Ethics Legislation Leaves Loopholes for Lobbyists

February 04, 2008 01:15 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Special interest groups devise legal ways to woo legislators despite a 2007 law prohibiting lobbyists from giving meals and gifts to Congress members.

30-Second Summary

USA Today reports that despite the constraints on gift-giving contained in the 2007 Ethics Law, labor organizations, corporations and activists have found a loophole that lets them legally wine and dine politicians.

By holding events in privately owned townhomes and offices on Capitol Hill, these groups are able to circumvent the law. The paper reports that 214 members of Congress had attended such functions from January to November 2007.

Penalties facing lobbyists who break the 2007 law include a five-year prison term and a $200,000 fine.

Some believe that the greater issue of legislative ethics is tied up in the details of the law, which stipulates that any food lobbyists give to Congress members must fit on a toothpick.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), who voted for the law, said in the Houston Chronicle that the toothpick rule detracts from the issue of ethics as a whole and “is kind of dumb.”

The legislation is among the latest aimed at cleaning up campaigns. The 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act banned soft money contributions—money given to political organizations that do not directly support a candidate.

Although interest groups argued that the law was unconstitutional, the Supreme Court upheld it in 2003.

Headline Link: ‘Lobbyists Find More Ways to Bond with Lawmakers’

Background: The 2007 Ethics Law and the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act

Opinion & Analysis: Loopholes and waitlists

Related Link: ‘Popular Issues Stalling in Congress’


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