Nov. 28, 2014

Reform Groups to Members: Avoid Lobbyist Parties at Conventions

Government reform groups have a piece of advice for Members of Congress who are looking forward to schmoozing with K Streeters at lobbyist-sponsored soirees at the upcoming party conventions: Don’t do it.

Public Citizen, Common Cause, Democracy 21, the League of Women Voters, Sunlight Foundation and U.S. PIRG today sent letters urging all House Members to stay away from parties, despite guidance from the House Ethics Committee.

“Unfortunately, conflicting interpretations of the new rules between the House and the Senate — with the House Ethics Committee offering guidance that runs directly counter to the intent of the rules — has created confusion among lobbyists, lawmakers and staff as to what is permissible,” the groups wrote. “This confusion may well result in a number of violations of the rules that will be witnessed by the public and press at the conventions.”

The ethics committee’s guidance interprets the rule on parties that “honor” Members at nominating conventions to apply only where a party is held to honor a specific Member, the letter added. The panel exempts lobbyist-sponsored events that honor a group of Members, such as a House delegation, House committee or House caucus.

“This is an absurd interpretation of the rule,” the letter said. “In contrast, the Senate Ethics Committee does not provide a similar exemption with regard to its almost identical Senate ethics rule.”

The groups added that the House Ethics Committee’s interpretation is “nothing more than a road map for lobbyists and Members to circumvent the rule.”

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