Transparency advocates can celebrate September 14 this week because of The Honest Leadership and Open Government Act. The lobbying disclosure amendment – a major piece of legislation amending the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 – was signed into law by President George W. Bush on September 14, 2007.
The legislation was the result of a top Democratic priority in the 11oth Congress – “clearing the swamp” after multiple Congressional ethics scandals. Newly appointed Speaker Pelosi, along with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, sought to take advantage of the public discontent to add an additional layer of scrutiny – as well as criminal sanctions – to the ethics rules already in place in Congress.
The bill, which was S.1, introduced by Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), passed in the Senate quickly, in January 2007, and then a companion bill, introduced in the House by Rep. John Conyers, (which originated as H.R. 2316) languished in the House until July 2007. Differences were resolved over the course of three days, and the bill was sent to the White House in early September.
A 2007 article from the Washington Post highlights several objections that then-Pres. Bush had at the time that he signed the bill, including a belief that the legislation was not tough enough on earmarks:
“Bush had complained that the earmark disclosure requirements are too loose, and hinted in early August that he might veto the bill. In a statement Friday, he said the bill has important elements but must be followed by measures to crack down further on earmarks.”