Monday, April 21, 2008

Ethics Law isn't without its Loopholes

Tittle: Ethics Law isn't without it's Loopholes.
Author: Robert Pear.
Date of Publication: April 20, 2008.

-Loophole: noun, a mistake in the way a law, contract, tec. has been written which enables peolpe to legally avoid something that the law or contract had intended them to do.
-Lobbyist: noun, a person who tries to influence a politician or the government and for example, persuade them to support or oppose to a law.
-Draconian: adjective, formal, (of a law, punishment, etc.) extremelly harsh and severe.
-Niebble: verb, to take small bites of something, especially food.
-Spotty, adjective, not complete, good in some parts but not in others.
-Cumbersome: adjective, slow and complicated.
-Burdensome: adjective, formal, causing worry, difficulty or hard work.
-Spigot: noun, any tap or faucet, especilly one outdoors.
-Liken, verb, formal, to compare one person or thing to another and say they are similar.(phrasal verb: to liken something or somebody to something or somebody).

Main ideas:
-The optimistically named Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007 was supposed to prevent Lobbyists from securing undue influence by taking members of the Congress to intimate dinners at fancy restaurants. But Loobyists had already come up with a way around the new law.
-Even as they try to figure out what the law requires, Lobbyists are working to preserve the acces and influence they have in Congress and Federal Agencies.
-For decades, Lobbyists have registered with Congress, but compliance and reporting requirements have been spotty. They had little to fear if they understated their expences or misinterpreted their activities.
-This month, the controller general of the US will audit a sample of Lobyists' reports and can demand evidence to verify their accurancy. The new law quadruples the maximun civil fine to $200,000, and provides up to 5 years in prision for failure to comply.
-Under prior House rules, lawmakers and their aides could accept gifts, including food and refreshment, from virtually any person or organization if the item had a value less than $50. New rules ban most gifts from lobbyists and their employers.
-How much the gift ban has driven up Lobbyists' contirbutions will not be clear until july, when Lobbyists must file a new type of report listing money they contributed to a congressional candidate, an event honouring a member of the Congress, a charity designated by a lawmaker, a presidential library or an inaugural comittee. As part of the report, Lobbyists and their employers must sign "certifications" attesting that they have read and adhere to the new gift rules.
-Lobbyists cannot pay meals to a member of a congress or buy to them practically any gift, but they can make political campaign contributions. Thti is perfectly legal. People who make campaign contributions, have an opportunity to get face time with a member of the Congress at find-raising events.
-One of the consequences of the gift ban is to drive more and more social interaction between Lobbyists and congressional officials into campaing find-raising, which is no subject to most of the gifts rules.

Personal Reaction:
According to the article, the new Ethics rules related to the activity of Lobbyists in the US, has many loopholes. It places too much emphasis in the gift ban and makes a detailed explanation of which types of gifts are legal to be given to a lawmaker, and which ones not. But it fails in expressing rules which could control the Loobyists' activity in itself.
I don't understand the point of the gift ban if the new Congressional Ethics Rules cannot assure "honest leadership and open goverment". Eventhough it is said to be early to arrive to any conclusion, most of the people related to the analysis of the rules predicts a failure in some points of them.
The question that arises in front of me when reading this article is if Lobbyists do really achieve their goals with the gifts and the money they give to members of the Congress. It is hard to believe for me that politicians end up being persuaded in the end by such people., because I think that politicians are more likely to find Lobbyists' activity beneficial for them than the other way round. For this same reason, maybe the idea of focusing so much in the gifts ban is presicely to persuade Lobbyists to invest more cash in political campaigns.

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