Public Citizen, a group formed by consumer advocate Ralph Nader, released a statement last week calling for the new majority to enact reforms. The following statement was issued by Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook:
The new majority leader of the House, Nancy Pelosi, has promised that the first day the Democrats take over the House of Representatives, they will introduce legislation to “break the link between lobbyists and legislation.” Last month, Public Citizen and other good government groups asked Representative Pelosi to add one essential element to the Democratic plan, and that was to create an Office of Public Integrity to administer new ethics rules and investigate violations.
The current House leadership this year refused to allow votes on key lobbying and ethics reform proposals. With the new leadership in January, there will likely be new openness and stronger support for strengthened ethics and reform legislation. The Senate last year considered strong lobby reform legislation, but it was watered down, and procedural devices were used to stop debate and block amendments. Given that the new Senate will be almost split evenly between the parties, we expect that such tactics will stop.
The American public has given Congress a mandate. Voters are outraged by congressional scandals – sex scandals, money laundering, travel junkets, lobbyist abuses and ethical lapses. The only way these will be stopped is with new legislation. It is time for the 110th Congress to carry through and do what the 109th Congress would not:
Break the nexus between lobbyists, money and lawmakers.
Prohibit private interests from paying for trips for members of Congress and staff.
Ban lobbyist gifts to members of Congress and staff.
Establish an independent congressional Office of Public Integrity to oversee and enforce ethics rules and lobbying laws.
Slow the revolving door by prohibiting members of Congress and senior executive branch officials from lobbying for two years after leaving their positions.
Shed sunshine on lobbying activities and strengthen financial disclosure reports.
Voters are fed up. The time to act is now.
I would like to echo Ms. Claybrook's sentiments. Lobbying serves an important purpose in our government, but when lobbyists are allowed to add to their influence by buying gifts, paying for trips, and fundraising for candidates then their influence is far beyond what it should be.
Just as bad, public service, both among officeholders and their staff, has now become just a stop along the way to cashing in by becoming lobbyists. As long as these abuses remain unchecked, laws will continue to be passed that benefit only the special interests, and not the public as a whole.