WASHINGTON – A lobbying reform bill discussed Tuesday by House Democrats would allow lobbyists to continue collecting campaign money anonymously for members of Congress.
Several provisions in a Senate-passed lobbying reform bill were not included in the draft of a House version that Democratic leaders plan to unveil this week, a sign that some lawmakers fear the restrictions went too far.
The House draft would not require lobbyists to disclose "bundling" practices in which they solicit and deliver multiple donations for a congressional candidate, party leaders said. Nor would it require retired or defeated lawmakers to wait two years before becoming a lobbyist, party leaders said.
The Senate had provisions on both in a bill it passed in January, soon after Democrats gained control of both chambers and vowed to crack down on lobbying and fundraising abuses.
Top House Democrats said some of the omitted provisions might be added as amendments to the bill in the Judiciary Committee or House floor later this month. But their omission from the original version reflected the opposition that numerous Democrats raised in a feisty closed-door party caucus meeting Tuesday, lawmakers said.
Some lawmakers feel the long-accepted practice of bundling is essential to meeting their fundraising targets.
Open government groups say reporting on bundling is essential to letting the public know which lobbyists ingratiate themselves to lawmakers. The Senate-approved provision would not bar bundling, they note, but only require that it be disclosed.
Democratic leaders including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., have called for mandatory disclosure of bundled donations.
As for the so-called revolving door issue, current law requires former members of Congress to wait one year before contacting former colleagues on behalf of paying clients. The Senate bill would extend the time to two years, and ban all lobbying activities, not just contacts with members.
Lawmakers said Democratic leaders late Tuesday were discussing various versions of revolving-door language, but they did not expect the House bill to copy the Senate's provision.
"Everyone agrees we've got to pass reform," said Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, the House's fourth-ranking Democratic leader. Party leaders decided to start with a bill that House Democrats backed in 2006, he said, and allow members to try to amend it during committee and floor debates.