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Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016

Now is the time for lobbyist reform

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Pressure is growing in Washington to reform the role that lobbyists have over Congress but the wheels of change turn slowly in the nation's capital. Without some substantial reforms, voters may well send their own signal during the November mid-term elections.

If, indeed, the love of money is the root of all evil and if power does indeed corrupt, then you have a perfect combination for misconduct in Washington, D.C. Look not beyond the headlines to know these truths are evident in Congress.

But both parties are finding ample fault with the lobby reform legislation and it's time voters questioned their elected officials to ask why no progress is being made.

The Senate bill currently sidelined would require greater disclosure, prohibit senators from accepting meals from lobbyists and monitor the trips paid for by sponsors.

But the Republicans also want the measure to include a provision to control campaign spending by tax-exempt organizations. Those groups spent $544 million last year to promote their pet positions. Trouble is, the groups tend to lean toward the Democrats and thus, the Dems want that part of the bill removed.

Congressmen face so much paperwork it's virtually impossible for them to take an educated position on every topic that comes before them. Thus, they often rely on lobbyists who carefully outline the legislation. But lobbyists are paid to promote one position over another and the information flows toward their position. The result is that lobbyists often hold the true power in Washington.

One provision of the lobby reform is perhaps more important that any other. But it gets little notice. The provision would provide a way to kill pet projects called earmarks that legislators quietly place into larger legislation. That reform alone would save taxpayers billions of dollars. The ever-partisan Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia has made a lengthy career out of bringing pork to his state at the expense of the remainder of this country. He should be both ashamed and removed from office.

Unless voters speak loudly, reform will move slowly if at all. Tell your elected legislator you want earmarking removed and lobbyists' roles diminished. And tell them you want it now - before the November elections.

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Michael Jensen
Michael Jensen