WASHINGTON - In the wake of a series of scandals that have shaken the American people's faith in Congress, U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) has introduced the Curtailing Lobbyist Effectiveness through Advance Notification, Updates, and Posting Act (CLEAN UP Act) to increase transparency in government and decrease the influence of lobbyists in the legislative process.
Obama said that the actions of lobbyist Jack Abramoff - who has been accused of embezzling millions of dollars from Native American tribes and bribing lawmakers in return for special favors - have made it clear that we need to shed a bright light on the relationship between lobbyists and lawmakers in Washington.
"One of the reasons why lobbyists like Abramoff and their congressional allies have been able to manipulate the system is because most of these backroom deals are done behind closed doors," Obama said. "My bill would open these doors and bring the lawmaking process into the open, where the American people can hold us accountable. My bill would give the public access to now-secret conference committee meetings and allow them to easily find a list of all pet projects in appropriations bills. This common-sense legislation would make it impossible for legislators to anonymously slip in special interest giveaways in the dead of night, and would ensure that lawmakers never again vote on legislation without having time to read it."
Obama's legislation would require that all legislation introduced in the Senate, including conference reports, be posted on the Internet 72 hours before the legislation is voted on by the full Senate, including specific projects - or "earmarks" - that under current law are anonymously attached to appropriations bills. Obama's legislation would also require conference committee meetings and deliberations to be open to the public or be televised and would require both chambers of Congress to identify any changes made to conference reports and which member made the change.
"The recent Republican scandals have shaken the very foundation of the American people's faith in a government that will look out for their interests and uphold their values," said Obama. "These scandals don't just lead to morally offensive conduct on the part of politicians; they also lead to morally offensive legislation that hurts hardworking Americans. This legislation will put us on a path to ending these practices and rebuilding the American people's trust in their government."
Obama's legislation has been endorsed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan said: "By creating a more transparent legislative process, the CLEAN UP Act moves us toward the goal of having a truly democratic system of government."
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