Statement of Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer on Reported Lobbyist-Funded Reception for House Freshmen at Democratic National Convention

2008-08-22 12:21:00

    WASHINGTON, Aug. 22 /EMWNews/ -- According to a report,

Visa and US Bank are sponsoring a "Reception Honoring the Freshman Class"

at the Democratic Convention on Wednesday, August 27, 2008 between 4 and 6

PM at 1430 Blake Street in Denver.



    Visa and US Bank both lobby the United States Congress. Visa is a

registered lobbying organization under the Lobbying Disclosure Act and US

Bank retains a lobbyist to lobby Congress for them who is registered under

the Lobbying Disclosure Act.



    Last year, the House and Senate adopted sweeping new ethics rules and

lobbying disclosure laws in response to the congressional lobbying and

corruption scandals revealed in the previous Congress.



    House freshman Democrats played an important role in pressing for the

passage of the new ethics rules and lobbying disclosure law.



    One of the important new ethics rules adopted by the House and the

Senate prohibits Representatives and Senators from participating in

lobbyist-funded events at the national conventions that are held to "honor"

or "recognize" the Members.



    The purpose of this rule was to end the practice of lobbyists and

lobbying organizations currying favor with Members of Congress by throwing

receptions and parties to "honor" the Members at the national conventions.



    Democracy 21 urges freshman Democratic Members of the House not to

attend or otherwise participate in the reception at the national convention

to "honor" freshman Members.



    Any freshman Democrat who does participate in the August 27 reception

should be treated by the public and media as failing to comply with the

language, meaning, purpose and spirit of the new House ethics rule

prohibiting Representatives from participating in lobbyist-funded events at

the conventions to "honor" the Representatives.



    Freshman Democratic Representatives who do attend the August 27, 2008

reception may attempt to rely on a "guidance" issued by the bipartisan

House Ethics Committee on December 11, 2007 that claims the new House

ethics rule only applies to events at the national conventions held to

"honor" a single Representative and does not apply to events "honoring" a

group of Representatives.



    This so-called "guidance" not only is an incorrect interpretation of

the new ethics rule, it makes no sense.



    It would lead to the ridiculous result whereby a lobbying organization

would be prevented from throwing a reception or party at the conventions to

curry favor with a single Representative, such as a Committee Chairman, but

would be permitted to throw the same reception or party at the conventions

to curry favor with a group of Representatives, such as an entire

congressional committee, including the Committee Chairman.



    The Senate Ethics Committee, the Clerk of the House and the Secretary

of the Senate all have correctly interpreted language similar to the

language in the House ethics rule to cover a group of members of Congress

as well as a single Member.



    The Senate Ethics Committee interpreted a virtually identical new

ethics Senate rule to cover a group of members of Congress as well as a

single Member.



    The House Clerk and Senate Secretary interpreted a provision with

similar language in the new lobbying disclosure law that requires lobbyists

to disclose the payments they make for an event to "honor" Members, to

cover a group of Members as well as a single Member.



    Only the House Ethics Committee has come up with its indefensible

"odd-man-out" interpretation to allow lobbyists to pay for receptions and

parties at the national conventions to "honor" a group of members of

Congress.



    House Democratic freshman Members should not attempt to use the House

"guidance" as cover to attend or otherwise participate in the

lobbyist-funded reception to "honor" them next week, that the new House

ethics rule was clearly intended to, and does, prevent them from

participating in.



    House Democratic freshman Members should not play games with the House

ethics rules.



    CONTACT:



    Kristen Hagan



    Democracy 21



    202-429-2008



    khagan@democracy21.org





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