Lobbyists' Secretive Technique May be Protected by House BillMay 15, 2007 - by Donny Shaw
The ethics bill that was passed by senate Democrats as their first order of business in the majority is now facing an uphill battle in the House. A key provision in the bill — one that, in fact, has been called “the defining issue of this bill” — is being left out.
Bundling, a lobbying technique wherein contributions are collected from individual donors by a lobbyist and then given to a lawmaker, may be allowed to remain a secretive practice. The Senate’s bill would require that the identity of the lobbyist who gathered and gave the bundle of money to be disclosed. The House bill may not. At a closed caucus meeting today, the House Democratic leadership previewed the bill:
>House Majority Leader Hoyer indicated Van Hollen’s [Chris Van Hollen (D, MD) has been the main force pushing for bundling disclosure] language would not be included in the underlying package because, he said, “Defining what bundling is is difficult.” Hoyer added that the language might still be added through the amendment process.
Currently, only the individual donors are required to reveal their names. However, as this Washington Post editorial explains:
>The influence that lobbyists wield can’t be gauged by looking at their individual contributions. Their power comes in their capacity to deliver a stack of checks to grateful lawmakers. A lawmaker knows how much he or she is indebted to a lobbyist. So, you can be sure, does the lobbyist. The only ones in the dark are the public.
By not including the bundling disclosure requirement in the underlying bill, the leadership is taking a weak stance against corruption. Lawmakers who oppose the bundling requirement are afraid that lobbyists will stop collecting contributions for them in this way if they are forced to disclose their identity. The process is only worth lobbyists’ efforts because they can do it in secret. The House is planning to debate their version of an ethics bill sometime before the May 28 Memorial Day Recess. Some insiders still have hope that an amendment to require bundling disclosure will be attached to the final bill:
>Public Citizen lobbyist Craig Holman expressed confidence the Rules Committee would allow a floor debate on a bundling amendment and that House Speaker Pelosi would help find the votes for it. “If she throws her weight behind it, it ought to make it in the final legislation,” Holman said.
The uncredited citations above are from subscription-only Congress Daily.