U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Al Franken (D-MN) today introduced a bill that would shut the revolving door of lobbyist influence in Washington by banning Members of Congress from ever becoming lobbyists. Bennet first introduced the bill in 2010 as one of his earliest proposals to reform Washington. He has committed to pushing for it in every subsequent Congress until it becomes law.
“Washington has become all too comfortable with the spin of the revolving door,” Bennet said. “Lobbyists working for special interests shouldn’t be allowed to hold more sway than the people back home in Colorado and around the country. We can put the power back into the hands of the people we came here to represent by banning members of Congress from lobbying when they leave Capitol Hill and closing the revolving door for Congressional staff. Although Washington has resisted these types of reforms, we will continue to fight for these commonsense fixes every year and in every Congress to ensure Washington is focused on the real issues that matter to the country.”
“The revolving door between Congress and the lobbying industry is a problem that needs fixing, because our democracy can’t function the way it’s supposed to when big interests have more power than the American people,” Franken said. “Our legislation would put in place much-needed reforms—by not only banning members of Congress from becoming lobbyists, but also by making the industry become more accountable and transparent.”
A study by the Center for Responsive Politics found that about 45 percent of former members of the 113th Congress who are currently employed are employed at lobbying firms, and close to 12,000 registered federal lobbyists actively lobbied in Washington in 2014.
To solve for the problem of outsized lobbyist influence and to close the revolving door, Bennet and Franken have proposed aggressive lobbying reform, which would:
- Place a lifetime ban on current members of Congress from becoming lobbyists;
- Increase the statutory staff restrictions on lobbying from one year to six years;
- Ban lobbyists from joining Congressional staffs or committee staffs that they lobbied for six years;
- Create a more accessible website for public reporting of lobbying activities;
- Require substantial lobbying entities to report on the non-lobbyist employees they have who are former members of Congress or former senior congressional staff, and describing those employees’ job responsibilities; and
- Increase the maximum penalty for violating the Lobbying Disclosure Act.
The bill improves disclosure requirements and promotes greater accountability. Through increased transparency, not just by federal lobbyists, but also by firms and companies that may have former members of Congress who are skirting the lobbyist line, the public will be better informed, and the lobbying profession will be deterred from acting below board. It also provides the public greater with better information and takes an important step towards cleaning up the culture in Washington.