US Capitol Building
US Capitol Building - 
Listen To The Story


DOUG KRIZNER: In Washington there's a move for ethics reform. Today the members of the incoming Democratic majority in the House will be briefed on a package that would beef up bans on gifts and meals from lobbyists — and set up an outside watchdog to enforce the new rules. From Washington, John Dimsdale reports there's a lot of momentum behind these changes.

JOHN DIMSDALE: After bribery scandals sent a lobbyist and a Congressman to jail, reformers last spring proposed an independent Office of Public Integrity to investigate ethics charges against lawmakers.

The idea went nowhere in the House and Senators overwhelmingly voted no, but that was before November 7.

JAMES THURBER: This fall's election sent a message that changed the focus of ethics on the Hill.

That's American University professor James Thurber.

THURBER: And I think there's momentum behind an independent ethics commission.

Democratic leaders also hope to beef up restrictions on lobbyist-funded travel by lawmakers. Although the president of the American League of Lobbyists, Paul Miller, worries about an outright ban.

PAUL MILLER: The government's not going to pick up the tab for all the travel that's needed in this country. Without trips like this, I think we're going to be losing out in competing with other countries for opportunities.

Democrats will formally propose their ethics reforms next month.

In Washington, I'm John Dimsdale for Marketplace.