In an earlier post about whether Congress would go "far enough" in tightening lobbying rules, the comment was made questioning what steps would be necessary to attempt to quell corruption. While I responded with a short comment with some recommendations set out by Common Cause, I thought that a recent editorial by the New York Times also contained some good recommendations to help stop corruption and have pasted the article below, if anyone else has other recommendations, please feel free to leave them in the comments section under this post:
Abramoff Effect: Leaping Out of Bed With the Lobbyists
It took a scandal on the scale of the Jack Abramoff case, but House Speaker Dennis Hastert is scrambling aboard the Lobby Reform Express. Laboring to clean Republicans' skirts for the November elections, Mr. Hastert has outflanked most Democratic critics by broaching the possibility of a ban on privately financed Congressional junkets.
This proposal - a true shocker by the shabby mores of Washington - would dry up one of the more noxious sumps in the lobbyist-incumbent complex. Special interests have spent $18 million to run more than 6,000 trips by more than 600 lawmakers from both parties in the last five years.
Mr. Hastert senses he must do something credible to mop up the Abramoff mess and its connections to the fallen majority leader, Tom DeLay, who demanded years of financial tribute from the K Street lobbying industry. It's far from certain that Mr. Hastert can sell lobby reform. But his panicky New Year conversion is a good start toward galvanizing support on both sides of the aisle. Other needed reforms include these:
¶ A far more detailed disclosure of lobbyists' expenditures and business contacts on Capitol Hill and in the growth business of spending big in lawmakers' home districts. This sunlight approach must include timely electronic disclosure accessible to the general public.
¶ A ban on lobbyists' gifts to lawmakers, including an end to such thinly disguised shakedowns as donations to incumbents' personal foundations and charities. The garish special-interest "salutes" at political conventions, check-writing binges benefiting ranking incumbents, should also be ended.
¶ A tightening of the rules by which lawmakers and their aides cross over to platinum careers as lobbyists. Since 1998, half of the 36 retired senators and two-fifths of the 162 House alumni have registered to lobby. They should be stripped of insiders' access to the House floor, gym and restaurants. They should wait two years, not one, before lobbying, and disclose any job-seeking while in office.
¶ A ban on lobbyists' soliciting and bundling big-check donations to lawmakers from business clients. Dozens of lawmakers now blithely use lobbyists as their fund-raising treasurers.
¶ Creation of a truly independent office within Congress with the power and personnel to monitor lobbying practices and investigate abuses by lawmaker or lobbyist.
Of course, thousands of lobbyists undoubtedly are ready to lobby against an end to business as usual. But what a perfect moment for this tarred and anxious Congress to reform its culture.
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