U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Jon Tester (D-MT) today filed an amendment to the STOCK Act that would shut the revolving door of lobbyist influence in Washington by banning Members of Congress from ever becoming lobbyists.
“Too often, the outsized influence of lobbyists in Washington drowns out the voices of regular Americans and prevents Congress from acting in the interest of the American people,” Bennet said. “By preventing members of Congress from lobbying when they leave Capitol Hill and preventing congressional staff from going back and forth through the revolving door, public officials can get about the business of helping the country.”
“Montanans expect their representatives in Congress to put their service and accountability to the public above everything else,” Tester said. “This amendment levels the playing field and keeps lawmakers and their staffs focused on the job at hand – not a job down the road.”
A study by the Center for Responsive Politics recently found that about a third of former members of the 111th Congress who are currently employed are employed at lobbying firms, and more than 12,500 registered federal lobbyists actively lobbied in Washington in 2011.
To solve for the problem of outsized lobbyist influence and to close the revolving door, Bennet and Tester have proposed aggressive lobbying reform, which would:
- Place a lifetime ban on current members of Congress from becoming lobbyists;
- Ban congressional staff from lobbying their former boss for six years;
- Ban former committee staff from lobbying their former boss or any member who was then on the committee during their time on staff for six years;
- Ban lobbyists from joining congressional staffs or committee staffs that they lobbied for six years;
- Fully close the loophole that allows politicians to fly private charters but reimburse only at commercial first class rates, and require those politicians to disclose what lobbyists they are flying with;
- Create a more accessible website for public reporting of lobbying activities;
- Require substantial lobbying entities to report on the non-lobbyist employees they have who are former members of Congress or former senior congressional staff, and describing those employees’ job responsibilities;
- Ban cash contributions by lobbyists; and
- Increase the maximum penalty for violating federal lobbying laws.
The bill improves disclosure requirements and encourages greater information sharing between record keepers and law enforcement. Through increased transparency, not just by federal lobbyists, but also by firms and companies that may have former members of Congress who are skirting the lobbyist line, the public will be better informed, and the lobbying profession will be deterred from acting below board. Lobbyists who break the law will be more likely to be investigated and the bad actors can be punished more severely. It also provides the public greater with better information and takes an important step towards cleaning up the culture in Washington.
This is the latest in Bennet’s efforts to reform the system in Washington. He has previously pushed for a variety of changes in his Plan for Washington Reform.
Since coming to the Senate in 2007, Tester led the charge to raise the ethics standards for the U.S. Senate. He set an even higher standard for his personal office and will not allow former staffers-turned lobbyists to ever come back to lobby him or his staff.