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The lobbying reforms Congress passed this summer were so comprehensive that they pushed lobbyists out of the Rotunda, past the members’ gym, and deposited them beyond the Capitol parking lot � which they are no longer allowed to use. Lobbying reform is tough stuff, especially in the wake of the still-reverberating scandal surrounding lobbyist Jack Abramoff. The fallout from the lobby reforms has surfaced in ways big and small all over D.C. For the first time, lobbyists face civil and criminal penalties if they don’t comply with disclosure regulations, or if they violate new gift and travel bans. And the new rules cut into perks long seen as congressional prerogatives: corporate jets, lavish parties, and holiday presents. The new regulations have had an impact that even the drafters might not have predicted. For instance, people are less eager to call themselves lobbyists. “In the past, people used the Lobbying Disclosure Act not only as a way to comply with the law but often as a marketing tool where a person was eager to register as a lobbyist for a variety of clients,” says Craig Engle of Arent Fox’s government relations practice. Engle says he’s now advising clients that “people who are not lobbyists should not register as lobbyists.” Even Santa took a hit. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce fired its regular Saint Nick, afraid that offering their guests photos on his lap could constitute “something of value” in violation of the new law. Other groups added legal language to their invitations to convince wary Hill staffers the event would meet exemptions allowed under the reforms. And no one served food that required silverware. Another impact: Legislators’ longevity. As of Dec. 31, new rules will double � to two years � the waiting period former members of Congress must observe before lobbying their colleagues. The rules also require members and high-level staffers to disclose job negotiations with lobbyists within 72 hours. Some members, including Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.), announced their departures before the end of this year, beating the waiting period. Still unknown is whether lobbying reform will make for lame parties at the 2008 presidential nominating conventions. Check back this summer.
Carrie Levine can be contacted at [email protected].

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