Before the Clock Strikes Twelve

With their plan to make lobbying reform a priority once they take control of Congress, Democrats are looking to take advantage of a national mood that wants action on corruption, but before they get crazy with reform they're taking all the lobbyist money they can get their hands on, according to the Wall Street Journal. Is that like having one last piece of cake before you go on a diet?

 

With campaign debts to retire, Democrats and Republicans alike are cramming lobbyist's mailboxes full of invites to expensive receptions. But incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her leadership team have put lobbyist restrictions at the top of their ethics agenda. The Wall Street Journal article (may require subscription) notes a certain duality to this agenda:

 

But the Pelosi rule changes will largely affect how lobbyists and lawmakers interact during the legislative calendar, when Congress is debating and voting on policy matters. They are aimed at curbing lobbyists' ability to lavish lawmakers with free trips, meals and gifts, such as skybox seats at major concerts and sporting events.

The new rules won't change the campaign-finance rules that dictate giving during the political season -- and that is what this week's events are all about.

"We will break the link between lobbyists and legislating," said Pelosi spokesman Brendan Daly. "People still need to raise money to run campaigns."

 

So, if I'm reading this correctly it would appear members of Congress develop collective amnesia between election season and the legislative session and are unable to remember in January large contributions made by lobbyists in, say, October. Don't get me wrong, the crackdown on junkets, meals and skyboxes is a good thing but it seems to place more emphasis on appearing to reduce impropriety without actually reducing it.