Wednesday, January 17, 2007

All in the Family

Democrats made ethics reform a cornerstone of their campaigns. And Congress launched ethics reforms almost as soon as it convened this year.

But members are overlooking one loophole -- Congressional spouses who work as lobbyists. From the Washington Post:

"At least half a dozen congressional spouses have jobs as registered lobbyists and several more are connected with lobbying firms, but reining in the practice to prevent potential conflicts or the appearance of them has not been a priority among congressional leaders. Even modest proposals such as banning wives and husbands from lobbying their spouses or using their spouses' floor privileges for lobbying have gone nowhere."

Some examples: Sen Byron Dorgan (D-ND) who argued in favor of keeping the estate tax last year. His wife had been a lobbyist since 1999 for an insurance company that stood to make millions off keeping the tax.

Then there's Sen Elizabeth Dole (R-NC). She spoke in the Senate last year to avoid overreacting to the Bush administration plans to turn over port operations to a Dubai company. Her husband, fmr Sen Robert Dole was working as a lobbyist for that Dubai-based company at the time.

Neither the House nor Senate versions of the ethics reform plans ban spouses from working as lobbyists.

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