Ethics and transparency legislation (109th Congress)

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During the course of the 109th Congress (2005-2006) the following legislation was introduced that related to transparency and disclosure in Congress.

Contents

House of Representatives

Sunlight Act of 2006 (HR 4967)

The Sunlight Act of 2006 was introduced by Rep. Steve King on March 15, 2006 and was referred to the Committee on House Administration and the Committee on Rules where no action was taken. The bill contained the following:

  • Requires all FEC reports be filed electronically and placed on the internet in a searchable database.
  • Require all private travel reports be put on the internet in a searchable database.
  • Require all personal financial disclosure reports to list the actual dollar amount rather than using a range. Also, require all personal financial disclosure forms be put on the internet in a searchable database.
  • Require all bills and conference reports be placed on the internet at least 48 hours before a vote, all amendments made in order by a rule within one hour after the rule is filed, and all amendments made under open rule immediately as it is being offered.
  • Require the House to project onto a wall the topic of debate on the floor for the viewing of members and the gallery.

Thomas page on H.R.4967

Read the Bill (H.Res. 688)

H.Res. 688 would amend "the Rules of the House of Representatives to require that legislation and conference reports be available on the Internet for 72 hours before consideration by the House, and for other purposes." The bill is sponsored by Rep. Brian Baird (D-Wash.) and 34 other co-sponsors. The bill was referred to the House Rules Committee in February of 2006.

Thomas page on H.R.688

H. Res. 797

House Resolution 797 was introduced by Rep. Melissa Bean on May 4, 2006 and was referred to the Committee on House Administration where no action was taken. The resolution contained the following:

  • Instruct the Clerk of the House to create a record organized by member name of all recorded votes including the roll, date, issue, question, result, and title or description of the vote, and any cost estimate of the Congressional Budget Office related to the vote.
  • Require all members to have a link to their voting record in this database on their official webpage.

Thomas page on H.R. 797

H. Res. 728

House Resolution 728 was introduced by Rep. Jeff Flake on March 15, 2006 and was referred to the Committee on Rules where no action was taken. The bill contained the following:

  • Establish new rules for pre-approval of privately funded congressional travel.
  • Require the Clerk of the House to post all private travel reports and advance authorizations on the internet, not later than 10 days after receipt, in a searchable database.

Thomas page on H.R.728

H. Res. 81

House Resolution 81 was introduced by Rep. Mark Green on February 9, 2005 and was referred to the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution where no action was taken. The resolution contained the following:

  • Require the Clerk of the House to create an online database of lobbying reports modeled on the database on the Senate homepage.

Thomas page on H.R. 81

H. Res. 647

House Resolution 647 was introduced by Reps. Walter Jones and Jeff Flake on January 31, 2006 and was referred to the Committee on Rules where no action was taken.

The resolution contained the following:

  • Requires the Clerk of the House to post on the Internet for public review all travel disclosure reports submitted by Members, officers, and employees of the House.

Thomas page on H.R.647

House Ethics Reform Act of 2006 (HR 4988)

The House Ethics Reform Act of 2006 was introduced by Rep. Joel Hefley on March 16, 2006 and was referred to the Committee on Rules, the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, and the Judiciary Committee where no action was taken.

The bill contained the following:

  • Restructuring the House Ethics Committee and Ethics investigation process.
  • Electronic disclosure and databases maintained at the Clerk of the House website for all travel information, gift information, lobbyist disclosure forms.
  • Require lobbyists to disclose financial ties to and/or membership in organizations that provide private travel to members of Congress within 48 hours of providing funds and/or becoming a member of said organization.
  • Require lobbyists to disclose all “in-person contacts” with a “legislative branch official while the official is on official travel” within 48 hours of said contact.
  • Require more information on travel records and a faster submission process (10 days instead of 30 days).
  • Members must report all activity in relation to trips taken on corporate jets.

Thomas page on H.R.4988

Senate

Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006

The Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act was introduced by Senators Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.) on April 6, 2006 and referred to the Committee on Homeland Security and Government Reform. The committee unanimously approved the bill and sent it to the full Senate for consideration. The bill ultimately passed the Senate and House after overcoming two "secret holds". (For the full story see: Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act)

The bill contained the following:

  • Require full disclosure of all entities and organizations receiving Federal funds.
  • Create a searchable electronic database of all Federal contracts and grants.

Thomas page on S.Con.Res.114

Thomas page on S.2590

Main article: Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006

S. 1508

Senate Bill 1508 was introduced by Sen. Russ Feingold on July 27, 2005 and was referred to the Committee on Rules and Administration where no action was taken.

The bill contained the following:

  • Requires Senators to file designations, statements, and reports in electronic form.

Thomas page on S.1508

CLEAN UP Act (S. 2179)

The CLEAN UP Act was introduced by Sen. Barack Obama on January 18, 2006 and was referred to the Committee on Rules and Administration where no action was taken.

The bill contained the following:

  • Require all conference committees to hold regular, public/televised meetings; require conference committees to give conferees adequate notice of the time and place of such meetings; require that all conferees be afforded the opportunity to participate in full and complete debates on the matters before the committee.
  • Require actual voting in conference committees and require the majority to allow the minority an opportunity to submit dissenting or minority views.
  • Require all legislation (bill, resolution, amendment, and conference report) to be placed on the internet for at least 72 hours prior to its consideration.
  • Requires that no appropriation bill will be considered unless a list of all earmarks in the bill and accompanying reports are made available to all Members and placed on the internet for at 72 hours prior to its consideration.

Thomas page on S.2179

The Lobbying Transparency and Accountability Act of 2006 (S.2349 and H.R.4975)

In wake of numerous congressional scandals the majority Republican Party put together a collection of lobbying and ethics reforms to combat issues raised by these scandals. The minority Democratic Party offered their own package of reforms and assailed the Republicans for pushing a weak reform package. In the Senate there was a much greater consensus on a final bill although it did not include any of the Democratic proposals. The bill ultimately cleared both the House and the Senate but the House Republicans never appointed members to a conference committee so the differences between the two chambers were never reconciled. (For the differences in the Senate and House bills see Differences in Lobbying Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006.)

May 3, 2006
Passed, 219-217, view details
Dem: 8-192 opposed, GOP: 209-20 in favor, Ind: 1 opposed

March 29, 2006
Passed, 90-8, view details
Dem: 39-3 in favor, GOP: 50-5 in favor, Ind: 1 in favor

Transparency and Integrity in Earmarks Act of 2006 (S.2261)

This bill, sponsored by Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), would require:

  • All earmarks, including the name of the requestor and a justification for the earmark, would be disclosed 72 hours before they can be considered by the full Senate.
  • All earmarks would have to be listed in the actual bill, not just the committee report.
  • All earmarks would have to be germane to the bill in which they are contained.
  • Senators would be prohibited from advocating for an earmark if they have a financial interest in the project or earmark recipient.
  • Earmarks may not be used to secure promises from senators that they will vote a certain way on a bill.
  • Earmark recipients must disclose to an Office of Public Integrity the amount that they have spent on registered lobbyists and the names of those lobbyists.[1]

Thomas page on S.2261

Congressional Ethics Enforcement Commission Act of 2006 (S.2259)

This bill, sponsored by Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), would create a Congressional Ethics Enforcement Commission to receive complains from the public on alleged ethics violations by members of Congress, staff, and lobbyists. The Commission would have authority to investigate compliants and present public findings of fact about possible violations to the House and Senate Ethics Committee and Justice Department. It was endorsed by Common Cause and Norm Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute. It was modeled on similar state commissions in Kentucky, Florida, and Tennessee.[2]

Specifically, the bill would require that:

  • The Commission would be comprised of nine Commissioners chosen by the leaders of Congress. Four of the Commissioners must be former federal judges, and four must be former members of Congress.
  • During their service, Commissioners would be prohibited from serving as a fundraiser for a Senate or House candidate, contributing to a candidate for federal office, serving as an officer in a political party, acting as a registered lobbyist, and participating in the management or conduct of a political campaign.
  • In conducting its investigations of alleged violations, the Commission would have the authority to issue subpoenas, compel the attendance of witnesses and the production of documents, and take depositions.
  • All Commission proceedings, including the initial complaint, would remain confidential until a final determination is made.
  • Following a preliminary investigation of a complaint, the Commission would have several options: dismiss the complaint; confidentially inform the alleged violator of potential violations and provide information to ensure future compliance with the law; or upon a majority vote, initiate an adjudicatory proceeding to determine whether to present a case to the House and Senate Ethics Committee or the Department of Justice.
  • The House and Senate Ethics Committee and the Department of Justice would retain the ultimate authority to discipline members of Congress.
  • To avoid manipulation of the Commission for political purposes, any person filing a complaint that they knew to be false would be subject to a $10,000 fine and up to one year in jail. That person also would be barred from filing any future complaints.
  • No complaints could be filed against a member of Congress in the three months prior to an election to ensure that complaints are not filed for political purposes.[3]

Thomas page on S.2259

Articles and resources

See also

References

  1. "Obama Testifies About Plan to Reduce Lobbyist Influence and Clean Up Washington," press release from Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), Feb. 8, 2006.
  2. "Obama Testifies About Plan to Reduce Lobbyist Influence and Clean Up Washington," press release from Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), Feb. 8, 2006.
  3. "Obama Testifies About Plan to Reduce Lobbyist Influence and Clean Up Washington," press release from Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), Feb. 8, 2006.

External resources

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