Featured as speaker, not honored as guest

In today’s Post, Jeffrey Birnbaum notices what he concludes is an “exception large enough to explode the entire statute.”

The [Senate ethics] committee ruled that a member of Congress can be a “featured speaker” at a national convention party and not run afoul of the lobbying law. That means that a senator is barred from participating in an event thrown in his honor, but he is free to attend a party that bills him as a featured speaker.

The distinction is virtually nonexistent. The invitation could not read: “Come to a party in honor of Sen. X.” But it could read, “Come to a party at which Sen. X is the featured speaker.”

The words are slightly different, but their meaning is essentially the same.

Fred Wertheimer of Democracy 21 assures me that most lawmakers do not want any trouble at the national confabs this summer and will not play the kind of semantic games I’m suggesting, especially with the ethics panels looking over their shoulders.

He may be right. But do not be surprised to see lawmakers attending lobbyist-sponsored parties that were not supposed to happen.

I previously noted the source this analysis is based on in an earlier post.

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