Scandal Spotlights Reform Need; Legislators Seek Quick Action on Ethics Measures
Byline: Donald Lambro, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
The Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal has pushed restrictive ethics reforms on the House and Senate's front burners, as legislative leaders move to protect their political flanks in an election year when nearly two-thirds of Americans disapprove of Congress' job performance.
Several lobbying reform bills that have been languishing in committees are drawing attention from Republican leaders, who say they expect action on them early in this session.
"It is becoming conventional wisdom that a significant lobbying reform package will occur sometime early this year," said a senior House Republican official yesterday, on the condition of anonymity.
Several bills have been introduced in Congress, including one by Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, that would impose tougher restrictions and new disclosure requirements on lobbyists. This comes in the wake of an investigation that has ensnared Abramoff, three former Republican House officials and at least one congressman.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican, has asked Sen. Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania Republican, to draft a package of reforms to be passed this year, and House Republicans were planning similarly quick action.
However, lawyers who specialize in campaign-finance and lobbying laws wondered how long the mounting intensity for reform would last.
"Everybody gets religion after a scandal, at least for a while," said ethics lawyer Jan Baran, who represents major lobbying groups. …