February 16, 2006

TO:
  Members of the House of Representatives
FROM:
  Kay J. Maxwell, President
RE:
  Lobby Reform Legislation

The League of Women Voters strongly urges you to support effective legislation to reform the lobbying process and to begin to rebuild public confidence in Congress. We believe that lobby reform legislation must:

  • Set new contribution and fundraising limits on lobbyists and lobbying firms;
  • Fundamentally change the gift, travel and employment relationships among Members of Congress, lobbyists and lobbying firms; and
  • Institute new and effective enforcement mechanisms.

The current round of lobbying scandals demonstrates that current mechanisms, from the congressional ethics process to campaign finance regulation to gift and travel restrictions, are simply inadequate to protect against corruption. Fundamental change is needed.

The role of lobbyists and lobbying firms in providing campaign money to Members of Congress must be addressed. We support capping contributions to candidates from lobbyists and lobbying firm PACs at $200 per election. We also support prohibiting lobbyists and firms from arranging contributions and from serving on campaign committees and leadership PACs.

The League believes that private interests should not finance trips, an effective gift ban must be put in place and the revolving door between Congress and the private sector must be slowed. Specifically, lobbyists and others should be barred from funding parties for specific members; corporations and others should be prohibited from providing planes at less than the full cost of a charter; and members and senior executive branch officials should be barred from paid lobbying activities for two years after leaving their positions.

Finally, there are gaping holes in the ethics process. Congress needs an independent office or commission to oversee and enforce ethics rules and lobbying laws, receive allegations and complaints, conduct investigations and present cases to congressional ethics committees. Additional lobbying disclosure rules are also needed.

The League calls on Congress to enact lobby reform, and to do it through an open process that allows for open debate and meaningful amendments.