OH-18: Ethics Reform Law Big Boost for Space (D)
Yesterday the Senate joined the House in passing far-reaching rule changes on ethics and lobbying. The measure passed by large, bipartisan margins in both chambers, although some GOP members objected that the provisions on disclosure of earmarks did not go far enough.
Although I am personally disappointed that the package does not include an independent commission to participate in Congressional ethics investigations, and in some other ways is not as strong as it could be, it is an extraordinary and important advance. Among other major provisions, the law:
* Attacks the "revolving door" between Congress and lobbying firms by increasing the waiting time to two years for Senators (House members stay at one year), requiring departing members to disclose employment negotiations and recuse themselves from voting where there are conflicts, and denying former members acting as lobbyists access to the floor, parking areas, and exercise facilities;Not getting as much attention are some other important changes buried in the bill. The practice of slipping last-minute provisions into major bills will be deterred by changes to Senate rules that will allow Senators to object to single elements of the bill (so dead-of-night additions can be attacked without opposing the entire bill). Also, the revolving-door rules will apply to top aides as well as elected officials themselves.
* Prohibits gifts from lobbyists and requires candidates to pay charter rates for travelling on privately-owned airplanes;
* Requires disclosure of bundling of contributions by lobbyists;
* Requires disclosure of earmarks (pet projects) in spending bills; and
* Ends retirement benefits for members convicted of bribery, perjury or conspiracy while in office.
Passage of these reforms are important to the Democratic party as a whole, since ending the Republican "culture of corruption" was a major feature of successful 2006 Democratic campaigns all across the country. However, nowhere is a strong record on ethics reform more important than in Ohio's 18th Congressional District, where freshman Zack Space (D-Dover) won the seat of convicted former Congressman Bob Ney (R-Heath) in a largely rural, heavily Republican district. Space campaigned heavily on the issue of ethics and has striven mightily to establish himself as a reformer in Congress, as well as an independent voice not tied to the Democratic party line.
Significantly, Space is seen as a top target by the National Republican Campaign Committee, which will run radio ads against Space and five other Democratic incumbents during the August recess. The ad against Space will assert that Space's voting record during his first half year in office is out of step with his conservative district. However, the new ethics reform law enables Space to respond that he has delivered on the principal campaign promise that got him elected. Space has issued a press release today titled "SPACE BRINGS LOBBYING REFORM TO CONGRESS - Congressman Keeping his Promise to Bring Independence to Congress." In the release Space says:
My constituents sent me to Congress to clean house, and this legislation is another step along that path. Because I’m a fresh voice in Washington, I’m not beholden to the entrenched lobbyists. We have much more work to do in this effort, but we are making bold steps.and:
I am very proud of my staunchly independent record. I am not, as I have promised, here to follow my party. I am committed to bringing about real reform, and I refuse to let party politics get in the way of my efforts.Space also gets a boost from the "Dean of the Ohio Congressional Delegation," Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Toledo), who is quoted as congratulating Space on his "refreshing independence" and adding that Space "has proven himself an aggressive and dedicated advocate for change in Congress" and "has brought new life to the efforts to reform lobbying rules, and his independence and leadership serve his constituents very well."
Space has drawn four announced GOP challengers already (Mike Carey, Fred Dailey, Jeanette Moll, and Paul Phillips), but none so far are particularly prominent or experienced.