Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) is once again leading bipartisan efforts in the Senate in support of lobbying and ethics reform. Senator Collins is supporting legislation that requires increased disclosure on lobbying, bans gifts from lobbyists, and places restrictions on privately funded travel. The legislation currently being considered is similar to the lobbying reform bill that Senator Collins authored last Congress with Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) that was approved by the Senate with a vote of 90 to 8, but did not become law.
“We need to assure the American people that the decisions we make are decisions of integrity, in which their interests are put first,” said Senator Collins in a speech on the Senate floor. “Taking effective action to restore public confidence in Congress is a crucial task that we must address. Our laws must reflect fair and open debate, and above-board dealings. Otherwise, Congress merely adds to the corrosive forces of public cynicism and mistrust.”
Senator Collins is a leading advocate for the current lobbying reform proposal, which brings more sunlight to the earmarks process so that Americans can be assured that their tax dollars are not being spent without opportunity for scrutiny. The legislation also restricts the ability of members and staff to leave Congress, then immediately approach Capitol Hill again as private lobbyists.
In addition, Senator Collins intends to introduce related legislation with Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Senator Lieberman, and Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) that proposes an independent body within the Legislative Branch, called the Office of Public Integrity, to investigate possible ethics violations.
“Any true comprehensive reform of our lobbying and ethics rules should include an independent investigatory body,” said Senator Collins. “As good a job as the Ethics Committee in the Senate has done in overseeing the conduct of Members and their staff, it remains difficult, if not impossible, to guarantee the system works in a way that gives the public confidence that there is an impartial, thorough review of allegations against Members of Congress if we are acting as our own advisers, our own investigators, our own prosecutors, our own judges, and our own juries.”