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Al Franken’s endeavor to regulate lobbyists

To the Editor:
Remember back in 2008 when Al Franken first made the scene in Minnesota? Who could forget the recount, the run-off with Norm Coleman and the eventual victory by our sterling senator. During his initial campaign, I recall vividly his saying that there should be an interval between being a member of Congress and becoming a lobbyist. Think the number was five years at that time. Well, now in 2015, this has become much more of an issue.
In recent past, I recall Eric Cantor, the rising political star who was being groomed as the next Republican candidate for Speaker of the House, was beaten in his home state and would have had to leave at the end of his term. Did the man mourn his loss of his career? No. He stepped into a much, much better paying job as an investment banker even though his past qualifications would not have indicated he was qualified. This is not a lobbyist, but he got this job because of his past political position. One has to wonder about who he was serving while in office.
When we go to polls and elect a person to represent us, we, the people, expect that person to have the interest of the people at heart. Public service should be about the public good.
There is another estate at work here — the lobbyist culture and its effect on government that has tilted the political game in its favor. A rapidly rising number of ex-members of Congress are cashing in on the lobbyist train, where they can make more than 10 times what they made while in office (45 percent of past congressional members.) In response to this, our senator, Al Franken, and Sen. Michael Bennett have introduced a bill called “The Close the Revolving Door Act,” which permanently bans members of Congress from becoming lobbyists. This bill not only bans their becoming lobbyists, but it also increases penalties for breaking the Lobbying Disclosure Act, extends the ban on congressional staff becoming lobbyist from one to six years, and gives the public better online access about who lobbies Congress.
Another anti-corruption bill is also proposed; this one is entitled “Financial Services Conflict of Interest Act.” This would block another “revolving door” between Wall Street and agencies that are supposed to be regulating Wall Street. This would be done by banning corporations from offering special “golden parachutes” to CEOs or other employees who take jobs at federal regulatory agencies that oversee the same companies. Also, prohibiting senior staff of federal regulators from taking any official action that directly and substantially benefits a corporation or client they worked for in the past two years — or any corporation where they seek future employment. Finally, requiring any financial sector regulator to wait two years after leaving public service before taking a lobbying job or even assisting in a lobbying campaign. Sen. Elizabeth Warren has stated this bill should be one any presidential candidate should be able to cheer.
In this era of Citizens United and the uninhibited flow of money, both light and dark, we the people, need to have our representatives doing what we asked them to do — look out for the best interest of the people, not corporations. Think they can well take care of themselves. Our senator, Al Franken, is doing just that; and he was ahead of his time by addressing the lobbyist matter seven years prior. Good job, Al!
Jan Conner
Hutchinson