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February 06, 2006

ASAE Communicates on Lobbying Reform

For some reason, I'm not getting my Weekly Bulletin from ASAE. Here's the web version from last week which contains some communication to members about why they are opposing a ban on privately funded congressional travel. It seems they are only opposed to an outright ban, and offered this alternative:


A more amenable policy on congressional travel might include a pre-approval screening process for trips, whereby an ethics committee or advisory office would scrutinize incoming requests for privately funded travel and either approve or reject the travel request, ASAE said. That scrutiny should primarily be based on the content or agenda of the meeting or conference...
Okay, that sounds reasonable.

I still don't understand why this is ASAE's fight. Let's see what the legislators come back with. If it's still an outright ban, I hope ASAE won't press the issue, publicly anyway.

I'm waiting for my copy of Policies and Procedures to come in. Can't wait to see the average of how much associations spend on congressional travel.

Full text of ASAE's letter to congress.

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4 comments:

Jeff De Cagna said...

Ben, I have a very different view than ASAE. For some reason, no one in this town appears to favor taking the kind of decisive action that will end the regular cycles of corruption involving our public officials. The proposal to have travel scrutinized by an ethics committee or other body is disingenuous at best. Congressional ethics committees have shown little interest in policing their members' actions, and it could take years before the anti-reform foot-draggers on the Hill get around to creating an independent body.

Like quitting smoking, the best way to address the abuse of privately-funded travel is to stop it completely. If we want our public officials to lead with integrity, we need to create a system that encourages integrity across the board without exception. We always say that it is appropriate to hold our elected leaders to a higher standard. Why is it so hard for us to do?

Ben said...

Well, Jeff, in everything I've read about the subject, while serious campaign finance reform would get most lawmakers' attention, limiting or cutting privately funded congressional travel wouldn't be that big a deal to members of Congress. It also wouldn't affect the overwhelming majority of associations represented by ASAE. That's why I can't figure out why ASAE is fighting this issue. Without evidence showing that banning privately funded congressional travel would harm at least a significant minority of associations represented by ASAE, I can only assume that this is a case of the tail wagging the dog.

Jeff De Cagna said...

Ben, I think that ASAE is fighting this issue because it sees this matter as a potential slippery slope. If privately-funded congressional travel is banned, then who knows what kind of momentum that might create for other restrictions that could fundamentally alter the status quo? Of course, this point would never be acknowledged publicly, but I'm certain that is at least one reason.

If, in fact, banning private travel is not a big deal for members of Congress, then it should not be blocked. Passing such restrictions is the very least that our leaders--who often seem more interested in playing distracting political games for personal gain than on addressing issues that actually affect people's lives--can do to demonstrate a good faith effort at dealing with the serious and systemic problem of money's corruptive influence in politics.

Ben said...

Yeah, I follow you. It's only a big deal to the lobbyists. This is not a core issue for ASAE.