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Lobbying reform bill goes to full Senate absent ethics office provision

[JURIST] The US Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee [official website] voted 12-1 Thursday to send a lobbying oversight bill to the full Senate, but the bill was stripped of a provision establishing an independent office with oversight over congressional ethics issues. The Lobbying Transparency and Accountability Act of 2005 [full draft text; advocacy group summary] as approved would expand the definition of a lobbyist to include grassroots lobbyists, demand quarterly expense reports of all lobbyists, and require the disclosure of all campaign contributions from lobbyists to candidates.

Bill co-sponsor Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) [official website] read a statement [text] supporting the inclusion of the oversight office provision within the text of the full Senate bill. He explained:

It would establish, as the Chairman has mentioned, an independent Office of Public Integrity with a full time executive director with investigative and subpoena powers and the staff to do a lot more than is done under the status quo. It would require lobbyists to report their activities on a quarterly basis, rather than semi-annually, and establish an electronic database of the information. Our proposal for the first time would require registered lobbyists to report all their campaign contributions, as well as other contributions that honor Members of Congress, all in the interest of full disclosure. And it would increase from one year to two the amount of time that must pass before a former Member of Congress or senior executive branch official could lobby his or her former colleagues. It would also bar Congressional staff from lobbying the entire Congress for one year.
Lieberman noted that recent scandals involving former lobbyist Jack Abramoff [JURIST news archive] had motivated the legislation. During full Senate hearings on the issue, a combination of an ethics reform proposal [JURIST report] approved by a separate Senate committee on Wednesday and the lobbying oversight bill will likely be considered. AP has more.

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