Bill would require Congress to post lobbyist gifts

Text of S.2349, the Senate's lobbying reform bill

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New legislation would require members of Congress to post on their official Web sites the items lobbyists pay for, such as meals and travel, for the public to see. Senators hope the lobbying reform bill they passed Wednesday will restore the public’s confidence in them.

The Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act of 2006 would require senators and representatives to list on their official sites the value of meals or refreshments they or their staffs receive and the name of the person who paid for them. The notice must be posted within 15 days of the event, the bill states.

Also, members and staffers would have to post a description of meetings and events they attended during a trip and the names of any lobbyists who went with them. Notification would have to be posted within 30 days of those events, according to the bill.

The act also would prohibit all gifts from lobbyists to members of Congress and require the ethics committee to pre-approve privately funded travel. It would reform the earmark process to make it more transparent.

“It is not perfect,” Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said about the reform bill, “but I believe it is a major step toward enhancing public confidence in the integrity of the decisions that Congress makes on the important issues facing our nation.”

“Today, we have sent a clear and unequivocal message that, in Washington [D.C.], we are taking significant steps to make sure results go to the greatest public good and not ever to the highest bidder,” Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) said.

The Senate passed the reform bill by a vote of 90-8. The House must consider the bill next.

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