Failure of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee to find a compromise yesterday on identifying contributing groups may have spelled the death of lobby disclosure legislation for yet another Congress.
Efforts to strengthen the law that polices federal lobbying have foundered for years on the issues of whether to cover grass-roots lobbying -- urging mass letter writing to congressmen -- and whether to require disclosure of individuals or organizations that contribute to lobbies. One side contends that if a lobby law is to mean anything it must identify the interests behind campaigns to influence legislation. The other side says disclosure would inhibit free speech.
Before the recess for the Republican National Convention, Sen. Charles McC. Mathias (R-Md.) had succeeded in stripping all references to grass-roots lobbying and disclosure of contributors from a bill written by a subcommittee headed by Sen. Lawton Chiles (D-Fla.).
As the committee resumed work on the bill yesterday, Sen. David Durenberger (R-Minn. offered a compromise that would require disclosing the names of organizations -- not individuals -- that give more than $3,500 to a lobbying campaign. It losts on a 7-to 7 tie.
With that, Chiles announced he was no longer interested in the remains of the tough bill he had written and proposed that if the measure were sent to the Senate floor Mathias should manage it. Chiles then left the committee meeting. Sen. Abraham Ribicoff (D-Conn.), the committee chairman, said a bill that fails to identify lobby contributors wasn't worth passing. With both chairman turned off, the bill could die in committee without further action.