House Ethics Bill Passes in 411-8 Vote
Legislation hailed as the most sweeping Congressional ethics reform since the Watergate era of the 1970s passed the House of Representatives by an overwhelming 411-8 majority yesterday and appears poised for approval in the Senate.
Drafted, ironically, behind closed doors, the ethics bill for the first time requires lawmakers to disclose “bundling” of contributions totaling $15,000 or more during a six-month period; the term describes a major source of lobbyists’ influence—gathering donations from a number of individuals and then presenting them in a lump sum to a politician. Among other new rules imposed by the bill, which differ a bit in the House and Senate, are increased restrictions on accepting meals and gifts, including plane tickets, more stringent reporting requirements and significantly enhanced penalties for violations, reports the Los Angeles Times.
“For the first time, citizens will be able to get a full picture on how lobbyists and lobbying organizations use money in Washington, D.C., to gain access and influence in Congress,” says Fred Wertheimer. He is president of Democracy 21, a nonprofit group.