Sat, Aug 04, 2007 - Page 1 News List

US Congress passes sweeping ethics bill following scandals

AFP , WASHINGTON

The US Senate on Thursday passed what its Democratic leaders billed as the most sweeping law regulating lobbying and lawmakers' conduct in history, following a string of political scandals.

But Republicans, who lost control of Congress last year partly as a result of a clutch of ethics questions, complained that the bill, which has already passed the House of Representatives, did not go far enough.

"In sending the most sweeping ethics and lobbying reform in history to the President, we are giving the American people a government as good and honest as the people it represents," Senate Majority leader Harry Reid said.

Democrats, in a nod to the voters who installed them in power after congressional elections last year, see ethics reform as one of their top priorities.

The bill prohibits lawmakers from accepting gifts and free travel from lobbyists. It also slows what is known as the "revolving door" which often sees former lawmakers quickly reappear in a new life as lobbyists.

The White House complained that the bill did not do enough to cut down on lawmakers adding special projects for their districts to spending bills -- a process known as "earmarking."

A string of ethics scandals in recent years rattled the former Republican majority in Congress.

The most notorious involved the "superlobbyist" Jack Abramoff who built an empire during the Republican rise to power in Congress in the 1990s and expanded his influence with Bush's capture of the White House in December 2000.

But after falling from grace, Abramoff, 47, pleaded guilty last year to defrauding lenders in a Florida gambling boat deal and jailed for nearly six years for wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud.

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