Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet today introduced a bill with Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) that would shut the revolving door of lobbyist influence in Washington by banning Members of Congress from ever becoming lobbyists.
“Washington lobbyists shouldn’t be allowed to hold more sway than the folks back home in Colorado and around the country. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the way things happen around this place,” Bennet said. “By preventing members of Congress from lobbying when they leave Capitol Hill and closing the revolving door for senior Congressional staff, we can put the power back into the hands of the people we came here to represent and get about the business of helping the country.”
“Too many Montanans think back room deals in Washington, D.C. run this country,” Tester said. “Slamming shut the revolving door between lawmakers and lobbyists will let folks know that Congress puts constituents first and will make government more accountable to the American people.”
A study by the Center for Responsive Politics found that about a third of former members of the 112th Congress who are currently employed are employed at lobbying firms, and more than 12,000 registered federal lobbyists actively lobbied in Washington in 2013.
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;
- Increase the statutory staff restrictions on lobbying from one year to six years;
- Ban lobbyists from joining Congressional staffs or committee staffs that they lobbied for six years;
- 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; and
- Increase the maximum penalty for violating the Lobbying Disclosure Act.
The bill improves disclosure requirements and promotes greater accountability. 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. It also provides the public with better information and takes an important step towards cleaning up the culture in Washington.
Click here for a summary of the bill.