Lieberman Says Lobbying, Ethics Reform Will Change Washington Ways

WASHINGTON – Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., said Friday the lobbying disclosure and ethics reform bill passed by the Senate would still send a powerful message to voters that Congress will change its relationship with lobbyists, but he expressed disappointment the Senate voted against his proposal to create an independent Office of Public Integrity to help enforce the new ethics laws. Lieberman helped manage the bill, S. 1 – deemed so important that it was the first piece of legislation the Senate considered in the 110th Congress – because key portions were reported out of the HSGAC last year. It cleared the Senate late Thursday by a vote of 96-2. Overall, the measure bans gifts to Members of Congress from lobbyists, forbids lobbyists from paying for or arranging Congressional travel, requires quarterly, electronic, and greater disclosure from lobbyists about their activities, slows the revolving door between Congress and the lobbying firms of K Street, and requires disclosure of the legislative sponsors of earmarks, that is, funding for individual projects. Lieberman’s Office of Public Integrity amendment, offered with Senators John McCain, R-Ariz., Barack Obama, D-Ill., and Susan Collins, R-Me., would have created an independent office to conduct investigations into complaints, while preserving the authority of the Senate Ethics Committee to make final decisions in all ethics cases. The amendment failed by a vote of 27-71. Nevertheless, Lieberman said: “America voted for us to clean up our act. That is what this bill, S. 1, will do…This legislation pledges to the American people that we are going to put the public interest above our own self-interest, and it is 100 percent consistent with the message the voters sent in November for Congress to conduct itself with honor and dignity, in a fashion that earns their trust. “The past several years have been a difficult time for Congress,” Lieberman said. “Almost all Members of Congress conduct themselves in an ethical way, but we all suffer, and the institution suffers, when any Member of Congress acts unethically and Congress seems not to be responding independently and aggressively. The public does not care whether the scandal occurred in the House or the Senate. To the public, Congress is Congress. We all swim together or we all sink together.”