But Will There Be Lobbyists at the Beach?

Even as a Colorado group has turned in signatures to put ethics reform on the November ballot, Congress is stalling on lobbying reform efforts at the national level, with little action expected before they go on August recess, reports Congress Daily (subscription only).

The House and Senate are reportedly squabbling over whether or not and how to include regulation of so-called 527 groups, such as the Republican Trailhead Group, as part of the reforms. While both parties make use of these groups, the Democrats relied on them more in 2004.

“From the beach? My beach is pretty cluttered right now in Mississippi,” Mississippi Senator Trent Lott said when asked whether there would be progress on the bill this month.

Lott didn’t say what the beach was cluttered with, although he was reportedly referring to damage from Hurricane Katrina. But perhaps he meant the beach would be cluttered with lobbyists. After all, most members of Congress are known to hob knob with them on almost any occasion they can get. And Lott, like many lawmakers, knows plenty of lobbyists who have been through the revolving door at his office.There’s Kyle McSlarrow, a former Lott staffer and deputy Energy Secretary who became head of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association in March 1995. Not long after, in June, he gave Lott a $2,000 contribution.

There’s Ginger Loper, another former Lott staffer, who represents such clients as Anheuser-Busch, Chevron Corp, and Visa International for the lobbying firm Timmons and Company.

Over all, Lott has taken $168,312 in campaign contributions from lobbyists over the course of his Senate career.

Lott is far from unusual in this regard. Over all, the same lawmakers who are expected to come to agreement on differing House and Senate versions of lobbying bills have taken in the 2006 election cycle alone, 57 percent of that to Republicans, 43 percent to Democrats. Colorado senators Ken Salazar has taken $107,101and Wayne Allard, $89,528.

You don’t have to be terribly cynical to say that the campaign money flowing in has something to do with the fact that the lobbying reform bills passed by the House and the Senate earlier this year are weak to begin with, according to reform groups such as Public Campaign (where I’m employed when I’m not writing for Colorado Confidential and Muckraking Mom), Common Cause, and Public Citizen.

Sens. Allard and Salazar both supported the legislation in the Senate. The Colorado House delegation split along party lines, with Republicans voting in favor of the bill–except Rep. Joel Hefley, who voted against it. Hefley was chairman of the House Ethics Committee until he left after tangling with then House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX), who under Hefley’s watch was admonished three times for ethical transgressions.