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Roll Call reports today that a “mini-exodus of staffers from both sides of the aisle may be coming as a result [of a doubling of the one-year lobbying ban for former staffers] … Congressional aides and lobbyists say that the ongoing discussion of other bans … on free travel and entertainment will make working on Capitol Hill less appealing.” Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.
At least their bosses won’t be openly pressuring lobbyists to give them cushy jobs: the Washington Post reported that members of the Republican congressional leadership have finally ended their longtime practice of summoning lobbyists to their offices and presenting them with lists of K street job openings they wanted filled with Republicans.
Despite just ending that shady practice, yesterday Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) freaked out on a reporter who asked him about the K street project, reports AmericaBlog. We think you doth protest too much, Rick.
Lobbyists, meanwhile, are fighting against reform, report the AP and the Washington Post. The head of the National Association of Manufacturers, former Michigan Gov. John Engler, had the gall to tell the Senate panel that met yesterday on ethics reform that the system “was working” begged them that “whatever occurs, it is imperative that you do not overreact.” The president of the American League of Lobbyists, meanwhile, tried the bad apples argument (a “few unscrupulous operatives.”)
In the same hearing, meanwhile, some legislators showed that they are getting it. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) noted that “unless and until we address this in an honest fashion, we are carping on trifles here” and Reps. David Obey (D-Wis.) and Barney Frank (D-Mass.) announced that they were introducing legislation to eliminate special interest money in elections by turning to public financing, a proposal Public Citizen strongly supports. The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank hit the nail on the head when he noted that “while most everybody agreed that Congress was being subverted by lawmakers' reliance on lobbyists for campaign cash, the proposals getting the most serious consideration yesterday were relatively minor.” Milbank also notes that while Santorum refused to talk about fundraising, senators from Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) to George Voinovich (R-Ohio) to Tom Carper (D-Del.) to Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) and even Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) admitted that it is the role of lobbyists in fundraising that is corrupting the system.
TalkingPointsMemo provides video links to Sen. Conrad Burns’ (R-Mont.) latest ad in which he says not to believe that ads disparaging him for taking Abramoff money because they’re paid for by people who also took Abramoff money, and that means they can’t be trusted. Get all that?
Remember the secret conference committee meeting that produced the $22 billion giveaway to the health insurance industry we’ve blogged about before? Well, it’s coming up for a final vote in the House next week and it also includes $2 billion for pharmaceutical companies and $10 billion more in “government enticements” for health insurers, reports the LA Times. Democrats were reportedly not even let in the room for the key negotiations.
From gossip columnist Cindy Adams, of all people, we hear this tidbit: “Jack Abramoff’s partner Mike Scanlon admitted to digging up former Congressman Robert Livingston’s private life. Set to become speaker, Livingston then got sidelined for Tom DeLay’s man, Denis Hastert. Prosecutors now checking to see if Abramoff and Scanlon took Livingston down at DeLay’s behest.” [Via TPM]
The South African Mail & Guardian has been digging into Abramoff’s past, as well, and what the paper has found involves an American conservative group, the South African military and pro-apartheid propaganda. [Via TPM Café]
Another interesting bit of history comes from Bob Bauer, who recounts some of DeLay’s first legal troubles – the DCCC RICO suit against him. Ironically, the suit alleged that DeLay ran a seedy network of fundraisers and lobbyists to “establish a shadow political operation able to function outside existing rules and law.” This all seems familiar, doesn’t it?
The Mankato Free Press (Minn.) endorses the Coleman-Nelson commission plan.
USA Today bashes the two leading candidates in the House majority leader race, saying both Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and John Boehner (R-Ohio) have “cozy relations with lobbyists and a penchant for accepting perks from corporate friends.”
The San Jose Mercury News (Calif.) says that all the reforms proposed in Congress thus far won’t do the job and that perhaps only public financing of elections will.
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