Thursday, May 24, 2007

House Passes Lobbyist Disclosure Bill

WASHINGTON - Under strong urging by Democratic leaders, the House on Thursday approved mandatory disclosure by lobbyists who round up campaign donations from others and "bundle" them together for lawmakers.

The 382-37 vote was a partial step toward fulfilling the Democrats' pledge to run a more ethical and open Congress. It was seen a prelude to passage of a second ethics-related bill that would, among other things, require lawmakers to identify themselves when seeking "earmarks," or special spending items in bills.

Democratic leaders had to squelch a rebellion among colleagues who said the lobbying changes were going too far and might threaten their ability to raise campaign funds and land well-paid lobbying jobs when they leave Congress.

The most contentious issue involved requiring lobbyists to disclose so-called bundling practices, in which they solicit and collect campaign donations from several sources and deliver them to a favored lawmaker in one package. The long-employed practice is popular with many lawmakers, who find it easier than raising money check-by-check. It also is favored by lobbyists who find it helps them ingratiate themselves to lawmakers without having to divulge the role they play.

Democratic leaders suffered a minor setback when some of their freshmen members joined most Republicans in approving an amendment that party leaders opposed. The item, offered by Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, would require disclosure of lobbyists' bundled donations not only to individuals but also to so-called leadership PACs, which are campaign organizations especially favored by Democrats.

The amendment's adoption cleared the way for bipartisan approval of the overall bundling bill.

The Senate in January approved a lobbying package that would require disclosures of bundling and force former lawmakers to wait two years, rather than one, before becoming lobbyists after leaving Congress.........

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