WASHINGTON – Lawmakers will have to disclose more about their efforts to fund pet projects and raise money from lobbyists under a long-debated bill that President Bush will sign into law as early as next week, White House and congressional officials said Tuesday.
The legislation, a Democratic-driven response to recent lobbying scandals, drew grumbles from lawmakers worried about their fundraising efforts. It also drew complaints from Bush, who said it did not go far enough. Congressional Democrats decided not to send it to Bush during the August recess, fearing he might refuse to sign it within 10 days and thereby kill it with a pocket veto.
But the White House has signaled the president will sign the bill, which passed both chambers handily. House and Senate leaders plan to send it to him upon his return from a trip to Australia early next week.
The bill will require lawmakers seeking targeted spending projects, or earmarks, to publicize their plans in advance. Lawmakers and political committees must identify lobbyists who raise $15,000 or more for them within a six-month period by bundling campaign donations from many people.
It will bar lawmakers from taking gifts from lobbyists or their clients. Former senators and high-ranking executive branch officials will have to wait two years before lobbying Congress; ex-House members will have to wait one year.
Senators and candidates for the White House or Senate will have to pay the full share of their use of private planes. House members and candidates will be barred from accepting trips on private airplanes.
Bush had complained that the earmark disclosure requirements are too loose, and hinted in early August that he might veto the bill. But lawmakers felt it was unlikely he would challenge a measure that won bipartisan support, and the White House eventually relented.
Several prominent government watchdog groups embraced the bill, calling it the biggest leap in congressional reforms in years.
"Our organizations strongly urge President Bush to sign the landmark lobbying and ethics reform legislation," said an August letter from groups including the Campaign Legal Center, Common Cause, Democracy 21, the League of Women Voters, Public Citizen and U.S. PIRG.
Democrats, who gained control of the House and Senate this year, vowed to clean up lobbying practices following scandals that landed two GOP House members and prominent lobbyist Jack Abramoff in prison.
The House passed the bill, 411-8, on July 31. The Senate approved it, 83-14, on Aug. 2.
The bill will bar lawmakers from attending lobbyist-funded parties in their honor during national political conventions. It also prohibits them from trying to influence the hiring of lobbyists for partisan reasons.
It will strip pension benefits from lawmakers convicted of bribery or perjury.