LOBBYING TRANSPARENCY ACT OF 2007 -- (House of Representatives - May 24, 2007)
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Mr. SMITH of Texas. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Madam Speaker, this bill addresses the issue of the disclosure of campaign contributions bundled together by lobbyists. The Judiciary Committee addressed this issue in the last Congress when we adopted an amendment by the gentleman from Maryland (Mr. Van Hollen) by a vote of 28-4.
As a principal supporter of these provisions, Mr. Van Hollen signed the following statement in last year's committee report: ``At the markup, we were able to develop a bipartisan provision concerning the areas of Judiciary Committee jurisdiction, principally the Lobbying Disclosure Act.''
So I'm glad to see a provision brought to the floor today that is so similar to what we did last year. However, I do find it ironic that we are bringing this bill to the floor with little advance notice.
Yesterday we received notice that this bill would come up less than an hour before the Rules Committee was to start. That hardly gave us a fair opportunity to offer amendments to the bill.
Madam Speaker, this bill and the other bill that we consider today on lobbying reform are supposed to be about open government, but the process by which this bill has been rushed to the floor shows how this House sometimes lacks a fair and open process.
Madam Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
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Mr. SMITH of Texas. Madam Speaker, the base bill addresses the same bundling issue that the Judiciary Committee dealt with in a bipartisan fashion last year. Mr. Van Hollen, the principal supporter of these provisions, signed on to that compromise.
I offer this motion to recommit because there is a difference between what was covered by the Van Hollen amendment that was adopted in committee last Congress and what is contained in this legislation authored by Mr. Van Hollen in this Congress, a very big difference.
This legislation does not require that bundled contributions to political action committees, often referred to as PACs, be disclosed. Why are PACs omitted from the disclosure requirements in this legislation?
As has been recently reported in the BNA Money & Politics Report, ``Democrats' new-found majority status has made them the biggest recipients of campaign money from lobbyists and others, a fact that could increase their wariness about passing strict new rules.''
``For example, a new analysis posted on the politicalmoneyline.com Web site, and based on Federal Election Commission reports, found that in the first quarter of 2007, Federal political action committees, that is the PACs this legislation exempts, reported giving all Federal candidates $27 million, of which almost $17 million, or 62 percent, went to Democrats, and only 38 percent went to Republicans. The Democrats' newfound fundraising prowess could cause them to have second thoughts about such proposals as increased disclosure of bundled contributions arranged by lobbyists, some observers said.''
It appears these observers were correct. The majority has let the color of money dampen their desire for more openness and reform. The loophole in this bill that exempts bundled contributions to PACs is big enough to ride a Democratic donkey through.
If we are requiring the disclosure of bundled contributions to political party committees, those same disclosure rules should also apply to contributions to PACs. Party committees represent all members of that party affiliation. PACs, on the other hand, represent more narrow, special interests. Why should the former be exposed to more sunshine, but not the latter?
The fact that PACs give more money to Democrats is not a serious answer. Time and again the majority party finds itself presenting legislation that picks favorites, when what the American people want is more honesty and more accountability. This motion to recommit would achieve that by including bundled contributions to PACs under the same provisions that cover Federal candidates, other PACs, and political party committees.
I urge my colleagues to support this motion to recommit so that we can have a more open and honest government. To put it another way, what was good for the Democrats last year should be good for the Democrats this year.
Madam Speaker, the American people want and deserve a government that operates in the sunlight and not in the shadows.
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