By Jeffrey H. Birnbaum
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 30, 2006 8:03 PM
Republican and Democratic lawmakers are canceling their regularly scheduled meetings with lobbyists as the fallout from the Jack Abramoff scandal continues to roil Capitol Hill.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee said it has ended its biweekly meeting between congressional chiefs of staff and lobbyists, and the Senate Republican Conference suspended one of its regular lobbyist cattle calls as well.
The changes come as leaders of both parties are stepping up their attacks on each other for being too close to lobbyists, and as they prepare tough legislation to rein in lobbyists' activities. Abramoff, who pleaded guilty to conspiring to bribe lawmakers and staff members, is cooperating with prosecutors in an investigation of congressional corruption.
A Republican conference aide said that after a review of its programs the conference would no longer hold its biweekly, Tuesday morning meetings led by Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), chairman of the Republican conference -- at least for now. It was unclear whether other gatherings with lobbyists hosted by the Republican group were also suspended.
"We will focus our outreach efforts to all communities around our priority issues," the aide said. "Therefore, we are suspending pursuant to subsequent decision."
Phil Singer, spokesman for the Democratic campaign committee, confirmed that the Monday Group was also ending its regular meetings, which often attracted as many as 50 lobbyists. That decision was first reported in the newspaper Roll Call.
"With the 2006 campaign in full swing, the DSCC is focusing its energies on winning races and picking up seats," Singer said. But he added: "We will continue to periodically update activists about our campaigns."
Democrats led by Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) have been stepping up their criticism of Republicans for operating in tandem with lobbyists as part of the Democrats' effort to win back control of Congress this year. In response, some Republicans have complained that Democrats cooperate with lobbyists too, including during Monday Group meetings.
Job listings were passed out during the Republican and Democratic meetings as a way of encouraging their partisan allies to hire congressional aides as lobbyists. But Republicans and Democrats had already ceased that practice before the meetings themselves were canceled.