On the August 8 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, congressional correspondent Jessica Yellin reported that the recently passed congressional ethics bill "was pushed by Democratic leadership in response to scandals involving Jack Abramoff and Congressmen Duke Cunningham and Bob Ney." Yellin, however, failed to identify either of the two former members of Congress as Republicans, nor did she identify Abramoff as a Republican lobbyist.
As Media Matters has noted, on the July 30 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, host Wolf Blitzer identified Rep. William Jefferson (LA) as a Democrat when discussing a FBI and Internal Revenue Service raid on the home of Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK), but did not identify Cunningham, whom he had also mentioned, as a Republican.
In 2006, Ney pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy and making false statements in connection with the Justice Department investigation into Abramoff and was sentenced to 30 months in prison. In 2005, Cunningham pleaded guilty to conspiracy to accept bribes from defense contractors; he was sentenced to more than eight years in prison. Abramoff pleaded guilty in January 2006 to charges of fraud, tax evasion, and conspiracy to bribe public officials; he was sentenced to five years and 10 months in prison.
From the 4 p.m. ET hour of the August 8 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:
CAROL COSTELLO (guest host): A big issue in the presidential race right now also has been a big concern on Capitol Hill. As we have reported, Democratic rivals are accusing Hillary Clinton of being too cozy with lobbyists. Congress has passed new lobbying reform legislation. Our congressional correspondent Jessica Yellin is here. Jessica, is this attempt at reform actually going to make a difference?
YELLIN: Well, Carol, reasonable people disagree. Democrats say it's intended to clean up the culture of corruption in Washington, but it's certainly not going to keep money out of politics.
[begin video clip]
YELLIN: Dave Hoppe is president of one of Washington's elite lobbying firms.
Are you part of the problem with American politics?
J. DAVID HOPPE (Quinn Gillespie and Associates president): I don't think so. What lobbyists do is provide information.
YELLIN: Hoppe worked for decades as a Republican aide on Capitol Hill. He says the ethics and lobbying bill is not going to send tremors through the halls of Congress.
HOPPE: The job we do is not going to change fundamentally because of this.
YELLIN: The bill was pushed by Democratic leadership in response to scandals involving Jack Abramoff and Congressmen Duke Cunningham and Bob Ney, and outrage over figures like this: $1 billion -- that's how much the health care industry spent lobbying the year of the Medicare debate.
HOUSE SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): We'll keep our promise to drain the swamp that is Washington, D.C.
YELLIN: The new rules mean no more gifts like free seats at sporting events or special golf trips; no more parties for members of Congress at the political conventions; the end of affordable flights on private jets; and new public reporting requirements.
CRAIG HOLMAN (legislative representative for Public Citizen's Congress Watch): Now, the books are going to be open.
YELLIN: But there's nothing that stops corporate interests from giving millions in campaign contributions, and lawmakers can still get a free lunch as long as it's at a fundraiser.
HOPPE: It's very difficult to write these laws. It's one of those things every time you try and close something, you open something up.
[end video clip]
YELLIN: Another major change: Lawmakers will now be required to disclose whether they put special spending measures called earmarks in bills. So it'll now be a matter of public record whether they steered money to any special interests -- Carol.