CBSN

Just Where Were You Standing?

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) is taking on a true Washington institution: the line-stander.

Standing outside a popular Senate Commerce Committee hearing on consumer wireless issues, McCaskill unveiled legislation forbidding lobbyists from paying line-standers. The bill would apply the gift ban included in the new lobbying ethics law to line-standers. On disclosure forms, lobbyist would have to certify that they did not employ line-standards. And a violation would carry the same the penalties as the gift ban– a felony with a potential five-year sentence. 

As covered by Politico in July, lobbyists pay line-standards to insure lobbyist nab seats in crowded hearings. Crowded with legislators, staffers and press, only a few spaces in the room are reserved for the general public. The line-standards give lobbyists an advantage over poor advocates, academics and the general public.

It’s an edge McCaskill said “reinforces the culture of money buying influence and access to Congress.” Lobbying firms pay line-standing companies thousands of dollars, a fraction of which trickles down to those waiting in line who make about $15 an hour. The standers often arrive days before the biggest hearing, thereby insuring the deepest-pocketed lobbyists get into the room.

The law, however, only bans paid line-standers not assistants, staffers or volunteers.

Is a “save the interns” bill on tap for next summer?

- Lisa Lerer