GOP, Democrats Offer Competing Reform Proposals

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Alex Chadwick and Madeleine Brand outline competing lobbying reform proposals under consideration on Capitol Hill in the wake of a widening corruption and bribery probe involving Jack Abramoff, a well-connected GOP lobbyist. Congressional Republicans revealed their reform plans Tuesday, and rival Democrats announce their proposals on Wednesday.


House and Senate Democrats are talking today about their ideas to reform the kind of Capitol Hill corruption that led to the bribery guilty plea by former Lobbyist Jack Abramoff. He made many campaign contributions, and paid for favors such as meals and golfing trips and luxury seats at sporting events.


The Abramoff scandal has already damaged two House members who were close to him. Former Majority Leader Tom DeLay has said, he will not try to return to his old leadership post. And Ohio Congressman Bob Ney temporarily gave up his committee chairmanship over the weekend.

CHADWICK: Both men are Republicans. And Democrats are eager to make this a Republican scandal, which it mostly is. Democrats will unveil their reform proposals today, but they're not expected to be much different from those offered yesterday by the Republicans and the Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert.

Representative DENNIS HASTERT (Republican, Illinois): We need to reform the rules, so it's clear, beyond a shadow of a doubt of what is ethically acceptable for members of the House of Representatives and their staff. I want the House to move quickly, and in a bipartisan fashion to get this done. We have a duty to do everything we can to keep the trust and confidence of our constituents.

BRAND: The House proposal bans member travel funded by lobbyists. It places new limits on gifts, and it doubles to two years the waiting period before a member of Congress can start lobbying after leaving office.

A Senate Republican plan from Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and John McCain of Arizona does much the same, and also would ban congressional family members from lobbying.

CHADWICK: But, already there are suggestions the new restrictions are not tight enough. Lobbyists can still pay for travel if they are specifically raising money for political contributions, for instance. Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut is the co-sponsor with Senator McCain of bipartisan reforms. Senator Lieberman also visited Mississippi's Gulf Coast yesterday, to look at hurricane recovery. And we spoke earlier.

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