A majority of Senators, for example, voted against the establishment of an Office of Public Integrity for the Senate. The Office was proposed to address the biggest ethics problem facing the institution, the absence of a publicly credible and publicly acceptable system for enforcing the Senate ethics rules.
The defense of the current system by Senate Ethics Committee Chairman George Voinovich (R-Ohio) came down to the public equivalent of "Trust us. We're doing a good job. We just can't tell you what we are doing."
That is not good enough for the American people.
Our organizations will continue to work for the establishment of an independent, impartial Office of Public Integrity in the Senate to help ensure that the Senate ethics rules are enforced.
The Senate lobbying bill also fails to provide any new restrictions on privately-funded travel for Members. The bill also fails to stop Members from treating corporate planes as their own private air force. The bill also fails to stop lobbyists from financing lavish parties for Members. These are all areas of great abuse that will now continue unabated.
The Senate lobbying bill also fails to require disclosure of numerous ways in which lobbyists provide financial help for Members, such as soliciting and bundling campaign contributions for Members, paying for Members' parties, making contributions to foundations and other entities controlled by Members and paying for Members' events, including conferences and retreats.
We recognize that the legislation does make improvements in a number of areas, including a ban of gifts from lobbyists, quarterly reports by lobbyists that are searchable on the Internet, disclosure for the first time of spending on grassroots lobbying activities, and disclosure for the first time of fundraisers held by lobbyists for Members and other federal candidates.
These positive features of the legislation, however, do not compensate for the greater failures of the Senate to address its most important lobbying and ethics problems.