Filibustering Senate Republicans dealt a final, fatal blow Friday to campaign finance reform - just after the House approved separate reform to outlaw freebies from lobbyists.
Rep. Karen Shepherd, D-Utah - co-chairwoman of the Democratic Freshman Task Force on Reform, who helped lead fights for both reform bills - hailed the House action as the highlight of her career but said the Senate defeat was a national tragedy.She was the only one in the Utah delegation who felt that way.
Both Reps. Bill Orton, D-Utah, and Jim Hansen, R-Utah, voted against the lobbyist reform bill - which passed 306-112 on Thursday. Orton was among only 20 of 256 House Democrats who voted to oppose it. They said it was more rhetoric than real reform.
Sens. Bob Bennett and Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, helped stage the Senate filibuster against campaign finance reform. A final attempt to cut it off died Friday on a 52-46 vote, when supporters failed to achieve the necessary three-fifths majority.
Shepherd said House approval of lobbyist reform - much of which she drafted - "justifies my rent" on the 2nd District House seat.
"When I was first elected, I asked myself what I wanted the most if I only had two years in office, and what would have the most long-lasting impact. It was reform of how we do business," she said.
That House-Senate compromise - which must still be approved by the Senate, where a filibuster on it is also possible - incorporates a Shepherd bill to allow lobbyists to give members of Congress nothing worth more than $20. It also seeks to close loopholes in which lobbyists must register and what expenses they must report.
"It's the end of junkets. No more free tickets to Redskins games. No more free golf games," she said. "It levels the playing field for ordinary citizens who come to see us against the lobbyists who come with tickets to the Kennedy Center."
But the bill would also kill two large charity events in Utah - the Senator's Ski Cup hosted by former Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah, for the Primary Children's Hospital, and Hatch's Utah Congressional Golf Challenge for women's and children's charities.
"They have good goals," Shepherd said. "But I don't think a charity should profit over the need of lobbyists to have undue access to members of Congress."
Orton went against the vast majority of his party saying the lobbyist reform was "aimed more at rhetoric than solving real problems. The compromise's provisions are so complex that almost anyone could find himself in violation."
Hansen also said it amounts to a gag rule against grass-roots lobbying. "The liberals don't like the pressure and they wanted to use this bill to stop the tide."
Hansen's opponent, Democrat Bobbie Coray, attacked him, saying he had just signed a pledge to seek "real congressional reform" and said his opposing vote means he "cares more about jockeying for election position than he does about advancing good legislation."
About the Senate defeat of campaign finance reform, Shepherd charged that GOP senators were career politicians afraid of giving up special-interest money.
She said, "The American people think Congress is filled with career politicians, beholden to special interests and immune to the concerns of the real world. And guess what? They're right."
But Hatch and Bennett said Democrats such as Shepherd were pushing a package that would only help their party, and would force taxpayers to pay for congressional elections.
Bennett - who even gave a speech at 1 a.m. last week to keep the filibuster going - said, "The Democrats are in charge and have fashioned a `campaign reform' program that will help them. If we were in charge we would probably fashion reform to help us."
Hatch also attacked such public financing. "Taxpayers are already overburdened. They do not need the added responsibility of paying for the campaigns of 535 members of Congress."