THE BELATED RELEASE LAST WEEK of Secret Service logs showing that disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff indeed visited the White House ends an almost comical attempt by the Bush administration to dissociate itself from the admitted K Street felon. But the administration isn't alone in its Abramoff denial. In passing separate "lobbying reform" bills, both houses of Congress have done too little to address the corrupting coziness between legislators and lobbyists that Abramoff came to symbolize.
Fortunately, a House-Senate conference committee charged with reconciling the two bills still could produce something that is more than the sum of its imperfect parts. If the committee doesn't, challengers in this fall's congressional elections will be able to argue, fairly, that incumbents are soft on sleaze.
The Senate's pallid version of lobbying reform, passed in March, contains one significant response to the wining and dining of elected officials: a blanket ban on gifts and meals paid for by lobbyists. But the Senate failed to do away with congressional trips paid for by private interests, though they would require advance Ethics Committee approval.
The House bill, passed earlier this month, is better in some respects and worse in others. It does rein in congressional travel paid for by special interests but -- laughably -- only until June 15. And even during that narrow window of restraint, House members could wing their way out of Washington on somebody else's tab if two-thirds of the Ethics Committee approved the trip.