We have heard that the new bill keeps lawmakers from accepting free meals from lobbyists, as though a free $40 steak has been the root of all corruption on Capitol Hill, but it doesn't even do that much. There are over 20 exceptions to the food and gift bans in the bill. For instance, lobbyists can still fund trips to "well-attended" events, such as charity golf tournaments and receptions, or events where the lawmaker plays a ceremonial role. They can't give tickets to sporting events, but that changes if the Congressman tosses out the first pitch.More on the story from the Washington Post's Jeffrey Birnbaum, who talks about an more important problem, the First Amendment right of association:
So let's recap. Lobbyists can't buy a meal unless it's part of a fundraiser, which means that the previous $40 steak can be legalized now by providing a $10,000 check to tenderize it.
Interest groups are also expressing concern about another feature of the legislation. The provision would require more disclosure by organizations about who is paying for and actively participating in the lobbying activities of coalitions and trade groups. At the moment, most of that information is proprietary and protected by Supreme Court decisions that shield the members of many kinds of groups. Organizations are worried that they might, for the first time, have to disclose who their top members are.Interestingly enought, lawmakers are not required to disclose who they meet with, but the interest groups are required to disclose who meets with lawmakers.