain exemptions for classified meetings.)
- The Senate will create a public, online database of travel reports that is searchable and sortable.
Earmark reform has been covered by Bill and many others on other blogs so I won't bother to get into it other than quoting my coworker John Wonderlich saying, "They created a new rule for earmarking!"
While some of these provisions may not go as far as some like they constitute a large step forward towards openness , transparency, and the embracing of the Internet as a means to making Congress more open and accountable. This is a huge first step and I don't expect it to be the last. The legislation will easily pass the House today and will hopefully make it through the Senate on Thursday.