It might be a new day in Washington once the Democrats are in charge. Anyone remember Russ Feingold's bill to curtail the gifts that lobbyists give to members of Congress? No? Well, you'd better get familiar with it because it's coming back, and the gravy train of food, flights, and financial ties might be packing up shop.
This could be the biggest landmark in cracking down on bought-out Congressmen ever. Here's the meat of the restrictions:
- No more gifts from lobbyists, period.
- All contacts with lobbyists must be published quarterly.
- Extend the prohibition on Congressmen turning into lobbyists from one to two years.
- Deny many of the perks of being an ex-Congressman to members who become lobbyists.
My prediction? Unless it has loopholes galore, this is probably going to have wide support among voters and elected officials alike and breeze to an easy passage before the groundhog sees his shadow.
I worry that since Russ Feingold has been involved in it, there might be provisions harmful to third parties. His campaign finance reform bill was a sham bill that just moved the piles of money around and hurt the financing of third parties in a big way. Another big issue is enforcement. Congress seems to not have the will to censure someone caught doing something obviously wrong, boiling it down to defenders crying "Partisanship!" and attackers crying "Justice!" I don't have faith that any legislation will clean up that mess, so we'll just have more laws and a lot of guys dancing around them without much consequence. For every Bob Ney, there are dozens of Richard Nixons.
So go ahead, Congress, and pass the law. It'll probably keep the semi-honest ones a bit more honest, but until you find the guts to punish the offenders regardless of party lines, it's just more bark with no bite.