The U.S Congress passed lobbying reforms that restrict travel funded by non-profits. The reforms, passed by both houses this week, are similar to restrictions the U.S. House of Representatives imposed on itself in January. Those restrictions were a simple rule change, and applied only to the House; the effect of this week’s vote would be to make the changes law, applying them to the Senate and creating a precedent for state legislatures. According to the rules, each trip funded by a non-profit for a lawmaker or legislative staff requires ethics committee pre-approval. The new law also allows for some non-profits to facilitate the process by applying for pre-approved status. Jewish leaders had initially lobbied against the rules, but dropped their opposition after receiving assurances that travel to Israel would be unaffected. The law is aimed at junkets masquerading as educational travel. “We support any and all legislation that opens up the political and legislative processes,” William Daroff, the director of the United Jewish Communities Washington office, told JTA. “The more transparency, the better.” Another proposed element of the law, that would have restricted free attendance for lawmakers and their staffers at charity events, was dropped before the vote. The bill now goes to Senate-House conference for refining.
Congress passes lobbying restrictions