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Bennet bill takes aim at lobbyists and campaign cash

Author: Joey Bunch - July 26, 2018 - Updated: August 9, 2018

MIchael Bennet Club 20Sen. Michael Bennet of Denver addresses Club 20’s spring meeting in Grand Junction. (Photo by Joey Bunch/Colorado Politics)

Colorado’s U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet introduced legislation Wednesday to put more distance and scrutiny on lobbyists’ dollars and congressional members’ votes.

“Endless lobbying and fundraising in Washington has created a corruption of inaction,” Bennet said in a statement. “Instead of addressing the real challenges Americans face, our dysfunctional campaign finance system has prevented Congress from acting on climate change, the deficit and the costs of health care. The CLEAN Politics Act would reduce the influence of lobbyists so we can get back to the business of governing in a way that is responsive to our constituents.”

The Curtailing Lobbyists and Empowering Americans for a New (CLEAN) Politics Act is co-sponsored by Rep. John Sarbanes, a Democratic from Maryland, who chairs the Democracy Reform Task Force.

The bill would strengthen lobbyist registration, as well as require those who provide “strategic advice” to support lobbying to register, as well. The measure also clamps down on soliciting or providing campaign contributions to congressional candidates and banning solicitations for campaign donations while Congress is in session.

Bennet’s office said the act would close a lobbyist disclosure loophole that helps “foreign agents” avoid scrutiny.

The bill before the Republican-led Congress is supported by a handful of left-leaning organizations, including American Oversight, Democracy 21, Campaign for Accountability, Center for American Progress, Common Cause, CREW, End Citizens United, Every Voice, National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund, Public Citizen, Sunlight Foundation and Voices for Progress, along with former chief White House ethics lawyer Norman Eisen, according to a press release from Bennet’s office.

The groups drafted a legislator to other lawmakers Wednesday urging support.

“Lobbyists are in the business of influencing Congressional action or inaction,” their letter states. “Campaign contributions by the lobbyists serve as an arm of their lobbying activities. Their contributions to a Member combined with the contributions they ‘bundle’ or arrange for the Member provide lobbyists with access and undue influence with the Member.

“The CLEAN Politics Act recognizes the damage that political money provided by lobbyists does to the ability of Congress to represent all citizens. The Act restricts the total amount of money a lobbyist can give and bundle or arrange for a Member or congressional candidate to the $2,700 individual contribution limit on the amount a lobbyist can contribute to a Member or candidate. This restriction bans lobbyists from providing or arranging large amounts of money for a candidate and from gaining access and undue influence as a result.”

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch is the senior political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has a 31-year career in journalism, including the last 15 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and is a two-time Pulitzer finalist. His resume includes covering high school sports, the environment, the casino industry and civil rights in the South, as well as a short stint at CNN.