Senate Votes Disclosure of Gifts by Lobbyists of More Than $20

<i> From a Times Staff Writer</i>

The Senate approved an amendment Wednesday that would require lobbyists to report gifts they make to lawmakers and their staffs worth more than $20, or totaling more than $50 in a year.

The amendment, approved on voice vote, came as the Senate continued its consideration of a broader bill that seeks to impose new disclosure requirements on the estimated 80,000 lobbyists who seek to influence federal legislation and policy.

The current laws, first enacted in the 1940s, are so vague and fraught with loopholes that only about 7,300 lobbyists have even registered as required. Moreover, those who have registered often provide only sketchy information about their activities.


The legislation is designed in large measure to help repair the reputation of Congress, which has been shaken by a series of scandals in recent years. It also reflects the attention that independent presidential candidate Ross Perot has drawn to the access and influence of lobbyists.

Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.), sponsor of the amendment, argued that it “adds sunshine to the political process.”

The Senate was also considering a non-binding amendment by Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.) that would put it on record supporting an outright ban on gifts.

Similar legislation is pending in the House. Speaker Thomas S. Foley (D-Wash.) said that he believes gift-giving by lobbyists is not “a serious problem.” He added, however:

“But if for appearance purposes and for the purpose of creating confidence in the government, restrictions--very tight restrictions and very reportable restrictions are thought to be useful--I don’t have any problem.”