viernes, 19 de enero de 2007

El senado norteamericano aprueba una nueva ley de comportamiento ético y de regulación de lobbys

Dentro del ambicioso arranque legislativo preparado por el partido demócrata para inagurar la legislatura el Senado de los EEUU ha aprobado una serie de normas relacionadas con el comportamiento de los congresistas y la acción de los lobbys. La ley ha sido aprobada por abrumadora mayoria 96-2, sólo Orrin Hatch de Utah y Tom Coburn de Oklahoma se han opuesto a la ley.

Nos informa el NYT
WASHINGTON, Jan. 18 — The Senate on Thursday overwhelmingly passed sweeping changes to ethics and lobbying rules, overcoming bipartisan reluctance to ban many of the favors that lobbyists do for lawmakers and to illuminate the shadowy legislative practice of earmarking money for special projects.

The Senate’s action makes the start of the 110th Congress a watershed moment in the history of K Street and Capitol Hill. Interpreting the results of the Nov. 7 election as a reaction to corruption scandals when Congress was under Republican control, the Senate has joined the House in adopting broad new rules that go beyond the proposals Republicans introduced last year, the ones that Democrats campaigned on, or the extensive changes House Democrats recently passed.

The measure passed around 9 p.m. by a vote of 96 to 2. Senators Orrin Hatch of Utah and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, both Republicans, were the only members to vote against the bill.

On Wednesday, Senate Republicans nearly derailed the bill in a dispute over when the Democrats would agree to vote on a Republican proposal, a version of the line-item veto. At a news conference Thursday, a half-dozen Democratic senators competed to belittle the Republicans’ line-item veto as “an excuse,” “a ploy,” “a subterfuge,” a “rabbit out of a hat” and “a grand act of ethics hypocrisy.”

Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the leader of the new Democratic majority, threatened to postpone any action on ethics until the next election and publicly blame the Republicans if they did not allow a vote Thursday.

But by Thursday evening, Mr. Reid and Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, had resolved the impasse. They agreed to hold a vote on the line-item veto as part of a minimum-wage debate next week.

“This legislation has been extremely difficult to deal with,” Mr. Reid said Thursday night. “It is difficult because it deals with our lives.”

“In the short-term, the reforms in this bill may take some getting used to,” he added, “but in the long term, we’ll be thankful we took these steps.”

Like the new House rules, the Senate bill bars members from accepting gifts, meals or trips from lobbyists or the organizations that employ them. It ends the use by senators of borrowed corporate jets at discount rates.

Also like the House rules, the Senate measure requires disclosure of the sponsors, the purpose and the cost of the pet projects, or earmarks, that lawmakers have been able to tuck anonymously into complicated spending bills.

Unlike the House, the bill would also explicitly prohibit earmarks that would benefit the immediate family of the senator who sponsored it. Many of those changes revise internal Senate rules and do not require House or presidential approval.

Senate Democrats also incorporated into the bill a provision that, if signed into law, would require for the first time that lobbyists disclose the most valuable favors they do for lawmakers: holding campaign fund-raisers, soliciting campaign contributions and bundling checks from clients and friends.

Of all the bill’s provisions, it was the disclosure requirements for bundled checks that met the stiffest resistance behind the scenes in the Democratic caucus because of the potential to make it harder for incumbent lawmakers to tap K Street lobbyists as surrogate fund-raisers, aides involved in negotiations over the bill said, speaking anonymously because the talks were confidential.

Addressing another loophole in campaign finance laws, the Senate bill would also bar lobbyists or their employers from giving parties to honor lawmakers at party conventions. House Democrats say they plan to take up the subject of lobbying rules on their side of the Capitol in the next several weeks.

The party leaders began by teaming up to introduce a much weaker bipartisan bill, and lawmakers in both parties acknowledged behind-the-scenes resistance to strengthening it. But many found amendments to strengthen the bill — a number of them offered by Senators Russell D. Feingold of Wisconsin and Barack Obama of Illinois, both Democrats — politically difficult to oppose.

Fred Wertheimer, president of the ethics group Democracy 21, said, “These are always difficult battles, but when you get them on the floor you get votes of 96 to 2.”

The bill became a pivotal test for Mr. Reid in his new role trying to manage the Senate. He is a frequent target of Republican accusations of fraternizing with influence-peddlers. Several members of his immediate family have worked as lobbyists, although he says that none have lobbied his office, and he is among the biggest recipients of the discounted use of corporate jets for travel.

Mr. Reid promised vigorous reform as his first act as majority leader. He offered an amendment to bar lawmakers from accepting the discounted use of corporate jets.

But when a Republican senator offered an amendment to match the House’s earmark disclosure rules, Mr. Reid miscounted the votes he had on his side when he tried and failed to table the measure. Mr. Reid first argued against moving too fast to match the House Democrats’ new rules and then embraced the same idea with token modifications.

Mr. Coburn, one of the two “no” votes, said he had been troubled by a lack of openness in the negotiations over the contents of the bill. Senators Tim Johnson, a South Dakota Democrat who is recovering from health problems, and Sam Brownback, a Kansas Republican, were absent and did not vote.

Ex-Congressman Sentenced to 30 Months in Prison

The New York Times:

WASHINGTON, Jan. 19 — Former Congressman Bob Ney was sentenced to 30 months in prison today for accepting tens of thousands of dollars in illegal gifts in return for using his legislative influence to help his benefactors.

Prosecutors had sought a sentence of 27 months and Mr. Ney’s lawyers had asked for no more than two years.

Mr. Ney, a Republican from Ohio, pleaded guilty last year to two counts of conspiracy and making false statement in the scandals linked to the lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who is in jail.

Prosecutors had asked for a sentence at the lower lend of the 27- to-33 month range recommended by federal sentencing guidelines because Mr. Ney had cooperated with investigators.

But Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle, of the U.S. District Court in Washington, said Mr. Ney deserved additional time because of his “significant and serious abuse of the public trust.”

“You have a long way to make amends for what you have done,” she said. The sentence includes two years of probation after release from prison, 200 hours of community service and a $6,000 fine.

Mr. Ney, who did not run for reelection, blamed his problems on alcohol addiction and asked to be placed in a prison drug abuse program, which could have made him eligible for release after a year in prison.

Judge Huvelle noted the problem with alcohol, but said, “I don’t think that explains everything.” Nevertheless, she recommended that he be sent to a prison in Morgantown, W. Va., where there is a drug treatment program.

Mr. Ney, who appeared composed during the 20-minute sentencing procedure, issued a statement in which apologized to his family, friends and constituents. “I stand here today with deep regret and I stand here sorrowful.”

He said he was dealing with the “demands of an addiction that was always with me.”

The prosecutor, Mary Butler, said Mr. Ney “failed his constituents in Ohio, failed his colleagues in the House of Representatives.”

Mr. Ney’s seat was captured by a Democrat as that party won control of the House of Representatives at least partly by campaigning against Republican sale-of-influence scandals.

In his plea bargain last year, Mr. Ney admitted that he had essentially sold his office to Mr. Abramoff’s lobbying operation and others in return for a series of lavish gifts.

Those gifts included overseas trips, the use of skyboxes at Washington-area sports arenas, meals, concert tickets and thousands of dollars worth of gambling chips in London casinos.

Quién teme al lobby feroz

Tras el estupendo seminario organizado ayer por reti españa, se me ha ocurrido poner en común algunas noticias relacionadas con el lobby y su regulación en España, la Unión Europea y Estados Unidos.

El momento no puede ser más oportuno, la elaboración del libro verde de la transparencia en la UE, la revisión de la legislación sobre lobby en Estados Unidos... veremos qué da de si.

Que ustedes lo disfruten!!!