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Open the curtains. Drain the swamp. Disinfect. If the speaker of the House pledged to regulate any industry with these words, the first thing targeted businesses would do is start looking for a good lobbyist. When the industry in question is lobbying itself, however, the solution is not so easy. After long debate, many false starts, and endless wrangling, Congress finally passed comprehensive lobbying reform, by overwhelming majorities in both chambers. The new law, which at press time was still awaiting the president’s signature, is a grab bag including everything from the disclosure of bundled campaign contributions to the prohibition of contact between a member’s lobbyist spouse and his staff. The legislation was trumpeted by Congress as the most significant reform of lobbying and congressional ethics in years. That may be, but many prominent D.C. shops remain unconvinced of how much things will really change. Most of the provisions in the 61-page bill, they say, either find new ways to ban activities that were already verboten or simply increase penalties for violating current rules that are rarely enforced. “Most of these things almost border on the ridiculous,” says lobbyist and former Rep. Robert Walker (R-Pa.), reacting to a provision that blocks former members turned lobbyists from using the Capitol’s parking lot. “I’ll have to have a car and driver drive me up rather than drive up myself, I guess,” he says. Walker, who represents XM Satellite Radio and Comcast, views the legislation as part of the natural ebb and flow of Washington politics. “We go through these things once every few years, where we think that by piling on more rules and regulations, the system’s going to get better,” he continues. “Usually, the system gets worse.” Charlie Black of BKSH Associates is similarly sanguine, saying that ultimately, the rules will be a little extra hassle but won’t change much for “the 99 percent” of his colleagues who already view their good name as an essential asset on the Hill. Similar sentiments were widely expressed by K Streeters. Is that just the cavalier talk of summer recess? To answer that question we’ve assembled the field guide below on which of the changes lobbying firms are expecting to be significant, which inconsequential, and which simply irritating. UNFRIENDLY SKIES THE RULE: No more using private jets for official duties; senators get a little more leeway on the campaign trail. THE RATIONALE: Seems when one guy starts abusing corporate jets, the fun’s over for everybody. Though Jack Abramoff’s dealings renewed the call for ethics reform across the board, his habit of plying members with lavish junkets, such as the infamous golf outing in Scotland, made travel restrictions “agenda item No. 1,” according to ethics attorney Kenneth Gross, a partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. Private jets will be generally off-limits when it comes to “officially connected” travel, frustrating those who liked to take members on field trips. “Congress has further isolated itself from its constituents,” says Jay Timmons, senior vice president for government relations at the National Association of Manufacturers. The association used to sponsor three-day trips for members and staffers, typically visiting three to five manufacturing sites per day. That helped members of Congress and staffers talk to plant managers and other workers about the possible effects of regulation, Timmons says. “Now that [the travel restrictions] are permanent, we’re probably out of that business,” he says. On rare occasions, however, members in both houses can get a break for officially connected trips by requesting a travel voucher from either the House or Senate ethics committee. If, for example, a member is traveling to a rural area not serviced by commercial flights, she can file the paperwork explaining the circumstances and hope for an exception. The legislation is a little more lenient for senators when it comes to campaigning. While House rules dictate a total ban on corporate jet travel, the Senate will allow the continued use of private planes � if leased at full charter rates. THE IMPACT: Members will have to start digging deeper into their own pockets if they want to hop private airplanes to industry junkets. LOOPHOLES? “Where there are laws, there’s discretion in the application of them,” notes Skadden’s Gross. If no waiver of the ban is forthcoming from the ethics committees, members might be able to do a work around by owning stock in a private charter service. In any event, getting cleared for takeoff just got a lot harder. IT’S CALLED A PARTY CONVENTION THE RULE: Lobbying firms and their employers can’t host convention bashes in honor of members of Congress. THE RATIONALE: In recent election cycles, lobbying firms and their clients have thrown extravagant convention bashes that were deemed obscene displays of patronage by media types and even some of the hosts. Ergo no “honoring” anyone with a champagne fountain in the Rainbow Room, or whatever they’ve got in Minneapolis and Denver. THE IMPACT: Fairly negligible. Lobbyists are waiting for clarification from Congress and their legal advisers, but it doesn’t take a J.D. to see how a legislative prohibition against “honoring [a] Member” creates a loophole big enough to toss a few cases of Veuve Clicquot through. But even if there’s no legal problem with the festivities, says Bockorny Group’s Andrew Dodson, his firm is waiting to see what sort of event — if any — members feel comfortable attending. “There will be parties whether members show up or not,” he says, though he notes that much of the lobbying community isn’t wedded to the idea of throwing a party. “A lot of lobbyists say, ‘That’s fine — I’ll just take a vacation that week,’?” he says. LOOPHOLES? Plenty. For example, the stipulation that no parties take place during the dates of the convention. “When you have language that is that specific, it raises the possibility that you could do the prohibited act,” says Rob Kelner, chairman of Covington & Burling’s election law practice. He notes that a strong case can be made for the legality of holding a party the day before the convention officially starts. If all else fails, corporate hosts can sign on as convention sponsors. Republican National Convention spokesman Matt Burns says the business community has already been generous, guaranteeing “plenty of opportunity for people to attend events.” JOB NEGOTIATIONS THE RULE: Members and high-level staffers will have to disclose any job negotiations with lobbyists within 72 hours. THE RATIONALE: Baiting Hill staffers with lucrative job offers was one of the ways Jack Abramoff sought to curry favor. Requiring the prompt disclosure of any employment negotiations is meant to prevent outside employment from becoming a bargaining chip during the formation of high-profile policy. THE IMPACT: Limited. Staffers will now have to brand themselves as short-timers within three days of receiving a serious offer, thus making job negotiations more of an all-or-nothing proposition. The new rule would likely accelerate the process by which former staffers make the move downtown. “It just means you’re probably careful about when you start talking to people,” Black says. “There’s a lame-duck effect on them once it becomes public that they’re going to leave.” Few staffers will want to risk damage to their Hill careers unless a solid job offer is immediately on the table. “This is completely idiotic,” says one former staffer who moved to the private sector in 2002. “The risks of compromising the jobs of the people you’re interviewing are severe and unfair, and they imply illegal and unethical behavior.” LOOPHOLES? “You can work with this easy enough,” says Black, who doesn’t see it impacting his recruiting efforts on the Hill. But some former Hill staffers say the policy will be a disaster, making a thorough and discreet job search nearly impossible. In any event, don’t bet on any more lengthy courtships between K Street and the Capitol. LITTLE BUNDLES OF JOY THE RULE: Lawmakers’ campaign staff members will have to disclose instances in which they receive $15,000 or more in campaign contributions bundled with the aid of a particular source. THE RATIONALE: Knowing who’s doing the legwork for a lawmaker’s fund-raising makes it much easier to understand what interests, if any, he might be beholden to. THE IMPACT: Significant on the disclosure side, and Congress has generously decided to handle the paperwork on this one itself. The results could cause pain for companies that don’t want to be seen playing in politics and for lawmakers who would prefer not to have their backers featured prominently. But Walker, who says he’s not a prolific fund-raiser himself, can think of one way that bundlers could keep a bit of privacy: hire more lobbyists. If an entity wants to discreetly funnel contributions to a particular legislator, it could simply contract with another lobbying firm to handle its fund–raisers and show up on the registrations. “For the boutique lobbying community, they’re probably delighted to have their names on that list,” Walker says, noting that bundlers thrive on the public recognition they receive during presidential campaigns. Black, who raised six figures to become a “Bush Pioneer” in the last presidential cycle, says he did it because he believed in the candidate. The attention he received bothered him “only to the extent that my wife deserved most of the credit,” he says. LOOPHOLES? Key details about the legislation’s enforcement are still undetermined, says Jim Kahl of Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice. A former deputy general counsel at the Federal Election Commission, Kahl says he expects the FEC to make some crucial distinctions about just how to interpret stricter requirements. “We don’t know how far the FEC will go,” he says. If a lobbying firm or its client truly wants to stay out of the limelight, isn’t a $14,000 campaign breakfast still worth getting a congressman out of bed for? CHECKS, PLEASE THE RULE: Internal rules already prohibit members of Congress and top aides from accepting anything worth more than $50 from a lobbyist, but lobbyists have no liability. The new legislation bars lobbyists from giving anything of value to anyone in a legislator’s office, forces each firm to guarantee that its staff hasn’t done so, and imposes potential criminal penalties and six-figure fines for violations and late filings. THE RATIONALE: Apparently members of Congress didn’t like the answer to “Did you really think I could be bought off with a $50 dinner?” THE IMPACT: Stifles contact between lobbyists and members’ offices and, depending on enforcement, could get firms in serious trouble. Lobbyists see the new rules as one more step toward a system “where the only time members and lobbyists get together is when checks are being passed across the table for campaign contributions,” says Walker. Under the new system, Walker notes, he can’t buy lunch for a former colleague from the House, but he’s free to spend $1,000 at a campaign fund-raising dinner. Real reform, he says, would have to come on the campaign finance side. “As they, more and more, have shut down the contacts between lobbyists and members, they have moved it to campaigns,” he says of Congress. Some firms, including Barbour, Griffith & Rogers, say they’ll just deal with the extra paperwork � they aren’t opposed to more disclosure. “As best I can tell, it will keep our general counsel working harder,” says Barbour’s chief operating officer, Loren Monroe. In the past, enforcement of disclosure requirements had been almost unheard of; the $50,000 maximum fine for late registration had never been levied. But Covington’s Kelner says a provision of the law requiring the attorney general to file biannual reports on enforcement actions probably ups the odds of sanctions. “That is clearly designed to embarrass the Justice Department into launching enforcement actions,” he says. “What do you think the chances are that the attorney general will report every six months, no actions’?” Some of Kelner’s clients are already trying to prevent themselves from becoming casualties, asking him for training under the new rules even before they become law. Along with the tighter disclosure requirements comes less time to do the paperwork. Under the old system, lobbyists had 45 days to turn in their forms; under the new legislation, they’d get less than half that. Paul Miller, a partner at Miller/Wenhold Capitol Strategies and former president of the American League of Lobbyists, fears he won’t be able to keep up. “For small shops, with everything going on in their world, from doing administrative work to servicing the client effectively, 20 days is going to come faster than you know it,” Miller says. This kind of pressure, he adds, leaves too much room for “inadvertent rule-breaking.” LOOPHOLES? No firm is going to want to test this one. Still, a few aren’t sure Congress really wants to get this strict. “I think there will be some rationality that will prevail in it,” Walker says. WHEN C-SPAN’S NOT ENOUGH THE RULE: Video and audio recordings and transcripts of Senate committee and subcommittee meetings have to be posted online no later than 21 business days after they take place. Closed meetings are, of course, exempt. THE RATIONALE: Premised on the idea that if a member knows something might show up on YouTube, he might think twice. THE IMPACT: Good question. Most committee meetings are open anyway. Fred Lowell, head of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman’s political law group, says that basically, this provision just means extra work for Hill staffers: “If they want to go to the trouble, so what?” LOOPHOLES? No one’s looking for an escape hatch on this one. SPOUSAL OUSTER THE RULE: Members’ lobbyist spouses can’t talk policy with them or their staffs. On the Senate side, spouses can’t lobby any other senators or staffers, and the rule also extends to members’ lobbyist kids and other immediate family members. THE RATIONALE: Defeating one of ethics’ oldest foes: nepotism. The reasoning is that it’s tough to say no to your husband or wife, or to your boss’s husband or wife. Theoretically, it might also prevent lobbyists from giving preferential treatment to members’ relatives when making hiring decisions. THE IMPACT: Though the rule is stricter on the Senate side, a grandfather clause ensures it’s business as usual for most of the senatorial spouses this would otherwise apply to. The clause excludes lobbyists who stalked K Street at least a year before their marriages, or before their spouses were elected. That means only one current member’s spouse, Lucy Calutti, wife of Sen. Kent Conrad (R-N.D.), has to keep her mouth shut. LOOPHOLES? Doesn’t this violate the marital privilege or something? Perhaps Foley & Lardner partner Cleta Mitchell sums it up best: “Who’s gonna say, OK, darlin’, I hate to tell you this, but what you just said to me constitutes a lobbying contact. I’m gonna have to turn ya in’?” In other words, this one seems nearly impossible to fully enforce. But seriously, Mitchell, who specializes in lobbying and ethics, is concerned about the constitutionality of banning husbands and wives from talking to each other, even if it isn’t effective. “There are innumerable ways in which this law infringes on the First Amendment rights of the people to petition the government,” she says. ETHICS SCHOOL THE RULE: Calling this one a “rule” is probably overkill. This provision politely offers “the sense of the Senate” that the lobbying community should form “self-regulatory organizations” to keep itself up to snuff on ethics. It also recommends that lobbyists educate the public on how to “responsibly” interact with them � a notion Thomas Susman, a partner at Ropes & Gray, deems “almost laughable.” THE RATIONALE: Unless everyone steps up their standards, this isn’t going to be the last lobbying ethics package. THE IMPACT: One of the bill’s more eye-catching sections expresses a nonbinding desire “that the lobbying community should develop proposals for multiple self-regulatory organizations.” As chairman of the Professional Ethics and Standards Committee of the American League of Lobbyists, Susman teaches ethics courses to league members, but he says there is very little guidance available when it comes to self-regulation. “The unfortunate part of that kind of thing is that the lobbyists who need enhanced ethical sensitivity are the ones who won’t bother,” he says. Whether self-regulation is optional or enforced, Susman says, the main problem is quality control: “The House committee on standards is going to determine whether the curriculum for ethics training is adequate? I don’t think so.” One possible alternative is for private entities to offer ethics courses for members and lobbyists. “Build a demand and the supply will come,” Susman notes, adding that perhaps Legal Times should get in on the action by offering its own ethics classes for lobbyists. Tempting, but we probably have enough on our plate. LOOPHOLES? Well, who doesn’t want more ethics training? Actually, according to the Web site of the American League of Lobbyists, a total of eight people in the past eighteen months have completed the league’s lobbyist certification program, which addresses ethical behavior. C’mon, you can do better than that. The next class, on Sept. 10, is on conflicts of interest. See you there!
Jeff Horwitz can be contacted at [email protected]. Reporter Carrie Levine and editorial assistant Marisa McQuilken contributed to this report.

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