Lobby reform efforts have slowed to a virtual standstill since House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL), in the wake of Jack Abramoff's guilty plea in January, called
for a slate of tough measures.
Since the Abramoff plea, Justice Department prosecutors have made little public progress aside from a guilty plea from a former congressional staffer here
. Nothing to really grab the public's attention -- and spur calls for Congress to clean up its act. So when House Republicans finally passed lobby reform legislation, it didn't have
the reforms (e.g. a gift ban) Hastert had promised.
Now we have news
that the bill, weak though it may be, probably won't pass at all. House Republican leaders say that they'll make rule changes regarding earmarks and call it a day. Reform accomplished. Right?
Not so fast. From today's Washington Post
...the legislation could be revived if the Abramoff investigation produces any indictments of lawmakers, [Paul A. Miller, president of the American League of Lobbyists] said. "That's my biggest concern," he said. "If you have an indictment of a member of Congress or more than one, then it's a foregone conclusion you are going to get lobbying reform and it's probably going to be extreme."
[Jan W. Baran, a leading Republican ethics lawyer] agreed, saying, "Indictments do focus congressional minds on passing legislation." Such criminal charges, he added, "could revive the bill, especially as we get closer to the [mid-term] election."