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Bill Would Ban Congressmen From Lobbying For Life – But Does It Have A Future?

June 3, 2014 by  

Two Democratic Senators have introduced a bill that aims to ban, for life, any former member of Congress from serving as a lobbyist once his public service career has ended.

Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and jon Tester (D-Mont.) introduced a bill that, in addition to ending the pathway to lobbying for Congressmen, also would forbid former Congressional staffers who’ve become lobbyists from lobbying Congress for six years (as opposed to the current limitation of one year) after their employment with a Congressional office has ended.

Currently, former House members only have to wait one year after leaving office to enter the lucrative world of Washington, D.C. lobbying. Former Senators must wait two years. But the new bill would place a lifetime ban on Congressional lobbying for any former Congressman. It would also require K Street firms to make known any consulting work done by former Congressional staffers.

Both Senators had attempted in February to attach an amendment with similar intent to the STOCK (Stop Trading On Congressional Knowledge) Act, but that effort died with virtually no further action following its draft release.

While the new bill has obvious public appeal, Bennet has been criticized in his home State for reviving these accountability measures in order to score cheap and essentially meaningless political points with voters.

“Bennet’s populist K Street bashing makes good, short-term political sense,” wrote The Colorado Observer in late February. “But his rhetoric doesn’t exactly match up with his fundraising habits.”

Taking potshots at nameless, faceless “lobbyists” and proposing tough sounding “lifetime bans” and draconian penalties (even if you have no real intention of ever putting them to a vote) may seem like a good strategy for papering over tens of thousands in contributions from lobbying interests. And that kind of duplicity may fly in Washington (which Mr. Bennet is fond of railing against), but it is likely to be far less convincing with those of us who live two thousand miles from the DC cocktail circuit.

Indeed, the new legislation may – perhaps intentionally – get lost in the shuffle once its backers have taken their political benefit from a couple of favorable headlines.

“Congress has typically not enacted ethics or lobbying reform legislation unless a major scandal adds momentum,” The Hill observed Tuesday. “At present, Bennet and Tester’s bill is not expected to receive legislative action.”

Ben Bullard

Reconciling the concept of individual sovereignty with conscientious participation in the modern American political process is a continuing preoccupation for staff writer Ben Bullard. A former community newspaper writer, Bullard has closely observed the manner in which well-meaning small-town politicians and policy makers often accept, unthinkingly, their increasingly marginal role in shaping the quality of their own lives, as well as those of the people whom they serve. He argues that American public policy is plagued by inscrutable and corrupt motives on a national scale, a fundamental problem which individuals, families and communities must strive to solve. This, he argues, can be achieved only as Americans rediscover the principal role each citizen plays in enriching the welfare of our Republic.

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