Democratic Sens. Michael Bennet of Colorado and Al Franken of Minnesota have introduced the Close the Revolving Door Act of 2015 that would ban former members of Congress from ever becoming lobbyists.
Bennet explained the reasoning behind the bill on his website:
"Washington has become all too comfortable with the spin of the revolving door. Lobbyists working for special interests shouldn't be allowed to hold more sway than the people back home in Colorado and around the country. We can put the power back into the hands of the people we came here to represent by banning members of Congress from lobbying when they leave Capitol Hill and closing the revolving door for Congressional staff.
"Although Washington has resisted these types of reforms, we will continue to fight for these commonsense fixes every year and in every Congress to ensure Washington is focused on the real issues that matter to the country."
Bennet previously introduced the bill in 2010 and has committed himself to reintroducing it in every subsequent Congress until it becomes law.
According to a study by the Center for Responsive Politics, about 45 percent of former members of the 113th Congress who are currently employed work for lobbying firms. Around 12,000 registered federal lobbyists were active in Washington in 2014.
"The revolving door between Congress and the lobbying industry is a problem that needs fixing, because our democracy can't function the way it's supposed to when big interests have more power than the American people," Franken said. "Our legislation would put in place much-needed reforms-by not only banning members of Congress from becoming lobbyists, but also by making the industry become more accountable and transparent."
There is a law in effect now that bans former members of Congress from lobbying their former colleagues for one to two years, in what is referred to as a “cooling-off period,” Vox reports.
Bennet and Franklin’s bill would make lobbying illegal for life with its proposed reforms that include:
- Place a lifetime ban on current members of Congress from becoming lobbyists;
- Increase the statutory staff restrictions on lobbying from one year to six years;
- Ban lobbyists from joining Congressional staffs or committee staffs that they lobbied for six years;
- Create a more accessible website for public reporting of lobbying activities;
- Require substantial lobbying entities to report on the non-lobbyist employees they have who are former members of Congress or former senior congressional staff, and describing those employees' job responsibilities; and
- Increase the maximum penalty for violating the Lobbying Disclosure Act.
Democratic Sen. Jon Tester of Montana has joined Bennet and Franken in their fight, and even Republican 2016 presidential candidate and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas has backed the idea.
Bennet and Sharpen are not the only members of Congress fighting for lobbying reform.
Republican Rep. Rod Blum of Iowa introduced the No Golden Parachutes for Public Services Act in the House of Representatives this past week to ban former members of Congress from lobbying after they leave office.