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September 14, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

In a major victory for all, President Bush today quietly signed into law S.1, the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007. While this bill is by no means a cure-all for the corruption and secrecy that has plagued Congress in recent years, It is a huge first step in the right direction. It will send an immediate jolt to both lobbyists and lawmakers in the Senate, whose cozy relationships — the gifts, the trips, the marital job market — which will, in many ways, become illegal tomorrow. Paul Blumenthal has a rundown of some of the bill’s new rules that will be taking effect later in the year.

>1) As of December 12, all Senate committees and subcommittees must post a transcript or audio/video file of each committee hearing within 21 days.
>2) As of January 1, 2008, the Secretary of the Senate will have established a publicly searchable online database of privately paid travel reports.
>3) As of August 1, 2008, the Clerk of the House must post online in a manner that is searchable, sortable, and downloadable both personal financial disclosures and privately paid travel reports.
>4) All lobbying changes will go into effect on January 1, 2008. The Clerk of the House and the Secretary of the Senate will begin posting the first quarterly lobbying disclosure reports online on January 1, 2008.
>The date that disclosure of bundled contributions by lobbyists will go in effect is a bit difficult to determine because it requires the Federal Election Commission to set regulations governing this disclosure. It is likely, however, that bundlers will be disclosed by the first semi-annual period in July of 2008.

This bill brings about much-needed advancements in fairness and transparency, but there is still much more work to be done. For instance, the earmark disclosure rules that are included in this bill still need to be much stronger. And lobbyists have already identified a number of loopholes they are ready to exploit (sorry, Times $elect). But overall, this a tremendous leap forward that will be seen as victory for Democrats and, more importantly, for the overwhelmingly unpopular U.S. Congress.

For more on the bill and reactions to its signing, check out the news and blog coverage that OpenCongress has been gathering. Also, here’s a link to President Bush’s mixed reaction upon signing it.

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