Congress Attempts to Rein Itself In

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• Legislation looks to bar ex-legislators from lobbying for special interests.

By Mark Anderson —

Former Senator Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.) helped write the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act to supposedly rein in the devious dealings of the financial establishment. Yet after leaving his 30 years in Congress behind (yearly Senate salary $174,000 in recent years), he became head of the Hollywood-based lobbying arm of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), garnering him an annual salary of $1.2 million. (Dodd’s compensation was $3.3 million in 2012 and 2013, although the MPAA reported a loss of $4.4 million for 2013)

In an effort to stop such ethically questionable transitions—since a sitting Congress member’s legislative actions could easily be influenced by the expectation of a much better-paying corporate lobbying job—Senators Alan Stuart “Al” Franken (D-Minn.) and Michael F. Bennet (D-Colo.) introduced a bill that looks to stop the corrupting practice of former Congress members becoming highly paid lobbyists.

It doesn’t always work like that, though. In Congress, Dodd was a professed supporter of “net neutrality,” which bars service providers from giving preferential treatment to individuals and companies that are willing to pay more for it. However, recently the MPAA came out against Internet neutrality, claiming it would hamper its efforts to fight online piracy.

In 2010, Dodd had insisted he would not become a lobbyist, but he joined the MPAA soon after his 2011 Senate departure.

According to a recent Center for Responsive Politics study, a rapidly rising number of ex-Congress members are cashing in by becoming lobbyists. More than 45% of those who left the 2014 Congress took a job in lobbying.



 

“Members of Congress can get more than a ten-times pay raise as lobbyists. With their insider connections, they’re a key part of the armies of lobbyists corporations use to rig the game in their favor,” stated a news alert emailed to would-be supporters of the new anti-lobbying bill, formally called the Close the Revolving Door Act of 2015 (S. 1959). “A senator or representative thinking about starting a well-paid lobbying career after retirement isn’t likely to take tough votes benefiting the public but opposed by special interests that might hire them later.”

The Act has several features besides banning Congress members from becoming lobbyists. It also extends the existing ban on congressional staffers becoming lobbyists, from only one year to six, gives the public better online access to information about who lobbies Congress and increases penalties for breaking the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995.

S. 1959, introduced right before the summer recess on August 5, was still in the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee when this AMERICAN FREE PRESS edition went to press. Neither the House nor the Senate had taken any formal action.

There are four other bills in the House that are along the same general lines as the Senate lobbying legislation. Representative William J. “Bill” Posey (R-Fla.) has introduced H.R. 318 (parked in Judiciary Committee) and H.R. 319 (parked in Administration, Oversight and Government Reform Committee). The first one is the Stop the Revolving Door in Washington Act, while the latter is the End the Congressional Revolving Door Act.

Representatives Steven F. Lynch (D-Mass.) and Steven J. Israel (D-N.Y.) have broadened the apparent anti-lobbying efforts of Congress even more by introducing the SEC Revolving Door Restriction Act of 2015 (H.R. 1463) and the Revolving Door Pension Prevention Act of 2015 (H.R. 567).

These bills are in their early stages. It is imperative that we continue to monitor their advancement, but also see whether the bills would effectively stop the mega-lobbying that represents a vital bridge from the corporate world to the crafting of laws under which we’re all forced to live.



 

Other Bills to Watch

• Sponsored by Representative Jason E. Chaffetz (R-Utah) and referred to the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security (under the Judiciary Committee), the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2015 (H.R. 213) would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to bring more tech workers to the United States—a terrible idea considering the current level of unemployment in the U.S. The bill would: “(1) eliminate the per-country numerical limitation for employment-based immigrants, and (2) increase the per-country numerical limitation for family-based immigrants from 7% to 15% of the total number of family-sponsored visas.” It also would “[amend] the Chinese Student Protection Act of 1992 to eliminate the provision requiring the reduction of annual Chinese immigrant visas to offset status adjustments under such Act,” according to the Library of Congress. This bill, only introduced in the House so far, would boost the importation of cheaper labor to U.S. corporations that slash labor costs by demoting or firing American workers. It’s well worth watching closely.

• Another bill, H. Res. 385, supported by renegade House Republicans Mark R. Meadows (N.C.), Walter B. Jones, Jr. (N.C.) and Theodore Scott “Ted” Yoho (Fla.), declares the Office of the Speaker of the House “vacant.” This is a declaration of zero confidence in longtime House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio). The speaker is accused of being overly cozy with Democratic President Barack Hussein Obama but more importantly of brow-beating and blocking the ideas of rebel Republicans and ruining their legislative efforts. GOP House rebels feel Boehner prevents GOP underlings from voting their conscience. The resolution, introduced by Meadows on July 28, may not get very far unless awareness grows of Boehner’s sabotage of anyone who isn’t a “conservative” in the fraudulent pro-war, pro-corporation, neoconservative tradition.

Got concerns? Call Congress at 202-224-3121 or 225-3121.

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AFP Roving Editor Mark Anderson is a veteran reporter who covers the annual Bilderberg meetings and is chairman of AFP’s new America First Action Committee, designed to involve AFP readers in focusing intensely on Congress to enact key changes, including monetary reform and a pullback of the warfare state. He and his wife Angie often work together on news projects.

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