Friday, August 03, 2007

U.S. Lobbying

The U.S. Congress this week agreed to new rules governing lobbying. With two former Members of Congress now in jail, former staffers convicted or awaiting trial, and several current investigations on-going, the time arrived for federal legislators to take a good hard look at their relationships with lobbyists.

What they saw was ugly, and they took appropriate steps to address that.

The new proposal tightens regulations on gifts, flights and travel that Members of Congress may accept. It addresses the revolving door problem, of former legislators lobbying their former colleagues. And it requires disclosure of bundling where the lobbyist raises more than $15,000 in a six-month period for the official.

There are a host of scandals, on both sides of the aisle, that led Congress to take this action. But what matters is that they worked together to find a way through it, and passed a measure with broad, bipartisan support.

Reform -- real reform, anyway -- is a long process. Discussion leads to legislation, leads to changes in practice, leads to changes in culture. This is one step along a long path to improved public trust in government. The feds deserve credit for advancing along that path.

If tougher lobbying rules can pass Congress, there is reason to have hope for changes in Illinois.

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