Knowing Who Your Rep. Is Working For

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This morning The Hill newspaper reports that K street is “scouring the ranks of lawmakers facing tough reelection races or retirement” in an effort to “snag top-tier lobbyists.” That effort raises questions about possible conflicts of interest between Representatives who are negotiating for their next job while working at their current one. I’ve examined this issue before.

Representatives are required to file a form with the House Ethics Committee within 3 business days of the “commencement of direct negotiations or any agreement of future employment or compensation.” That form isn’t made publicly available unless a Representative takes the additional step of recusing himself or herself from a matter where a conflict of interest arises. That recusal — and the filing of additional paperwork with the Ethics committee — causes the statement of negotiations to be made available to the public.

Of course, the public availability of that record is in name only. You have to go to the Clerk’s office to get the records as they’re not available online. So my recommendations?

The statement of negotiations form should be made publicly available at the time they’re filed, without waiting for the official recusal form to be filed. Members should be reminded of their obligation to file these reports. The forms should be available online for inspection. And Representatives should have to declare that they’ve started negotiating for a job regardless of whether the talks are “direct.”

This is such a good idea, we included it in our suggestions for reforming the House Rules. Until those rules are changed, Representatives should go the extra mile and publicly declare that they are negotiating for their next job.

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