Washington, DC – As the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee begins its hearings on lobbying reform, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid and Senator Charles Schumer wrote to Chairwoman Collins to begin an investigation into the K Street Project. The leaders called on the Chairwoman to fulfill Congress’s Constitutional responsibility to provide oversight in order to ensure public confidence in honest and open government. The text of their letter follows below:
The Honorable Susan Collins
Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs
United States Senate
340 Dirksen Senate Office Building Washington, D.C. 20510
Dear Senator Collins,
The American public has grown rightly concerned about recent reports of corruption in the federal government, including indictments and plea agreements that cite alleged wrongdoing by Members of Congress and senior congressional staff.
Many of these allegations emerge from the investigation of Jack Abramoff, a lobbyist — and now a convicted felon — who enjoyed close personal and financial ties with several House and Senate offices. Mr. Abramoff was also a Bush-Cheney “pioneer” and a member of the 2000 Bush-Cheney transition team, and recent reports suggest that he had a close working relationship with members of the White House staff.
According to a January 4, 2006, report in the Washington Post, Mr. Abramoff was also “among the lobbyists most closely associated with the K Street Project,” a pay-to-play scheme in which Members of Congress sought to influence the hiring practices and political contributions of lobbying firms and major corporations. In return, the Members of Congress reportedly promised — or threatened to withhold — political access and legislative action. A Cox News Service story on June 30, 2005, reported that Mr. Abramoff helped launch the K Street Project. He even indicated to a New York Times reporter that he perceived himself as having a specified “role” in the effort.
As the growing list of criminal convictions proves, the K Street project created a culture of corruption that has allowed political operatives like Jack Abramoff to flourish. The public is and should be alarmed that some Members of Congress, in concert with members of the lobbying community, may have created an institutionalized form of corruption that has fundamentally changed the way Congress conducts the people’s business.
I commend the committee for scheduling its first hearing today on the lobbying and ethics scandal that has engulfed Washington, and request that the committee begin a public investigation into the K Street Project. The public has a right to know the extent of the activities under this project, and full public confidence in the Congress cannot be restored until a thorough and open investigation has been completed.
It is long past time that we put our house in order by taking a critical look at these tawdry schemes and arrangements that seem to, at the very least, undermine the public interest. I urge you to do so as soon as possible.