WASHINGTON – President Bush signed a bill Friday that will require lawmakers to disclose more about their efforts to fund pet projects and raise money from lobbyists, a measure that backers call the biggest ethics reform in decades.
The new law will require lawmakers seeking targeted spending projects, or earmarks, to divulge 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.
The law, drafted by congressional Democrats in response to lobbying scandals that landed two former lawmakers in prison, will bar House and Senate members 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.
Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill. — who had pushed for the bundling provisions and was one of four lawmakers who participated in a Democratic conference call to reporters — said the measure marks "the most sweeping ethics reform since Watergate."
Bush had complained that the earmark disclosure requirements are too loose, and hinted in early August that he might veto the bill. In a statement Friday, he said the bill has important elements but must be followed by measures to crack down further on earmarks.
The House passed the bill, 411-8, on July 31. The Senate approved it, 83-14, on Aug. 2.
The law 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.