Dem senator introduces bill to 'drain the swamp'

by Jordain Carney, The Hill

Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) is touting legislation to create a five-year wait period before ex-lawmakers can lobby their former colleagues – by referencing President Trump’s pledge to “drain the swamp.”

Tester this week introduced a bill that would extend the “cooling off” period for lawmakers, as well as ban hundreds of executive officials from becoming registered lobbyists for five years after they leave their job.

“This legislation will hold public servants accountable and ensure folks in Congress and in the Administration are thinking about what’s best for our country – not what’s best for their wallets,” Tester said in a statement on Friday.

Currently, House members have to wait one year after leaving office to lobby, while senators have to wait two years.

During his campaign last year, Trump promised to “drain the swamp” of corruption in Washington by instituting a five-year lobbying ban for executive officials and asking Congress to pass a similar wait period for former lawmakers.

“Draining the swamp in Washington is one of the issues where the president and I agree,” Tester said.

Tester faces reelection in 2018. Trump defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton by more than 20 percentage points in November, creating deep concerns among Democrats about Tester’s chances of keeping his seat in the deep-red state.

Trump rolled out a five-year lobbying ban in late January, but the measure only blocks officials from lobbying the agencies they worked for.

Tester previously backed legislation – known as the Close the Revolving Door Act – that would have placed a lifetime ban on lobbying for former lawmakers, but the proposal has failed to gain traction. The latest version of the bill introduced in 2015 by Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) garnered two co-sponsors: Tester and Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.).

Outside advocacy groups quickly threw their support behind Tester’s new legislation.

Craig Holman, a government affairs lobbyist at Public Citizen, argued that Tester’s legislation would rein in the “revolving door from government to K Street [that] is spinning out of control.”

“Senator Tester’s legislation imposing a five-year ban on former lawmakers lobbying Congress and administration officials lobbying the executive branch goes a long way toward cooling off the monetary value of those insider connections,” he said.
Andre Delattre, executive director of U.S. PIRG, a consumer advocacy group, added that Tester is “standing up for the voices of voters.”

“When special interests have special access to elected officials, it’s everyday Americans who get left behind,” he said.

Tester told reporters during a conference call late last year that he would introduce the legislation. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) has also introduced legislation to codify Trump’s lobbying ban.

Dem senator introduces bill to ‘drain the swamp’