Thursday, January 18, 2007

Senate passes lobbying reform bill

Perhaps there will be meaningful reform in Congress this year, after all.
Tonight, the Senate, by a 96-2 vote approved the reform package that appeared totally lost earlier in the day.

Among those casting votes for the bill were Missouri senators Kit Bond and Claire McCaskill. The only senators voting against the bill were Tom Coburn,R-Okla., and Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., was one of two senators who were not present for the vote.

Among other things the bill includes restrictions against spouses lobbying the Senate, and bans gifts, meals, and travel from lobbyists. Those go into effect immediately. Other provisions also need approval from the House:

One of those legislative provisions would force lobbyists to publicly disclose the small campaign donations they collect from clients and "bundle" into large donations to politicians. Bundling is a way for lobbyists to contribute far more money to candidates and thus wield far more influence than they could by making individual contributions, which are currently limited to $2,100 per candidate for each election cycle. Lavish gatherings thrown by lobbyists and corporate interests at party conventions would be banned.

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