Bennet Bill Would Forever Bar Ex-Members From Lobbying

Posted April 28, 2010 at 2:28pm

Updated: 7:32 p.m.

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) introduced a K Street reform bill Wednesday that would place a lifetime ban on Members of Congress from entering the influence business. The proposal also would increase the cooling-off period to six years before Congressional staffers could register to lobby.

Bennet’s call for closing the revolving door for ex-lawmakers comes as Wall Street’s lobbying tactics have been the subject of much criticism while Congress grapples with financial regulatory reform.

“The need for reform in Washington is glaring when 1,500 Wall Street lobbyists can drown out the voices of the American people and block a bill that reforms the big Wall Street banks,” Bennet said in a statement. “By preventing Members of Congress from lobbying when they leave Capitol Hill and preventing congressional staff from going back and forth through the revolving door, public officials can get about the business of helping the country.”

But Dave Wenhold, president of the American League of Lobbyists, said the only people it would hurt are those on Capitol Hill — not K Street.

“It would make the value of those that are already lobbying even greater than it is now,” Wenhold said. “I seriously doubt that Members and key staffers will let this bill get any traction.”

Bennet’s bill would also ban lobbyists from joining Congressional offices that they have lobbied during the past six years and increase the statutory punishment for lobbyists in violation of the rules to a maximum fine of $500,000.

The legislation would also cover former Members of Congress and Congressional staff that are not registered to lobby but are members of a lobbying practice.