In Colorado, we have a lot of mountains that are a challenge to climb. Our most challenging mountains are the ones that are more than 14,000 feet tall -- the 14ers.
Back in Washington there aren't any 14,000-foot mountains, but we do have 14,000 lobbyists who work to grind progress to a halt.
What may surprise you is that many of these lobbyists came directly from Congress. Once upon a time these former members of Congress and their staffs worked to move our country forward, but now they use their experience and behind-the-scenes knowledge just to further the agendas of their employers.
Recently, I was asked by a woman on the Western Slope, "Where's my lobbyist?" And she's right -- this broken system is allowing the voices of millions of Coloradans and people across the country to be drowned out by special interest lobbyists.
That's why I've introduced The Close the Revolving Door Act of 2010 to end lobbyist abuses, and get Congress back on track to move America forward.
Reforming Washington's K Street culture isn't going to be easy. I've already seen firsthand how hard lobbyists fought to stop health care and Wall Street reform -- and those are reforms that everyone agrees are badly needed.
Can you imagine how hard they're going to fight this?
I know it will be tough, but I've spent a career outside of politics fixing broken businesses, schools, and city budgets. That's why I'm not about to back down from this challenge -- we can't settle for this broken business-as-usual system any longer.
The Close the Revolving Door Act of 2010 will:
- Close the revolving door by banning Members of Congress from ever becoming lobbyists,
- Lengthen the "cooling off" period before Congressional staffers can become lobbyists from one year to six years,
- Create new disclosure requirements so firms can't hide lobbyists by giving them titles like "advisor" or "aide,"
- Improve transparency by creating a website where anyone can track and find information on lobbyists, and
- Increase the fine for breaking these rules to 500,000.
- Tackling the undue influence of lobbyists in our legislative process is a good first step towards changing the way business gets done (or too often, doesn't get done) in Washington.
We can't let these Washington insiders continue to stall the changes we need.
Follow Sen. Michael Bennet on Twitter: www.twitter.com/senbennetco