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Ethics Bill Could
Ground Candidates

Presidential campaign budget operatives beware: That ethics and lobbying reform bill winding its way through both chambers of Congress this week has a number of provisions aimed right for your wheelhouse, likely driving up costs and paperwork -- particularly for the two candidates who win their respective party nominations.

The 107-page ethics bill, dealing mostly with the revolving door between Capitol Hill and K Street, also enacts a ban on presidential campaigns using corporate aircraft to hop around the nation. In previous campaigns this was a common tactic employed by candidates who would pay corporations, law firms or other special interests only the cost of a first-class ticket for each passenger aboard the jet, well below the actual cost of fueling up and flying the aircraft around the country. The new reform bill changes internal congressional rules and specifically requires members of the House and Senate to pay charter rates for their travel, and would become effective later this month assuming final passage and President Bush's signature.

Congressional leaders decided to impose the ban on all candidates for federal office, averting a loophole that would have allowed non-senators running for president such as former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) and former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-Mass.) to use corporate aircraft at cheaper rates.

In addition, the ethics bill also requires all House, Senate and presidential campaigns to keep track of lobbyists who bundle campaign contributions totaling $15,000 or more. Such lobbyists would be singled out every six months in a separate section of reports filed with the Federal Election Commission. Democratic aides said that provisions impacting presidential candidates are alterations in federal law and therefore would require a six-month-or-more rulemaking process at the FEC, putting the enactment date for these new rules at some point in mid-January or later.

With the primary season likely to be decided on, or shortly after, the massive Feb. 5 primary day, these new provisions are likely going to have the most impact on the nomination winners. For example, the first listing of bundlers of $15,000 or more would likely come in the mid-2008 reports.

For a detailed look at the lobbying bill, check washingtonpost.com's Capitol Briefing blog.

--Paul Kane

By Post Editor  |  July 31, 2007; 5:59 AM ET
Categories:  B_Blog , Ethics  
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