AUGUST 27, 2008
Thanks to a convenient loophole created by Congress in last year’s ethics reform law, an army of corporate lobbyists has descended on the Democratic convention in Denver to host millions of dollars worth of lavish “under the radar” parties designed to influence lawmakers.
The new ethics law (Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007) bans certain seated dinners and parties in honor of one particular member of Congress but does not prohibit a party for several lawmakers or “finger food” that gets passed while patrons are standing rather than sitting.
A national news outlet has visited some of the upscale bashes and reported how Democrat legislators enjoyed fine food, free-flowing liquor and music entertainment while highly touted speakers—including Ted Kennedy and Michelle Obama—addressed the convention at the city’s sports and entertainment center.
Dozens of corporate bashes were held through convention hours and many prominent lawmakers chose to party rather than listen to their colleagues’ attempt to sell the nation on their questionable unity. One New Jersey senator, Frank Lautenberg, joked that it was his duty to attend lobbyist and corporate parties, saying that he had to make sure the food passes the taste test and the liquor is the right vintage.
Passed in response to the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, the ethics reform law was supposed to prevent lobbyists from securing undue influence by taking members of Congress to intimate dinners at fancy restaurants. Instead it includes serious loopholes that allow lobbyists and legislators to exploit the measure.
This is undoubtedly a bipartisan issue since deep-pocketed corporate lobbyists, seeking to schmooze lawmakers, also have big party plans for next week’s Republican convention in St. Paul Minneapolis.
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