So, the Congress has passed far-reaching ethics and lobbying rules, this time with teeth: fines up to $200,000 and five years in the slammer.
It's about time. The new law is a direct result of shady dealings by disgraced and imprisoned uber lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his golf buddy, Tom DeLay, the former Texas congressman and current sleaze.
DeLay, more than anyone, fertilized the K Street culture of corruption. His mandate to lobby firms was blunt: hire Republicans only. Apparently, they were easier to get into bed with.
If President Bush signs the new bill into law (how big is that "if?"), it will be a strange, new day for the K Street lobbyists. More Dutch treats. Trimmed menus to meet House ethics committee guidelines of "light appetizers and drinks, or soda and cookies." They call it the toothpick test.
Fund-raising is going to change, too.
Lobby lawyers are busy looking for loopholes. Already, there's an exemption for "widely attended events" that paved the way for a bunch of senators to attend a lavish aerospace shindig in Paris last month. Watch for more loopholes soon in a theater near you.
But is lobby reform the real question? To me, the problem smears the other side of the coin, too. We need Congressional reform. Lobbyists complain that the new law slaps them around for the wrong-doings by members of Congress -- from both parties. Seems to me it's the Congress who can't say no.
I think the lobbyists have a point. Reform should cut both ways.