A bill that would expand disclosure requirements for groups that lobby Congress was pulled off the House floor yesterday because Democratic leaders feared it was being strengtened so much it would not pass.
As it was amended on the floor, two key provisions were added to requirements in the bill that more organizations register annually with the comptroller general and report more about their activities and expenses.
Those provisions would force registered lobby groups to disclose their attempts to stir up grass-roots mail and to discolse an organization's contributions of more than $3,000 to a registered lobby group.
It was adoption of the contributor disclosure amendment, by a 251-to-135 vote, that caused the bill's manager, Rep. Goerge Danielson (D-Calif.), to announce that he was pulling the bill back to "re-group and "shore it up."
Danielson predicted the bill would eventually pass, but others said the delay benefited opponents and gave them a chance to defeat it.
Another "ethics in government" proposal that would extend financial disclosure to the executive and judicial branches and set penalties for disclosure violations by members of Congress is also in trouble. That bill is scheduled for the floor next week.
Danielson said the two amendments adopted were losing him votes at both ends of the political spectrum, the far right and the far left. Conservative Republicans oppose the bill and liberal Democrats feel requiring disclosure of both contributors and attempts to get people to write their congressmen are an unconstitutional intrusion on a citizen's rights to privacy and to petition the government.
Many of the most conservative members of the House such as Reps. Bob Bauman (R-Md.) and John Ashbrrok (R-Ohio) voted for the contributor disclosure amendment offered by Rep. Tom Railsback (R-III.). Danielson said he thought they did so because they wanted to discover who was financing organizations such as consumer groups, Common Cause and Ralph Nader, and because they wanted to "load the bill up" with enough objectionable features that it would be defeated.
Danielson blamed Common Cause, the main force behind the bill, for pushing for the two controversial amendments. "It hurt, it clearly hurt," Danielson said. Common Cause President David Cohen said he "remained fully confident" the bill would pass.
Danielson also criticized a group of younger House Democrats led by Rep. Toby Moffett (D-Conn.) who were stalling House business yesterday to protest closed meetings by conferees on the energy bill. He said the stall was making many members angry, and their "annoyance at the absurdity" of the stall tactics was spilling over to annoyance at the lobby bill.
Like Common Cause, most of the younger members support the lobby bill.
Along with Common Cause, the AFL-CIO and the White House were working for adoption of the two controversial amendments.
But a lobbyist for the American Civil Liberties Union, David Landau, said "Common Cause doesn't realize what happened" with the adoption of the contribution disclosure feature.
He predicted that environmental groups, church groups and business groups that were more or less resigned to the bill as it came out of the House Judiciary Committee would now go out and work against.
President Carter wants the bill, but Landau said the White House had not been working for the two controversial amendments until yesterday when "White House lobbyists were pulling members off the floor." Landau said they "overplayed their hand."