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Lobbying Commission Idea Detailed; Gingrich Calls It ‘Gimmick’

June 17, 1995

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Following up on their agreement in New Hampshire, President Clinton on Friday offered House Speaker Newt Gingrich a detailed proposal on framing a bipartisan commission on political and lobbying reform. Gingrich called Clinton’s proposal a ``political gimmick.″

Even before Clinton’s letter was delivered and made public, Gingrich’s spokesman complained there had been no consultations beforehand.

``I think this was just a political gimmick today,″ Gingrich said. ``But we’d like to work on the concept of some kind of commission to look at lobbying and campaign spending and the whole thing in one large picture.″

Clinton’s proposal was based on a question last Sunday from the audience at a rest home for the elderly in Claremont, N.H., suggesting that a bipartisan panel address campaign finance reform and changes in lobbying law.

Clinton accepted the idea ``in a heartbeat″ and he and Gingrich shook hands on the proposal.

In his letter Friday, Clinton said he totally agreed with the questioner’s suggestion that such a panel be modeled after the base-closing commission which analyzes U.S. military needs and submits to Congress a suggested list of bases for closing.

``This is an idea with wide appeal,″ Clinton said.

As sketched by Clinton, the commission would have eight members. He, Gingrich and Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole of Kansas would each name to members to the panel. The House and Senate minority leaders would each name one member.

``No more than four commissioners could be members of any one political party,″ Clinton said, adding that none of them should be current federal officials, members of Congress or officers of a political party.

``In this fashion, we have an opportunity to achieve consensus and balance that will produce a national consensus on reform,″ he said.

Clinton also said the legislation establishing the commission should set a firm deadline of no later than Feb. 1, 1996 for it to complete its work and issue recommendations.

``These issues, while difficult, are not new and can be fruitfully addressed in that time,″ Clinton said. ``The American people want to know that we will act during this Congress, and I believe the best chance of that is before the electoral season begins in the summer of 1996.″

He said the commission’s recommendations should be dealt with quickly as are the recommendations of the base-closing commission.

``They would be sent to the president, who would reject them or send them on to the Congress in their entirety,″ he said. Congress would consider them on a ``fast track and approve or reject them without amendments within 30 days.″

``Only in this way can the American people be assured that narrow interests do not pick apart″ the recommendations, Clinton said.

Tony Blankley, Gingrich’s spokesman, accused Clinton of ``playing politics with a serious issue.″

``It’s not good faith, whatever it is,″ Blankley said of Clinton’s proposal. ``With the summit going on in Halifax, one would think they would have better things to do with their time.″

Gingrich was a leading force last year in killing a reform bill that would have required more extensive registration of lobbyists, who they work for and how much they are paid. The bill would have closed loopholes in a 1947 law that is widely regarded as ineffective.

This year, a House committee has held hearings on lobbying reform and the Senate last week scheduled action on a lobby reform and gift ban bill before the end of July.

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