Pelosi steps back on lobbyist reform

Less than one year ago, the Democratic majority in Congress noisily enacted widely heralded ethics reforms requiring significantly increased disclosure by lobbyists of the money spent in the care and feeding of senators and representatives. Now we learn that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, has approved new administrative guidelines relaxing the heart of the reforms — the requirement that the influence-peddlers make public their political contributions and event sponsorships.

This is the same Pelosi who promised to “drain the swamp” of Republican corruption if voters would restore Democrats to power in Congress in 2006. The watered-down guidelines also have the support of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., whose purple-tinged invective about GOP scandals more than matched that from Pelosi.

It appears that Pelosi’s action came at the behest of lobbyistsfretting about being able to skirt the reforms in time to do their usual thing at the Republican and Democratic national conventions this summer. The conventions long ago lost their old importance and function now mainly as pro forma presidential nominating forums and the occasion for an orgy of parties, receptions, luncheons and dinners, mostly paid for by lobbyists. The lobbyists need worry no longer, thanks to Pelosi.

Kenneth Gross, a well-known Washington, D.C., lawyer who advises lobbyists, told The Wall Street Journal that “it’s hard to envision any event at the conventions that would trigger disclosure” under the new guidance. Somewhere, Jack Abramoff — the jailed Republican lobbyist who dubbed Congress the “favor factory” — is probably thinking to himself “old boss, new boss, same old boss.”

Voters now realizing how they were conned in 2006 are more likely to recognize another unfolding Pelosi/Reid con, the “Drill Responsibly in Leased Lands Act of 2008.” This legislation is the Democrats’ “use it or lose it” response to Republican demands that Congress lift its ban on tapping the abundant energy supplies in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the Outer Continental Shelf. Pelosi refuses, saying the oil companies should first drill on the 68 million acres of public-lands leases they already have. In fact, new wells are being drilled at the fastest rate in two decades and more would be, but for obstacles such as environmentalist litigation.

The DRILL Act is meant only to enable Democrats to say they are doing something about $4-per-gallon gas while blocking new energy supplies from ANWR and the OTS. Like those promised ethics reforms, the DRILL Act is nothing but words.

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