A lifetime ban on lobbying for lawmakers?

Greg Nash

Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) on Tuesday introduced legislation to prevent members of Congress from becoming lobbyists after they retire.

Current law allows senators to become lobbyists two years after leaving office, while House members only have to wait for a year. But Bennet and Tester's bill would institute a lifetime ban on lobbying for lawmakers.

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"Washington lobbyists shouldn’t be allowed to hold more sway than the folks back home in Colorado and around the country. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the way things happen around this place," Bennet said.

Bennet, the chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and Tester, who represents a swing state, said the measure would limit lobbying influence on American politics.

"Slamming shut the revolving door between lawmakers and lobbyists will let folks know that Congress puts constituents first and will make government more accountable to the American people," Tester said.

A Center for Responsive Politics study found that more than half of currently employed former members of the last session of Congress now work at lobbying firms or as lobbying clients.

The legislation would further impose limits on congressional staff by preventing them from lobbying current members of Congress for six years after they leave Capitol Hill to become lobbyists, instead of the current one year.

Additionally, it would close a loophole in lobbying law by requiring firms to disclose work by consultants who are former members of Congress or senior congressional staff.

Bennet and Tester filed a similar measure as an amendment to the 2012 STOCK ("Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge") Act, which bans lawmakers from insider trading, but it was not adopted.

Congress has typically not enacted ethics or lobbying reform legislation unless a major scandal adds momentum. At present, Bennet and Tester's bill is not expected to receive legislative action.