Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Senator wants to ban lobbyist seat fillers


WASHINGTON (AP) - A Washington lobbyist has many things to do and standing in line for a seat in an important hearing isn't usually one. Instead, they often pay someone else to do it for them.

Now a freshman senator wants to ban the practice.

Missouri Democrat Claire McCaskill is proposing a bill that would require lobbyists to certify twice a year that they have not paid anyone to save a seat for them.

The senator says hiring professional "line-standers" reinforces the culture of buying access to Congress. She also argues that it prevents ordinary citizens from getting into crammed hearing rooms and seeing the legislative process at work.

McCaskill announced her proposal outside a Senate hearing room, where dozens of paid line-standers had been waiting since 3 a.m.. As she spoke, lawyers, lobbyists and others with a stake in the hearing arrived, having paid up to $60 an hour to secure a good seat.

One line-stander said he understood the senator's position, but countered that it's a free market and anyone can come wait.