Congress Drops the Ball on Meaningful Ethics Reform

On the day that disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff is sentenced in Florida, Daniel Schorr, a senior news analyst for NPR, says that Congress is dropping the ball on meaningful ethics reform, and he’s not surprised.

Copyright © 2006 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

DANIEL SCHORR: The day of sentencing of super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff may be as good a day as any to review progress towards ethics reform in Congress.

Briefly, not much.


NPR's senior news analyst, Daniel Schorr.

SCHORR: The bi-partisan Congressional Ethics Committees are virtually missing in action, and the proposal in the Senate to establish an outside Office of Public Integrity was rejected by a substantial margin.

The Senate today, by a lopsided 90 to eight vote, passed a bill that emphasizes disclosure, rather than new prohibitions on lobbyist contacts. In the House, there have been some half-way gestures towards reigning in lobbyist-paid meals, trips, and sports tickets, but the restriction on travel has a sunset provision, expiring at the end of the session of Congress.

Thanks to some vigorous lobbying by the Restaurant Association, lobbyist-paid meals would not be banned, but they would be capped at $50.00 per meal. Gifts for lobbyists would not be banned, but they would be subject to disclosure.

One irony in the current flurry of quasi-reform is that the Senate appears ready to enact restrictions on internet gambling, provisions that Abramoff was paid by his casino clients to oppose.

One interesting change, the Senate has voted to end a practice by which a single signature acting in secret could block a piece of pending legislation, a potent weapon in the hands of a legislator exercising his veto on behalf of a well-heeled lobbyist.

Will these half-way changes change the picture that the public has of Congress as a corrupt institution whose name is Jack Abramoff and Randy Duke Cunningham? The answer to that may come in next November's election.

This is Daniel Schorr.

BLOCK: Congressmen, staffers, former members of the administration. Find out who's been linked to Jack Abramoff. Check out an interactive feature on our website,

Copyright © 2006 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Related NPR Stories



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.