Reform The Republican Way

Do you remember back in January when there was all that hysteria about that Jack Abramoff character? The House Republicans rushed to the microphones (beating the Democrats by a couple of days) in order to present their lobbying reform plan. Speaker Dennis Hastert said serious things like:

I think we need to tighten even further the gift rules. A Member of Congress should be able to accept a ball cap or a t-shirt from the proud students at a local middle school, but he or she doesn’t need to be taken to lunch or dinner by a lobbyist… I think members can probably function very well in this town without having to go out lunch with a lobbyist or to dinner with a lobbyist. They can pay for it for themselves, they have means to be able to do that, if that’s what we have to do.

How times have changed. Now the Abramoff investigation seems to be in a lull, the public is concentrating on other things, and so today the House Republicans revealed their new and improved lobbying reform proposal. No more talk of banning gifts and meals – now the tough measure is that lobbyists would be responsible for disclosing them. And they’ve hit on the genius stroke of using this opportunity to go after 527 organizations, political groups like MoveOn that have been very effective for the Democrats (and for Republicans – think Swift Boat Vets – though less so). As the AP puts it, “More recently, Republicans strategists have expressed concern about the efforts by Soros and others to boost Democratic prospects in the congressional midterm elections.”

So they’ve done away with one of the pillars of their reform effort they made so much noise about in January and tacked on a measure that’s a transparently political gambit. Crafty. Let’s see if that’s noticed in any of the papers’ coverage tomorrow morning.