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Proposed lobbying limits apply to only one senator
Question of the Day
Ethics legislation designed to prevent senators’ spouses from lobbying the Senate seems to have a limited reach, allowing some husbands and wives to go about their business.
In fact, the legislation appears to affect the spouse of only one lawmaker: Sen. Kent Conrad, North Dakota Democrat.
Mr. Conrad’s wife, Lucy Calautti, is a top lobbyist for Major League Baseball and is affiliated with the firm Baker Hostetler. She became a lobbyist after her 1987 marriage to Mr. Conrad, disqualifying her from an exception in the bill that would allow some Senate spouses to continue lobbying.
The provision, added by amendment into a larger ethics overhaul bill passed by the Senate last month, aims to prevent Senate spouses from lobbying the Senate. But it has an exception allowing those who became lobbyists at least one year before their marriage or their spouse’s election to still lobby the chamber.
That exception applied to several Senate spouses, including the wife of Sen. Byron L. Dorgan, North Dakota Democrat. Kimberly Dorgan is executive vice president of federal relations at the American Council of Life Insurers and has in the past registered to lobby the Senate along with others at her organization.
Mrs. Dorgan first became a lobbyist in the early 1980s, a few years before she and Mr. Dorgan were married.
Also exempt is Bob Dole, former Senate majority leader and husband of Sen. Elizabeth Dole, North Carolina Republican. He became a lobbyist before his wife was elected in 2002.
Two groups that follow lobbying as a family business said they think that Mrs. Calautti is the only spouse who will be affected by the Senate legislation.
“Kent Conrad is the only person, according to my records, who is going to be affected,” said Craig Holman, campaign-finance lobbyist at Public Citizen.
“From what we can tell right now, it looks like this would apply to just one lawmaker, and that’s Senator Kent Conrad,” said Bill Allison of the Sunlight Foundation. “It’s a little bit strange.”
Mrs. Calautti declined to comment on the bill, which will force her to scale back her activities if it becomes law.
Mr. Conrad also declined to comment until the bill moves through Congress.
The amendment’s sponsor, Sen. David Vitter, Louisiana Republican, has maintained that he did not keep track of who would be affected by the legislation. During debate on the bill, he said on the Senate floor that he could see an argument for getting rid of all exceptions, but he “tried to bend over backward for what I considered any legitimate argument.”
Mr. Holman said the amendment is a good one because it would prevent future spouses from becoming lobbyists after their husbands or wives are elected. It would be unfair to ask spouses who already are lobbying to close up shop, he said.
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