WASHINGTON (AP) _ Democratic leaders in Congress face an unusual opponent _ their own members, not Republicans _ in trying to deliver on a promise to shed more light on lobbyists who raise large campaign donations.
After days of pleading with reluctant colleagues, House Democratic leaders scheduled a vote Thursday on a measure to require lobbyists to disclose ``bundling'' practices. The technique involves soliciting and collecting campaign donations from several sources and delivering them to a favored lawmaker in one package.
The Senate overwhelming approved such a measure in January, but it has hit stiff opposition from many rank-and-file House Democrats who rely on lobbyists to help them raise campaign money.
In response, Democratic leaders agreed Wednesday to make the bundling measure a separate bill rather than folding it into a larger package of proposed lobbying revisions. Had it been part of the larger bill, they said, enough Democratic opponents might have joined most Republicans in voting against a procedural ``rule'' required to bring bills to the House floor.
Supporters hope to pressure Democrats and Republicans alike to vote for the bundling-disclosure proposal as a stand-alone question rather than as a parliamentary procedure that often divides the parties.
Some of the proposal's most outspoken opponents said they were satisfied with the plan to give members a straightforward way to express their views. ``The point was to give people a free vote on it,'' said Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawaii. He wouldn't predict the outcome but said, ``I won't vote for it.''
There is nothing wrong with a lobbyist helping a member raise campaign money, Abercrombie said, but a new disclosure requirement might suggest otherwise.
Democratic leaders, however, reminded colleagues that their clean-government campaign was one reason for the party's success in last fall's elections. Critics already are accusing Democrats of backsliding because a House committee last week rejected a Senate-approved bid to make former lawmakers wait two years, rather than one, before becoming a lobbyist.
Striking the bundling disclosure proposal would invite even more attacks from Republicans, open-government groups and others, several House members said.
``We came into this Congress riding the ethics horse, and I think we have to ride it all the way to the finish line,'' said Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md.
Under current law, individual campaign donors must report their contributions, but bundlers often remain anonymous.
The companion lobbying bill would, among other things, require lawmakers to identify themselves when placing ``earmarks,'' or targeted spending items, into bills.