Democratic Leaders to Roll Out Ethics Reform Proposal

Posted May 17, 2005 at 10:45am

House Democratic leaders, trying to secure a political upper hand on the ongoing ethics debate, will call this afternoon or six sweeping reforms to the laws and rules that govern the chamber.

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and Steering and Policy Committee Chairman George Miller (Calif.) are expected to unveil their legislative proposals, some of which have already been drafted. Titling it “Setting a New Ethical Standard for the House,” the leaders will outline a series of new and heightened prohibitions on Member and lobbyist-related activities.

The move comes as the House becomes ever embroiled in ethics controversy, and questions continue to mount over both Republicans’ and Democrats’ privately funded travel. It also comes as the two parties duke it out for political advantage on House ethics — a battle the minority believes it has been winning so far.

Specifically, the Democratic leaders will call for:

  • a prohibition of all gifts from lobbyists;
  • a ban on Members working “secretly” with corporate lobbyists to write bills;
  • an extension from one to two years of the time period during which retired Members or senior staff must wait before lobbying Congress,
  • a requirement that Members or a group funding their travel certify that they didn’t ask the funding entity to finance the trip;
  • a ban on lobbyists from arranging or financing travel; and
  • and end to the “K Street Project” by prohibiting Members and staff from taking or withholding action “on the basis of partisan affiliation.”

Aides said the Democrats are calling for changes to both House rules and laws, including urging criminal penalties for certain activities.

The reform package comes on the heels of allegations against numerous Members, most notably Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), who has come under fire in recent months for his ties to former GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

“We’re saying, these need to be done,” said a Democratic leadership aide. “These are the principles, and we’ll have legislation to follow.”

Separately today, Reps. Marty Meehan (D-Mass.) and Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) introduced legislation that fits in with the leaders’ goal. Their bill requires Members to fully disclosure official travel and apply more stringent rules to the lawmaker-lobbyist relationship.