Minus FEC Quorum, Lobbyists Still Bundled Up

Former lobbyist Jack Abramoff will be sentenced this September, according to papers filed by prosecutors and defense attorneys this week in federal court....

June 16, 2008

Former lobbyist Jack Abramoff will be sentenced this September, according to papers filed by prosecutors and defense attorneys this week in federal court. Mr. Abramoff has been safely tucked away in a federal prison camp in Maryland since 2006 on bank fraud charges. Congress reacted to the scandal by passing reform legislation: This past January 1, the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act (HLOGA) of 2007 went into effect, requiring more substantive and accessible disclosure of political and charitable contributions by registered lobbyists, among other changes. The first reports of these contributions are due on July 30 and should make for interesting reading.

With reform legislation in place and Mr. Abramoff's expense account out of reach, one might be tempted to breath a sigh of relief. One piece of this important legislation has yet to be implemented, however—HLOGA required the FEC to adopt rules for disclosing "bundling" by lobbyists. "Bundling" is the gathering of checks from multiple donors otherwise meeting the requirements of law which are then turned over "in bulk" to politicians—the virtues and risks of this practice should be self-evident to those who care about meaningful campaign finance reform. The lack of a quorum at the FEC has prevented the adoption of the rules, effectively neutering this part of the only ethics reform legislation to come out of Congress in recent years. True reformers should insist that passage of these rules is at the top of the agenda of a reinvigorated FEC.