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Today the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007 will become law. The Act represents far reaching changes to the lobbying and ethics rules that govern the interactions between lobbyists and legislators.
“With all the wining and dining paid for by lobbyists, it’s been far too easy for officials to lose sight of who they work for,” said Arizona PIRG's Democracy Advocate Gary Kalman. “This legislation challenges the culture in Washington and makes it more likely that the concerns of voters will be heard.”
The Act contains some of the most significant changes to the lobbying and ethics rules since the Watergate era. Among the many provisions in are:
- bans on gifts and travel paid for by lobbyists and a ban on trips in which lobbyists are present;
- first time disclosure of the fundraising that lobbyists do on behalf of candidates and increased disclosure of lobbyists’ contributions and activities;
- increases to the “cooling off period” from one year to two between when a Senator or senior staff leaves public service and returns to use their influence as a lobbyist;
- first time mandatory conflict of interest rules and disclosure of when members are negotiating with future private employers;
- elimination of discounted rides for members of Congress on corporate jets;
- first time disclosure of sponsors of earmarks – pet projects that legislators insert into spending bills -- and a prohibition on earmarks that financially benefit members themselves or their family;
- elimination of the “secret hold,” a practice in which one Senator can stop a bill from proceeding to a vote without any accountability;
Despite internal opposition from colleagues, Congressional leadership fought to ensure that the bill carried meaningful reforms throughout the process. Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid, Senators Obama, Feingold, and Feinstein and Representatives Van Hollen and Emanuel deserve enormous credit for the pushing these strong reforms.
“We applaud the new rules and recognize they are only as effective as the ability to enforce them,” noted Kalman. “We look forward to working with Congress on proposals for strengthening enforcement.”
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