Lawmakers are about to bombard the American public with proposals that would crack down on lobbyists. Several prominent plans, including one outlined yesterday by House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), would specifically ban meals and privately paid travel for lawmakers.
Or would they?
According to lobbyists and ethics experts, even if Hastert’s proposal is enacted, members of Congress and their staffs could still travel the world on an interest group’s expense and eat steak on a lobbyist’s account at the priciest restaurants in Washington.
The only requirement would be that whenever a lobbyist pays the bill, he or she must also hand the lawmaker a campaign contribution. Then the transaction would be perfectly okay.
“That’s a big hole if they don’t address campaign finance,” said Joel Jankowsky, the lobbying chief of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, one of the capital’s largest lobbying outfits.
This loophole is something I’ve mentioned before. As long as lobby interests are allowed to pass money to politicians influence peddling can and will happen.
Clearly something more is needed.
Personally, I continue to stand by a suggestion I made in this post: Constituent only campaign contributions.
When a congressman is elected their intended mission is to represent their constituents in Congress. That’s it. Everything they do in Washington D.C. is supposed to serve that ultimate objective. So why then do our politicians need to accept money and contributions from anyone outside of the people, businesses and organizations that make up their constituency?
It would be a very easy law to implement and enforce. We’d simply allow for unlimited contributions to a politician as long as those contributions are coming from constituents and/or groups made up of constituents. Then, as long as politicians are required to keep their campaign accounting books open to public scrutiny, we’d have no problems. Sure politicians in California are going to get a lot more money than politicians in North Dakota or Wyoming, but so what? North Dakota and Wyoming politicians don’t have to run against California politicians.
Of course, I don’t foresee any such law being passed. Politicians are far to beholden to the millions shoveled into their pockets every year by special interest groups. They certainly aren’t going to bite the hand that feeds, but that doesn’t mean the idea is a bad one.
You can read more from Rob Port at SayAnythingBlog.com