Among the potentially meaningful and important changes to the law in the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act is a provision that requires candidates for federal office to report the bundled contributions they receive from lobbyists. Bundled contributions are among the most insidious sources of campaign money because they give a single donor the opportunity to get credit for raising contributions that are often hundreds of times greater than the legal limits applied to individuals. The massive contributions no doubt result in greater access to elected officials. At Sunlight, we believe bundled contributions from any party-CEOs, non-lobbyist lawyers and law firms-should be publicly disclosed. But, the new law limits such disclosure to registered lobbyists, which at least begins to get to the heart of the problem.
The key to this well-intended provision is to ensure that when it is applied, it is not so full of loopholes that any lobbyist worth her $500 an hour fee finds a way to avoid reporting the bundled contributions she forwards to candidates. The Federal Election Commission has the responsibility of crafting regulations that carry out the intent of the new law. The FEC asked for public comment on its proposed rules, and made those comments available yesterday. The comments came from three Members of Congress, groups that champion ethics reform, and others who, for reasons of their own (or their clients) seem to want to keep bundled contributions hidden in the shadows.
Don't forget to keep calling your Senators and ask if they registered an objection to S.223. Use this comment form to let us know what you find or leave them in the comment thread. Meanwhile, why don't you watch Sens. Feinstein and Feingold denounce the last week's objection right before Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) registers yet another anonymous objection.Continue reading
Just moments ago, Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) attempted to pass S.223, the Senate campaign finance electronic filing bill, for a second time. This time Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) announced an anonymous objection to the bill from the Republican side. Since we called every Republican office and found no one to admit to placing the original objection we now know that one or more Senators are lying to their constituents. Let's clarify the language and call every single Republican Senator and ask them if they registered an objection to S.223. Don't ask about secret holds or whether they support the bill. Just ask if the Senator registered an objection to the bill. Get the Senator on the record. Don't take the word of a Staff Assistant. Get the Senator to issue a statement and talk to someone who handles the issue. And don't just call you Senators, - call Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) too. He knows who the liar is and covering them up. If you have a Republican Senator call them now and ask if they are objecting to S.223. Leave your findings in this comment form or in the comment section below. Call numbers are below the fold.Continue reading
A group of Senators are aiming to make lawmakers pay their fair share when they fly in corporate jets, according to the New York Times. Current rules stipulate that lawmakers must reimburse the cost for private jet travel at the commercial first class rate, which is significantly lower than the actual rate for private jet travel. Senators Russ Feingold (D-WI), Rick Santorum (R-PA), and Barack Obama (D-IL) are proposing legislation that would force lawmakers to pay the actual rater for the private jet travel. Obama sees private jet travel “as a way to circumvent the limits on so-called soft money campaign contributions.”Continue reading
Senators clashed over some reform proposals at yesterday’s Senate ethics reform hearings, according to the New York Times. The most contentious issue was a proposal by Sen. Barak Obama (D-IL) to create an independent office to investigate ethics violations and criminal corruption in Congress. Obama acknowledged that it would be a difficult to create such an office as he ran up against criticism from Republican Senators, including Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN). Sen. Russ Feingold’s attack on privately-funded travel caused reactions as Senator Coleman defended the practice and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) wrestled with the issue. Sen. Feingold also stated that, “we are hearing the sound of furious backpedaling in the corridors of power.” The issue of earmark reform, talked about at length by Sen. McCain, will certainly go forward as it saw bipartisan support. Earmark reform may face a greater test in the House where Rep. Don Young, notorious for his earmarked “Bridge to Nowhere,” offered to let lawmakers who support earmark reform to pull out their earmarks from last year’s appropriations bills. Only one lawmaker, Charlie Bass (R-NH), took him up on the offer.Continue reading