Lobbyists urge reform of congressional earmarks

By Amanda Becker
Monday, October 4, 2010

Four high-profile lobbyists from some of the District's most prominent shops are among those calling on Congress to reform the earmark process when it reconvenes in January.

In a conference call last week, Richard Gold of Holland & Knight, former congressman James Walsh and Manny Rouvelas of K&L Gates and Dave Wenhold of Miller/Wenhold Capitol Strategies (all expressing their personal views, not those of their respective firms) joined four public interest groups in recommending five specific earmark reforms. Limiting earmarks directed to campaign contributors, barring legislative staff from participating in fundraising, creating an earmark database, conducting random audits and certifying the capability of earmark recipients would reduce the influence of special interests and save money, the participants said.

"At the end of the day, if the public believes everybody involved in federal funding is a bunch of crooks, it's not good for anyone," Gold said. "We were actually able to agree on some pretty drastic and I think hopefully effective changes."


Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) last Tuesday introduced legislation intended to close "gaps in current law" that followed the Supreme Court's decision to vacate the conviction of Enron executive Jeffrey Skilling.

Leahy said his proposed Honest Services Restoration Act would expand a fraud-fighting statute that the court ruled only applied to clear-cut bribery and kickback cases.

The legislation was announced during the latest in a series of hearings the senator has organized in recent weeks that examined the potential impact of high court rulings.

The next day, Leahy introduced a bill that would allow retired justices to sit on the Supreme Court when an active justice had recused himself or herself.

Leahy offered the idea after Justice Elena Kagan recused herself from dozens of cases she oversaw as solicitor general. Leahy said his proposal would prevent tie votes on the closely divided court.

"In that scenario, the Supreme Court cannot serve its function and the lower court's decision stands," Leahy said in a statement.

Currently, retired justices may hear any case within the federal circuit if assigned to do so by the chief justice.

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