In my piece “Democratic Disappointment” I made the point that I was disappointed in House Democrats rather sparse ethics reform and about their cowardice in rolling over and funding the war. I am still annoyed about the funding for the war and want to hold them accountable. But there was a change in the Ethics Reform package that made it a better bill. I pointed out two parts of the Ethics Reform bill that I felt were important that were not going to be considered- exposure on bundling and the revolving door that allows lawmakers to quickly become lobbyists. Well that changed in the final version of the bill that the House passed. The behind the scene wrangling by the more business friendly members of the Democratic Caucus was ultimately unsuccessful and then finally the bill passed with a provision for exposing bundling. Many members of the House begrudgingly jumped on board and the House Ethics Reform bill ultimately passed by a vote of 396 to 22. Kudos to Speaker Pelosi!
The measure will bring into public view the role that registered lobbyists play in soliciting and collecting contributions for political campaigns, exposing for the first time one of the most effective ways that influence-seekers ingratiate themselves with lawmakers and presidents.
The measure goes to the heart of how Washington does business by uncovering a hidden practice that sprang up as an unintended consequence of restrictions imposed by campaign finance laws. Because those laws cap individual contributions – now at $2,300 per campaign – candidates have been turning to well-connected lobbyists to bundle stacks of checks to make up the millions they need to run their campaigns.
Washington lobbyists have the greatest incentive to shoulder such fund-raising burdens, often in the hope of gaining access to the lawmaker in return. But previous election rules required campaigns to disclose only their individual contributors, not the intermediaries who may have bundled them. The proposed new rule could expose the heavy reliance of many in Congress on Washington lobbyists to raise money for their campaigns.
But the measure would only partly illuminate the bundling custom. Only those who spend at least 20 percent of their time on lobbying activities and hold at least two meetings with government officials over six months are required to register as lobbyists, thus many of the most influential bundlers will not be affected by the new rule.
My confidence is restored!