LOBBY REFORM PASSES

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The House approved a dramatic overhaul of lobbying law by a vote of 421-0. Various controversial amendments that might have derailed the effort were defeated. "It's a good bill that provides long-overdue reforms," says TIME's Viveca Novak. "Lobbying reform has been attempted many times in the past, but has always failed. A lot of credit can go to House Republican freshman like Linda Smith of Oregon, who really pressured the leadership to move on the issue." The bill, which President Clinton has promised to sign, overhauls a half-century-old mishmash of lobbying law that is as filled with loopholes as it is widely ignored. Under a broadened definition of lobbying, thousands of lobbyists will be forced to register with Congress, disclose their clients and issue priorities and the amounts of money spent to advance their agenda. In addition, nonprofit groups that lobby Congress would be prohibited from receiving federal grants, while former U.S. Trade Representatives are barred from lobbying for foreign interests. The penaluty for breaking the rules: civil fines of up to $50,000. Score one for democracy, Novak says. "We can look forward to dramatically improved access to information about who's helping whom."