|Tom DeLay- Corporate Whore|
Amid DeLay furor, new ethics bill pushes for stricter reporting
By Michael Tackett
Tribune senior correspondent
Published May 5, 2005
WASHINGTON -- With several members of Congress, and most notably House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, ensnared in an ethics controversy over their relationships with lobbyists, Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) on Wednesday introduced legislation to require much stricter reporting and disclosure requirements.
"This is an institutional problem," Emanuel said. "This is a cloud that hangs over the institution of the Congress. I think we ought to clean it up."
So far, he has found support only among Democrats, many of whom have been sharply critical of DeLay (R-Texas). And for his part, DeLay was dismissive of the proposed legislation, saying, "I'm not interested in the water that they are carrying for some of these leftist groups."
When told that Emanuel and co-sponsor Martin Meehan (D-Mass.), were looking for bipartisan support, DeLay responded derisively, "I bet they are."
The call to revamp lobbying laws comes against the backdrop of several inquiries into the actions of lobbyist Jack Abramoff, many of which focus on his relationship to DeLay and whether Abramoff might have improperly paid for travel for the House majority leader on foreign trips.
Later Wednesday, the evenly divided House ethics committee formally adopted investigative rules, allowing itself to initiate investigations and receive complaints of member misconduct. And two GOP members of the panel, Reps. Lamar Smith of Texas and Tom Cole of Oklahoma, agreed to withdraw from any investigation of DeLay because they contributed to the majority leader's legal defense funds.
DeLay has consistently denied any wrongdoing and said in a weekly session with reporters that he welcomes the opportunity to have his side of the case heard by the ethics committee.
The Texas Republican said that many lawmakers are baffled by the current ethics rules and often are at a loss to know what is within the rules.
He said that lawyers have been preparing documents for him to turn over to the committee, but he added that he did not plan to publicly release those documents.
He said he was "absolutely" confident that he would be vindicated by any investigation. "We did everything by the book," DeLay said.
That is not how Emanuel sees it. Indeed, the legislation he proposes with Meehan seems tailored almost precisely to the set of issues that the DeLay controversy presents.
The legislation would require quarterly filings by lobbyists instead of semiannual filings, and those records would be accessible electronically to the public in a searchable database. It would cross-reference lobbyist filings with campaign finance disclosures for federal candidates.
The bill also would require lobbyists to report all past government employment and would double the one-year waiting period before a member of Congress or senior staff could directly lobby Congress.
To prevent potential travel abuses, the legislation would require organizations sponsoring travel for a member or staff to attest that the trip was not at the request of a lobbyist or foreign agent.
It also would require that the organization did not accept money earmarked to pay for the trip from another source.
Congress last passed major lobbying reform legislation 10 years ago.
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