Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.) announced yesterday that he plans to introduce legislation sharply curtailing former government employes' ability to lobby the government after they leave office.
Thurmond said his proposal would prohibit all employes from lobbying the government for one year and from representing interests of a foreign government for two years. Some Cabinet-level officials would be barred forever from representing foreign governments.
The announcement came amid increasing controversy over reports that former government officials representing corporations and international clients are seeking to influence the administration.
Former White House deputy chief of staff Michael K. Deaver has become a highly visible lobbyist seeking to affect U.S. policies on behalf of corporations and governments.
In a statement yesterday, Thurmond did not mention any lobbyists by name. But he said, "There is something disquieting to me about those individuals, many of whom are privy to some of our government's most sensitive information about national security and trade, who leave the government and are retained by a foreign power."
"People should seek work in the federal government as a way to serve their country and their fellow citizens and not to gain information and access that is then used to influence the outcome of issues for the benefit of a client," he added.
Aides said Thurmond is particularly concerned about lobbyists representing foreign governments on trade issues.
Spokesman Mark Goodin said Thurmond also wants to "restore some rationality" to laws governing lobbying by former officials. "He is in no way singling out any individual or organization," Goodin said.
Goodin said Thurmond's proposals would be a "major departure" from current law, which allows former officials to lobby but restricts what offices and topics they can seek to influence.
Thurmond is expected to introduce the legislation next week and has scheduled a hearing on it April 22. Although still being written, the bill would include criminal penalties for violating the rules, which would apply to all workers in the executive, legislative and judicial branches.