the blog of DC Drinking Liberally

March 7, 2006

Update: ethics reform and this week’s speaker


The Washington Post had an important editorial on Monday on the stakes involving this week’s critical votes on lobbying and ethics reform. Without meaningful reform, disastrous pro-corporate legislation like Medicare part D will continue to be passed — and progressive legislation will be ignored. Few people in Washington are as expert on these issues as our speaker, Craig Holman of Congress Watch.

The importance of ethics reform was underscored by Rep. Louise Slaughter and Rules Committee Democrats, who recently documented the impact of all the corruption on working Americans in an important report, “America for Sale.”

Debate begins Wednesday on two relatively feeble “reform” measures that have been combined into one bill, omitting the key element of enforcement through an independent Office of Public Integrity. As Public Citizen points out:

The U.S. Senate’s floor debate on lobbying reform starts on Wednesday, March 8. The bill (S. 2349) that will be on the Senate floor is a composite of two bills approved last week by two Senate committees…. This package is inadequate and would not do enough to curb the excesses of moneyed interests in Congress.

The composite bill is available at:

This week’s speaker, Craig Holman, is Public Citizen’s Congress Watch legislative representative and an expert on Congressional ethics. The Senate marked up weak reform legislation last week and will vote on the bill this week, but there’s still a chance to influence our legislators (if you don’t live in the District) to get a stronger bill or learn how you can become a clean government activist. I wrote about it at Huffington Post. This week the Senate will vote on whether to have an independent public integrity office as an amendment to mild lobbying reform legislation. Unfortunately, they’re more interested in the fig-leaf of upgraded disclosure than real reform.

Here’s the latest on what the Senate did last week, from Public Citizen’s Joan Claybrook:

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee significantly improved a lobbying disclosure and reform bill today by adding a requirement that major lobbyists disclose the money they spend on grassroots lobbying. But the committee took a giant step backward — crippling the reform effort — by rejecting an independent Office of Public Integrity.

Overall, this measure is insufficient because it focuses on disclosing corruption, rather than deterring it. That’s like tallying the number of people killed in highway crashes instead of making safer vehicles.

Learn more this week when Craig Holman speaks.

Update from Keith: Holman will be at the Thursday DCDL gathering March 9, starting around 6:30pm in the back room at Timberlake’s, 1726 Connecticut Ave NW (2½ blocks north of the Dupont Circle Metro). Free appetizers and extended happy hour drink specials. Subscribe to the announcement list to hear about future events.

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DCDL is a blog by Washington, DC-area members of Drinking Liberally. Opinions expressed are the writers’, not those of Drinking Liberally, which provides no funding or other support for this blog.

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