Free lunches no more

Washington fat cats chomping on cigars, downing Scotch, and sawing at steaks in oak-paneled restaurants may be just caricatures, but it's fun to think that's...

Washington fat cats chomping on cigars, downing Scotch, and sawing at steaks in oak-paneled restaurants may be just caricatures, but it's fun to think that's how influence-peddling with lawmakers is done.

Combating such stereotypes, a bipartisan group of lawmakers is considering proposing legislation that would ban members of Congress and their staff from accepting free meals or other gifts from lobbyists. This doesn't include campaign contributions, of course. Are you crazy?

Such bans have been toyed with previously, most recently after the initial flare-up of news regarding lobbyist Jack Abramhoff's activities. The local media typically runs stories quoting restaurateurs concerned that such restrictions will mean dining rooms that once were full of laughing, jolly people instead empty, deserted, echoing hollowly. Not likely. Lobbyists themselves still need to eat, after all.

For more on the new ethics proposals, see this article from the Center for Responsive Politics.

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