Wednesday, March 29, 2006

No Free Meals for Senate Leaches

Senate debates ban on lobbyist meals

By Christina Bellantoni


March 29, 2006

Senators hoping to improve Washington's image are spending this afternoon debating a measure to curb the influence of lobbyists.

The Senate was considering a broad measure by Sen. Trent Lott that bans the typical practice of lobbyists treating lawmakers to meals at swanky restaurants and requires members to take an ethics training course, among other things.

This afternoon, lawmakers expedited a dozen amendments to the Mississippi Republican's bill in anticipation of a final vote in the early evening. The amendments tackled elements ranging from corporate jet travel to defining clients of lobbyists.

Senators soundly rejected one amendment by Sen. Russell D. Feingold that defines a lobbyist as anyone employed by a company that has a registered lobbyist on the payroll.

"The era of the free lunch will be over for real," the Wisconsin Democrat said.

He said his amendment was needed to close a loophole that would allow lobbyists to skirt the ban on gifts and meals, but critics, who voted 68-30 against the amendment, said the amendment went "too far" and would literally apply to "millions" of citizens who are not lobbyists.

Read the rest of the article here.

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