Below is a statement issued today by reform groups urging House members to co-sponsor and vote for the legislation, to be introduced today by Representatives Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Marty Meehan (D-MA), to require lobbyists to disclose ”bundled” contributions.

The reform groups include the Campaign Legal Center, Common Cause, Democracy 21, the League of Women Voters, Public Citizen and U.S. PIRG.

The statement is followed by an editorial that appeared today in The Washington Post entitled, ”Revealing the Bundlers.” The editorial supports the Van Hollen-Meehan ”bundling” disclosure legislation to be introduced today.

January 23, 2007

Statement of Reform Groups Urging Representatives to
Co-sponsor and Vote for Van Hollen – Meehan Legislation to Require Lobbyists to Disclose ”Bundled” Contributions

Our organizations strongly urge House Members to co-sponsor and vote for the essential lobbying transparency legislation being introduced today by Representatives Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Marty Meehan (D-MA).

The organizations include the Campaign Legal Center, Common Cause, Democracy 21, the League of Women Voters, Public Citizen and U.S. PIRG.

The Van Hollen-Meehan legislation would require lobbyists to disclose the amount of contributions they collect or arrange for federal candidates, leadership PACs and party committees. These contributions are known as ”bundled” contributions.

The Van Hollen-Meehan legislation is the House companion of the Senate ”bundling” disclosure amendment introduced by Senators Barack Obama (D-IL) and Russell Feingold (D-WI) and successfully incorporated into the lobbying disclosure reform bill that passed the Senate last week.

Support for the Van Hollen-Meehan reform proposal is a fundamental test for House members of whether they support real lobbying disclosure reform. The proposal will be considered when the House takes up lobbying reform legislation.

The Van Hollen-Meehan bill addresses a critical lobbying transparency issue — the ability of citizens to know the total amount of contributions that a lobbyist is collecting or arranging for a member of Congress, a presidential candidate, a party committee or other recipients of these funds.

Information about all of the campaign contributions being provided by lobbyists to lawmakers — including the total amount that they collect or arrange for a member of Congress — is directly related to the activities lobbyists conduct and the influence they wield in Congress. There is no credible basis for failing to make this essential lobbying information available to citizens.

Currently, however, only the direct contributions by a lobbyist to a member of Congress are disclosed while the generally much larger total amount that a lobbyist may collect or arrange for a Member is not made available to the public.

Disclosure of this information is critical in order for the public to know the role being played by lobbyists in Congress.

From the public’s point of view, there is no difference between a lobbyist making a direct contribution to a member of Congress and a lobbyist collecting or arranging a number of contributions and providing them to a Member.

It all represents money provided by the lobbyist to the Member, and the lobbyist will get credit from the Member for the total amount received.

Our organizations strongly urge Representatives to co-sponsor the Van Hollen-Meehan legislation and to vote for this essential lobbying transparency proposal when lobbying reform legislation is considered by the House in February.

The Washington Post
Revealing the Bundlers
Chris Van Hollen wants to disclose the sources of the campaign bucks he is about to start raising.
January 23, 2007

REP. CHRIS Van Hollen (D-Md.) has a new job, but he’s sticking with an old idea that could make it more complicated. Mr. Van Hollen’s new job is to lead the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, meaning that he’s responsible for helping House Democrats retain their majority and for coming up with the campaign cash to make that happen. That’s where his old idea — and the potential complication — come in.

Last year, as the House Judiciary Committee was debating lobbying reform, Mr. Van Hollen offered an amendment that would have required lobbyists to report not just the campaign contributions they give directly to lawmakers but also the campaign checks they "bundle," or solicit for or deliver to lawmakers. Astonishingly, this proposal passed the Judiciary Committee by a vote of 28 to 4. Less astonishingly, the provision had disappeared from the final version of the bill when it was brought up for debate on the House floor.

Now, with Democrats in charge of the House and Mr. Van Hollen ensconced at the campaign committee, the obvious temptation would be to let the matter drop. After all, good relations with lobbyists — and a steady stream of cash from K Street — are essential to the fundraising of both parties. Shining a light on the role of these lobbyists might not be particularly comfortable for those on either side of the transaction. To his credit, Mr. Van Hollen, along with Rep. Martin T. Meehan (D-Mass.), plans to introduce a measure today that would require such disclosure. It mirrors the language of a bundling provision included in the ethics and lobbying legislation the Senate passed last week.

Mr. Van Hollen discounts the notion that his proposal could make his campaign committee job harder. "The rule will apply to everybody equally. The politics of it is probably a wash," he told us. "In terms of the public good, it’s the right thing to do. The entire purpose of this is to begin to break that nexus between lawmaking, on the one hand, and the practice of bundling that lobbyists use to enhance their influence in that process."

For the first time, lobbyists would be required to list the fundraisers that they or their clients hosted and the amounts that were raised. They would have to provide a good-faith estimate of the total contributions they "collected or arranged" for individual candidates or political committees. In other words, they would have to provide the kind of information that is well known to those on the inside of the process but is obscured from outsiders. Mr. Van Hollen is right to insist that the bundlers be brought to light.

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