Thursday, January 19, 2006

GOPotemkin Reform

Loophole in Lobbying Bill Leaves Wiggle Room

Washington Post: According to lobbyists and ethics experts, even if Hastert's proposal is enacted, members of Congress and their staffs could still travel the world on an interest group's expense and eat steak on a lobbyist's account at the priciest restaurants in Washington.

The only requirement would be that whenever a lobbyist pays the bill, he or she must also hand the lawmaker a campaign contribution. Then the transaction would be perfectly okay.

"That's a big hole if they don't address campaign finance," said Joel Jankowsky, the lobbying chief of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, one of the capital's largest lobbying outfits
.... (more)
Govt Reform? Yeah, Right! Party On Dudes!
Lobbyists Hold Holiday Party for House Govt Reform Committee

Pogoblog: Deploying his deep pockets, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner (R-VA) throws the annual holiday party for his committee staff. Some committees in Congress have their staff members cover the costs of their holiday party.

But House Government “Reform” Committee Chairman Tom Davis (R-VA) has come up a more creative arrangement. Lobbyists and defense contractors threw the annual holiday party for the Committee which, coincidentally, oversees federal agency contracting. Here's the invite.

Who needs Santa Claus when contractors have Chairman Tom Davis to thank for opening up the government’s coffers! By our calculation following the House gift rules, each of the nine sponsors could spend up to $450 per staff or member of Congress. That’s quite a party!!!
Day Traders Operating Out of Frist and Delay Offices
Major Bucks Made By Knowing Whether Bills Will Pass Or Not

Raw Story: On Air America, Slaughter alleged that "day traders" in the offices of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) and former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) had aided such investors. She mentioned as a specific example that individuals got advance notice that an asbestos bill was not going to emerge from the Senate (Audio here).

An article that ran below the radar in November revealed the "day trading" practice, in which little-known firms use sources in Congress to glean information relevant to publicly-traded stocks. As Washington turns its eyes to fallen conservative superlobbyist Jack Abramoff, new focus has come to other allegations of congressional wrongdoing.

Independently, Raw Story has received word that such activity -- which involves passing on information to stock brokers on how the House is going to vote on legislation that affects large companies, such as Defense Appropriations bills -- is a practice that may go beyond a single individual or congressmember's office. Individuals on Capitol Hill have pointed to others already ensnared in the Abramoff probe as possibly having engaged in "day trading."...

"Everybody, to a degree, does this," Brian Hale of Patton Boggs, a Washington lobbying and legal firm, told
The Hill.

The Hill included an anecdote from one of the members of a firm that specializes in "political intelligence." The Washington-based paper did not indicate whether the practice was limited to one office or one political party.
The "intelligence" collector said "only that he predicted in the phone call with his client whether the energy bill would make it to the Senate floor the next day. (He predicted correctly, he said.) Most firms contacted for this article wouldn't disclose their revenues from the work."

One firm told the Hill their business brings in "seven figures" each year. The article maintains that gaming legislation is not prohibited under insider-trading laws
Congressman Brian Baird on Air America explains Frist/Delay insider-trading scandal

Americablog: Listen to the 4-minute interview here.

White House Silent on Abramoff Meetings

AP: The White House is refusing to reveal details of tainted lobbyist Jack Abramoff's visits with President Bush's staff...(more)
How long will the media let Bush hide the Abramoff meetings?

Americablog: Everyone who attended a coffee at the White House during the Clinton Administration had their name printed in the Washington Post and New York Times. The press DEMANDED that information. But, we know the Bush White House repeatedly welcomed Jack Abramoff -- who is both a major GOP fundraiser (a Bush Pioneer, no less) and a convicted felon in part because of his GOP-related shenanigans -- yet, the Bush White House doesn't have to provide details. Is the traditional media really that weak?...(more)


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