Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Obama on the Issues - Ethics and Lobbying Reform

Ethics and Lobbying Reform

Throughout his political career, Barack Obama has been a leader in fighting for open and honest government. During his first year as an Illinois State Senator, he helped lead the fight to pass Illinois' first ethics reform bill in 25 years. As a U.S. Senator, he has spearheaded the effort to clean up Washington in the wake of the Jack Abramoff scandal.

Senator Obama is one of the authors of the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act (S. 2180). The bill would lengthen the cooling off period to two years for lawmakers and staff who seek to become lobbyists, and it would require immediate disclosure as soon as any job negotiations begin. The bill would open conference committee meetings to the public and require that all bills be posted on the Internet for 24 hours before they can be voted on by the Senate. Finally, the bill would end all lobbyist-funded gifts, meals, and travel and strengthen the Senate office that monitors lobbyist disclosure forms.

In addition, Senator Obama has sponsored three other ethics-related bills:

  • The Congressional Ethics Enforcement Commission Act (S. 2259)

    The bill would create an outside ethics commission to receive complaints from the public on alleged ethics violations by members of Congress, staff, and lobbyists. The commission would have the authority to investigate complaints and present public findings of fact about possible violations to the House and Senate Ethics Committee and Justice Department. By taking the initial fact finding out of the hands of members of Congress, who are often reluctant to investigate their colleagues, the bill ensures prompt and fair disposition of public complaints.

    To avoid manipulation of the commission for political purposes, any person filing a complaint that they knew to be false would be subject to a fine and/or imprisonment. No complaints could be filed against a member of Congress for 30 days before a primary election and 60 days before a general election.

    The bill has been widely endorsed by reform groups. According to Common Cause, "this legislation would do more to reform ethics and lobbying than any other piece of legislation introduced thus far because it goes to the heart of the problem: enforcement." Public Citizen praised Senator Obama "for having the courage to challenge the business-as-usual environment on Capitol Hill and introduce far-reaching legislation." Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington stated: "This is the first bill that deals seriously with the lack of oversight and enforcement in the existing congressional ethics process. . . . This bill will help restore Americans' confidence in the integrity of Congress.

  • The Transparency and Integrity in Earmarks Act (S. 2261)

    The bill would shed light on the almost 16,000 earmarks that were included in spending bills in 2005. Under the bill, all earmarks, including the name of the requestor and a justification for the earmark, would have to be disclosed 72 hours before they could be considered by the full Senate. Senators would be prohibited from advocating for an earmark if they have a financial interest in the project or earmark recipient. And, earmark recipients would have to disclose to an Office of Public Integrity the amount that they have spent on registered lobbyists and the names of those lobbyists.

  • The Curtailing Lobbyist Effectiveness through Advance Notification, Updates, and Posting Act (The CLEAN UP Act) (S. 2179)

    The bill aims to improve public access to information about all legislation, including conference reports and appropriations legislation, in particular after hurried, end-of-session negotiations. Conference committee meetings and deliberations would have to be open to the public or televised, and conference reports would have to identify changes made to the bill from the House and Senate versions. Finally, no bill could be considered by the full Senate unless the measure has been made available to all Senators and the general public on the Internet for at least 72 hours.

Statements on Ethics and Lobbying Reform


Source: http://obama.senate.gov/issues/
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Blogger LP Mike Sylvester said...

This is actually one of the reasons I currently have a fairly favorable opinion of Obama!

Mike Sylvester

7:45 PM, December 14, 2006  

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