After the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, senators vowed to stop the corruption in Washington that allows lobbyists to influence policy by offering dinners, vacations and other gifts to politicians. However, legislation recently passed that was meant to stop the influence of lobbyists on lawmakers falls short.On Wednesday, March 28, the Senate passed legislation meant to cut back on the influence that lobbyists have in Washington. The vote, which was 90 to 8, was passed only a few hours after Jack Abramoff, a former lobbyist who bribed lawmakers with dinners, vacations and large campaign donations, was sentenced to nearly six years in prison because of fraud charges.
The legislation passed does have some positive aspects. It will require lobbyists to file more public reports about their activities in a searchable database on the Internet. It also requires lawmakers to receive advance approval before taking paid trips with private money.
Still, the bill does not go far enough. Politicians will still accept fancy golf outings with lobbyists because the bill does not ban private travel between lawmakers and lobbyists. It also does not ban lawmakers’ ability to fly on private corporate jets.
The Senate also rejected a move to create an independent ethics office to investigate cases of abuse with lobbying.
As Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona said, the bill is “very, very weak.” It does not go far enough. Lobbyists are still going to be able to influence national policy with their money and bribes.
After the Abramoff scandal, lawmakers should have favored a greater investigation into accusations of abuse and backed tougher legislation. Instead, the Senate passed a weak bill that will do little to stop the corruption occurring in Washington.
It may not be a surprise that lawmakers did not back better legislation, since many of them have ties to lobbyists. Lobbyists donate to campaigns and wine and dine with many politicians. The influence of lobbyists runs deep in both parties.
Already, the lobbying investigation has forced Republican Congressman Bob Ney of Ohio to step down as chair of the House Administration Committee because of the lobbying scandal.
In January, former Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay announced that he was stepping down as leader of the House. Recently, he announced that he will not seek to regain his seat in the House in 2006. DeLay is ensnared in a corruption scandal, and Abramoff is one of his former allies.
It seems likely that more politicians will find themselves in trouble as the investigation continues.
The American people deserve representatives that care more about benefiting the country than accepting bribes from lobbyists. The politicians in Washington owe it to the American people to do something more to stop the corruption and influence of lobbyists.
Brian Fanelli is a senior majoring in comparative literature with minors in creative writing and journalism.