Building a Better Spouse Trap

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Theoretically, the Senate's going to vote today on stopping politicians from getting cushy lobbying jobs for their family members. Theoretically.

At least half a dozen congressional spouses have jobs as registered lobbyists and several more are connected with lobbying firms, but reining in the practice to prevent potential conflicts or the appearance of them has not been a priority among congressional leaders. Even modest proposals such as banning wives and husbands from lobbying their spouses or using their spouses' floor privileges for lobbying have gone nowhere.

Democrats made ethics reform a major issue in last fall's congressional elections, but the ethics package the House approved earlier this month didn't address the issue and neither did the one proposed by Senate Democrats. Last week, however, Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) proposed banning spouses of senators from lobbying any part of the chamber. The lone exception is for spouses who were lobbying at least one year before their husband or wife was elected.

The Senate is scheduled to vote on the legislation as soon as today. Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) called Vitter and said he would support the proposal with one caveat: It should exempt spouses who are already lobbyists.

Things are moving slowly, as you'd expect after that. Anyone know a good blog or site keeping tabs on this?

NEXT: Bush's Truman Show

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  1. Bad law, probably won’t work. When the lede is phrased “politicians from getting cushy lobbying jobs for their family members” it all seems so right and proper. Next on the agenda is a law to forbid lawyer/judge marriages, doctor/pharmaceutical rep marriages and, of course, batter/pitcher relationships.

  2. Will pitcher-catcher relationships be allowed?

  3. Damn you nostar, now I have to clean HFCS off my screen.

  4. Lobbying is just a symptom of a government that is too powerful and regulatory. Lobbying is not the cause of bad laws, it is the special interest groups trying to carve exceptions to them. If you remove the power of the govnernment to regulate, you remove the whole reason for the lobby. As for Lamar’s other relationship examples, you point to me a doctor who with just a few hours time can affect 300 million patients then maybe, just maybe, I will agree with you on that one. The other two are BS though. Baseball is obvious, but the trial system has “recusal” in place for conflict of interest. Congress has no such “conflict” measures in place.

  5. “the trial system has ‘recusal’ in place for conflict of interest.”

    Well, they weren’t meant to be taken entirely seriously, but then you posted your view of the trial system, and that requires a response. Ever heard of a guy named Antonin Scalia? Well, suffice to say, each judge determines on his own whether to recuse him or herself. To say that the recusal system works is, in my opinion, not accurate. Judges hear cases all the time when they have alarming conflicts of interest.

    I think that these types of conflicts (lobbying/politician) should be reported and highlighted, but you can’t ban someone from engaging in their career.

  6. The Bill Reader (thebillreader.blogspot.com) is following this bill fairly closely. Frankly, the current wording of this part of the bill is fairly weak and ambiguous, and although a few amendments have been proposed to fix this, over 80 amendments have been proposed for this bill, and this issue is likely to fade away yet again.

  7. Damn, this election was a twofer! Not only did the Democrats take over, but we seem to have elected a whole raft of new Republicans who are deeply concerned about ethics. I like this “Vitter” guy a whole lot better than whomever was representing his district before, because that guy didn’t squat about ethics reform.

    In all seriousness, I only hope that the newfound interest the Republicans are showing in ethics reform will serve to strengthen the bills, not (as I suspect is the actual motive) kill them.

  8. I can’t figure out the difference between Vitter’s suggestion, and Reid’s caveat.

  9. The Senate Republicans have now offered an amendment to give the President the line item veto – seriously, the line item veto as an amendment to a lobbying reform bill – and have stated their willingness to filibuster the original bill if they don’t get a vote.

    Whatever you think of the line item veto, it’s pretty obvious what’s going on here.

  10. joe,

    Link? Not that I don’t believe you (in fact, the contrary), but I’d love to see all the details so I can go from mildly shocked to full-blown bloodlust.

  11. jf,

    Sorry, I saw it on C-SPAN.

  12. Another line-item veto law?

    Feh.

  13. At least half a dozen congressional spouses have jobs as registered lobbyists and several more are connected with lobbying firms, but reining in the practice to prevent potential conflicts or the appearance of them has not been a priority among congressional leaders.

    Duh.

    Things are moving slowly, as you’d expect after that. Anyone know a good blog or site keeping tabs on this?

    Why? Department of lost causes?

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