The U.S. Senate has approved major lobbying reform legislation that incorporates a bill authored by Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Susan Collins and Ranking Member Joseph Lieberman, which was approved overwhelmingly by the Committee earlier this month.
The Senate-passed bill significantly strengthens disclosure and reporting requirements for lobbyists, increases the penalties for non-compliance, strengthens the rules governing lobbying of Congress by former Members of Congress and senior staffers and requires for the first time disclosure by large scale, paid grassroots lobbying organizations. In addition, the bill prohibits all gifts from lobbyists to Members of Congress, requires the Ethics Committee to pre-approve privately funded travel, and reforms the earmark process to make it more transparent.
“I am pleased that we have come together in a bipartisan manner to approve this important legislation,” said Senator Collins. “It is not perfect, but I believe it is a major step toward enhancing public confidence in the integrity of the decisions that Congress makes on the important issues facing our nation. The bill bans practices that have eroded public trust in government and ensures greater disclosure of lobbying activity.”
Senator Lieberman said, “This legislation completely upends the status quo, and I hope it will begin to restore the American public’s trust in Congress, which has been sorely tested by recent scandals, most prominently the indictment of lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Today, we have sent a clear and unequivocal message that, in Washington, we are taking significant steps to make sure results go to the greatest public good and not ever to the highest bidder.”
Senators Collins and Lieberman expressed disappointment that the final legislation did not include their proposal for an Office of Public Integrity, an independent office to investigate allegations against Members of Congress.
Highlights of the bill are as follows:
It requires lobbyists to file quarterly reports available for public viewing on a searchable, public database
It requires lobbyists to disclose contributions to campaigns, political action committees, and events honoring Members of Congress.
Requires large-scale, paid grassroots lobbying campaigns to disclose money related to large campaigns to influence members of Congress
Increases to $100,000 the penalty for non compliance
Directs the Comptroller General to oversee and audit lobbyist disclosure reports
Addresses the “Revolving Door” issue by extending from one year to two years the period during which former Members of Congress may lobby Congress and prohibits senior staff from lobbying the entire body they once served rather than just the individual member.
Provides for mandatory ethics training for Members of Congress and Congressional staff
Bans lobbyist-funded gifts to Members of Congress and Staff.