On July 31, 2007, the House passed S. 1, the final House-Senate agreement on the Honest Leadership, Open Government Act. On September 14th, it was signed into law by President Bush. This is tough legislation designed to end the culture of corruption and restore accountability in Washington. The bill ends the tight-knit relationship between lobbyists and lawmakers and takes another major step toward making the 110th Congress the most open, honest Congress in history. This legislation will bring unprecedented transparency to lobbyists' activities and is another major step to change the way business is done in Washington. The bill was signed into law on September 14, 2007.
On the first day of the 110th Congress, we passed a landmark rules package that broke the link between lobbyists and legislators: no gifts, no private jets, and no meals from lobbyists. Together with this ethics reform, this legislation is a significant step forward in cleaning up the culture of corruption that plagued Washington in past years.
The New Direction Congress has begun a new era of open, honest government, returning the House to the people and putting the interests of everyday Americans ahead of the special interests.
The Honest Leadership, Open Government Act of 2007:
- New transparency for lobbyist bundling campaign contributions: For the first time, requires reporting on lobbyists who “bundle,” or collect campaign checks for Members of Congress. Requires the Member's campaign to report if lobbyist bundled more than $15,000 in campaign contributions semiannually for that Member.
- Historic disclosure of other financial contributions to Members: Increases disclosure of lobbyists' contributions to lawmakers and entities controlled by lawmakers, including contributions to Members' charities, to events or entities honoring members, contributions intended to pay the cost of a meeting or a retreat, and contributions to Presidential library funds.
- Lavish convention parties: Prohibits Members of Congress from attending national political convention parties held in their honor and paid for by lobbyists or their clients.
- Ends K-Street Project: Bans the K-Street Project, which prohibits private entities from hiring and firing based on politics.
- Expands public disclosure of lobbyist activities: Doubles the frequency of the disclosure of Lobbyists' Reports to four times a year. Establishes an online, searchable public database of lobbyist disclosure information. Requires lobbyists to disclose past executive branch and Congressional employment. Prohibits lobbyists from giving gifts and travel in violation of House and Senate rules. Increases criminal and civil penalties for violating the Lobby Disclosure Act to $200,000 and five years in prison.
- Ends conflicts of interest and strengthening restrictions on post congressional employment: Requires sitting Members to disclose job negotiations for post-Congressional employment and to recuse themselves for purposes of a conflict of interest. It also strengthens the revolving door banning Senators from lobbying their colleagues for two years. Requires Members to prohibit their staff from having any official contact with the Members' lobbyist spouse on behalf of the spouse's client.
- Strengthens Senate Ethics Rules, similar to already enacted House Reforms: Includes a variety of changes to Senate rules, including a ban on gift and travel by lobbyists, full disclosure of earmarks, points of order against out of scope earmarks and limits on secret holds.
- Congressional Pension Accountability: Denies taxpayer-funded pension benefits to Members of Congress convicted of corruption while serving the American people.
- Expands public disclosure of Members' travel and finances: Establishes an online, searchable public database of Member travel and personal financial disclosure forms.
- Disclosure of stealth lobbying: Closes a loophole in current law that permits coalitions -- such as the one that funded the extensive “Harry and Louise” ad campaign that targeted health care legislation in 1993-94 - to avoid disclosing their clients.