• News
  • Celebrities
  • Finance
  • Crypto
  • Travel
  • Entertainment
  • Health
  • Others

Conventions Highlight Gaps in Ethics Laws

Image has not been found. URL: http://www.washingtonindependent.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/09/dnccrop-300x200.jpg2008 Democratic National Convention (Flickr: ravedelay)

It was one of the chief vows of the Democratic Party as it took control of both congressional chambers in 2007: to sever the cozy relationships between lobbyists and lawmakers brought to light by the Jack Abramoff scandals.

Congress passed sweeping lobbying and ethics reform last year, and this was the first convention season under the stringent new rules. Yet, despite the enactment of the new regulations, campaign finance watchdogs argue that much remains to be done to stem the abuses. The groups are pointing to the national conventions as evidence that ethics laws, both new and old, leave gaping loopholes still to be addressed.

Image has not been found. URL: http://www.washingtonindependent.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/08/politics.jpgIllustration by: Matt Mahurin

“The law clearly had an effect,” said Josh Zaharoff, assistant director of campaign finance at Common Cause. “But there’s still very much of that element of companies using the conventions to gain access … Clearly these corporations saw it as a chance to buy influence.”

Zaharoff wasn’t kidding.

In Minneapolis last week, Republican leaders vowed to scale back the events surrounding their convention in recognition of those suffering from the arrival of Hurricane Gustav on Monday. Yet that call did little to break the partying spirit of convention attendees. Instead of scrapping the parties, many sponsors simply reconfigured them as charity events for victims of the storm.

Nancy Waltzman of the Sunlight Foundation, a watchdog group focused on the federal government, trekked tirelessly from gala to gala in both Minneapolis and Denver — usually to be turned back at the door. She reported from Minnesota last week on a big-pharma-sponsored breakfast featuring an appearance by GOP Rep. Michael Rogers (Mich.).

ABC’s Brian Ross discovered Mississippi River paddle-wheel boat excursions for Ohio’s GOP delegation sponsored by the chemical industry. Oil companies, he found, hosted the California delegation with a pig roast.

Despite Gustav, Ross concluded, “corporate lobbyists went ahead with their plans … to spend millions of dollars entertaining key Republican lawmakers and officials.”

The Democratic National Convention in Denver, meanwhile, looked like a party marathon. The DNC boasted more than 400 events sponsored by outside interest groups, according to a document created by Quinn Gillespie & Associates, a lobbying firm, and publicized by the Sunlight Foundation.

While many of those events were bare-bones, advocate-sponsored forums focused on issues, others were lavish, corporate-sponsored galas targeting members of Congress and other Democratic officials — everything from an AT&T-funded luncheon for the Maine, Vermont and Rhode Island delegations at the Pinnacle Club, a private event space high atop the Grand Haytt, to a gathering of Democratic attorneys general at the Ritz-Carlton, sponsored by AstroZeneca, a pharmaceutical giant facing numerous suits in federal and state courts.

Like many lobbying groups, the Poker Players Alliance sponsored events in both cities. To generate attention among many convention-related activities, the alliance brought along Hollywood stars. In Denver, for example, celebrities like Ben Affleck and Sarah Silverman were at the event. The alliance’s Website does nothing to disguise the group’s intentions, saying it “is taking advantage of the concentration of delegates and members of Congress … to continue to lobby for the legalization of online poker.”

It wasn’t supposed to turn out this way.

In the wake of a series of ethics scandals involving several Republicans’ illegal dealings with lobbyists — most prominently the separate episodes that sent former GOP Reps. Duke Cunningham (Calif.) and Bob Ney (Ohio) to prison — Democrats in 2006 ran on a platform of distancing Congress members from the influence of moneyed interests.

“Our goal is to restore accountability, honesty and openness at all levels of government,” reads a passage from the House Democrats’ “New Direction” agenda. “To do so, we will create and enforce rules that demand the highest ethics from every public servant, sever unethical ties between lawmakers and lobbyists and establish clear standards that prevent the trading of official business for gifts.”

That vow culminated in the 2007 passage of the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act, a law that prohibits members of Congress from participating in lobbyist-funded events designed to “honor” or “recognize” lawmakers at the conventions.

But the ethics committees in each chamber interpreted that law differently. The House panel claims that the rule applies only to events honoring single members, and not to those recognizing groups of lawmakers. Watchdog groups say the trouble is not with the law itself, but with this interpretation.

“The rules are actually very, very good — and very sweeping,” said Craig Holman, a campaign-finance-reform lobbyist for Public Citizen. “The problem has been the enforcement. … When you’ve got different interpretations [of the law], you see lobbyists exploiting that as a loophole.”

Fred Wertheimer, president and CEO of Democracy 21, a campaign-finance watchdog, issued a statement last month warning lawmakers away from a corporate-sponsored Denver event honoring the freshman class of House Democrats. The ethics committee’s ruling, he argued, should not set members above the intent of the law.

“This so-called ‘guidance’ not only is an incorrect interpretation of the new ethics rule,” he said, “it makes no sense.”

Watchdog groups are also critical of an interpretation of the 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign reform act that allows corporations and other donors to make unlimited contributions to a national convention’s host committee. That ruling, passed down by the Federal Election Commission, reasons that the donations are aimed to booster the host cities, not the political parties — something many watchdog groups dispute.

“It’s party leaders who actually head the committee and make the decisions,” said Zaharoff of Common Cause. “[The companies] wouldn’t do it if it didn’t benefit them.”

Watchdogs want to amend these interpretations, or enact clarifying legislation if the FEC and ethics committees fail to revisit the current laws. Holman of Public Citizen predicted that Congress would take up the issue again next year.

“The FEC,” Holman said, “has a history of not closing the floodgates that they open. We’ll have to revisit it with new legislation.”

Discussion & Comments (0)

    Recent Articles

    • Things You Should Know about North America

      Things You Should Know about North America

      Get to know more about North America.

    • Eurovision 2010 Paula Seling Unpredictable Contest

      Eurovision 2010 Paula Seling Unpredictable Contest

      Paula Seling's experience on the Eurovision stage led her to declare that "Eurovision is an unpredictable contest". Which may explain the success of the young Lena from Germany, about whom the predictions before the event did not offer much chances for victory.

    • VIPRow.me - The Best Sports Streaming Website Today

      VIPRow.me - The Best Sports Streaming Website Today

      Have you ever contemplated creating a user-friendly site dedicated to sports-related free live streaming channels?

    • Learn How To Download, Install, And Use The Xnxubd 2022 Frame App

      Learn How To Download, Install, And Use The Xnxubd 2022 Frame App

      XNXUBD 2022 Nvidia users are able to watch thousands of videos and other contents online. XNXUBD 2022 Nvidia New is a piece of software that enables people to watch videos online without having to pay for memberships. On a graphics card, the XNXubd also provides some of the best gaming and virtual reality experiences.

    • Xvideostudio Video Editor Apk Free Download For Pc Full Version In 2022

      Xvideostudio Video Editor Apk Free Download For Pc Full Version In 2022

      A new edition of the Video Editor Apk for xVideostudio.Video Studio has all the latest features, including support for multiple video download formats in HD, FHD, and even 4K resolutions.

    • 9 Best Lotion For Masturbation - Popular Choice For 2022

      9 Best Lotion For Masturbation - Popular Choice For 2022

      Masturbation is a common activity for men and women. It's a natural and risk-free way to explore your body, experience pleasure, and release sexual tension.

    • Reasons Why You Need To Stop Watching Movies From Sflix

      Reasons Why You Need To Stop Watching Movies From Sflix

      Without having to sign up or pay anything, you can watch movies online for free with SFlix. It has more than 10,000 movies and television shows.

    • Coi Leray Mom And Dad's Family History & Wife, Explained

      Coi Leray Mom And Dad's Family History & Wife, Explained

      Coi Leray Collins (born May 11, 1997) is a rapper from the United States. Leray started publishing songs to SoundCloud in 2014, and in 2018 she released her breakthrough track "Huddy" as well as her first mixtape, Everythingcoz.

    • Listen And Download Music On MyFreeMP3 For Free

      Listen And Download Music On MyFreeMP3 For Free

      Are you in a bind and looking for a place to obtain free mp3 songs? Never again will you need to bother, since this article has everything necessary to obtain your solution. Download free music from MyfreeMP3.com, one of the world's most popular websites.