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The Ubiqitous Lobbying Loophole

January 31, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

Ellen Miller and Bill Allison of the Sunlight Foundation have drawn my attention to this excellent story and interactive graphic from USAToday, exposing some of the latest developments in lobbyist-lawmaker relations.

>Despite a strict new ban on gifts to lawmakers, lobbyists routinely use these prime locations to legally wine and dine members of Congress while helping them to raise money, campaign records show. The lawmakers get a venue that is often free or low-cost, a short jaunt from the Capitol. The lobbyists get precious uninterrupted moments with lawmakers — the sort of money-fueled proximity the new lobbying law was designed to curtail. The public seldom learns what happens there because the law doesn’t always require fundraising details to be reported.
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>"These houses are tangible proof of how big a business the pay-to-play system has become," said Meredith McGehee of the non-partisan Campaign Legal Center. When lawmakers pay to rent the houses for fundraisers, records show, they often get cut-rate deals, despite FEC rules that say campaigns must pay fair-market value for goods and services.

FYI, the new lobbying law that is referred to several times in the article can be viewed here:

S.1 – Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007

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