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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 January 2006, 11:40 GMT
Republicans unveil lobbying curbs
Jack Abramoff
Jack Abramoff will co-operate with investigators
Republicans in the US Congress have unveiled a package of anti-corruption reforms in the wake of a scandal spawned by a powerful lobbyist.

The plans put forward in the House of Representatives would ban most gifts and privately-sponsored travel.

Democrats criticised the reforms as inadequate. They are due to propose their own measures on Wednesday.

The moves come after the guilty plea on corruption charges by lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who had ties to Republicans.

Under the terms of a plea bargain, Abramoff will co-operate with a probe into alleged corruption among Congress members.

Some Democrats are also said to be implicated in the case, which correspondents say is an unexploded bomb under both houses.

'Gaping wound'

Correspondents say Tuesday's move was a pre-emptive strike from a party accused by opponents of presiding over a culture of corruption.

House of Representatives Speaker Dennis Hastert promoted laws that would stop lobbyists paying for lunches, or arranging "fact-finding" trips for politicians to warm-weather resorts.

"A member of Congress should be able to accept a baseball cap... from the proud students of a local middle school, but he... doesn't need to be taken to... dinner by a Washington lobbyist," he said.

Democrats hit back that the measures were like sticking a "Band-Aid on a gaping wound".

"For more than a decade... House Republicans have benefited from their systemic culture of corruption at the expense of the American people," House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said.

Democrats believe the issue can win them votes in November's mid-term elections, says the BBC's James Coomarasamy in Washington.

The proposal comes after embattled Republican politician Tom DeLay relinquished his bid to reclaim his post as majority leader of the House, earlier this month.

The politician - who has long-term ties to Abramoff - denies laundering corporate contributions for use in Republican campaigns in the state.

The US justice department is believed to be investigating as many as 20 members of Congress and aides implicated in the lobbyist scandal.

Abramoff is accused of using gifts of money, foreign trips and lavish meals to buy political influence.

The BBC's Matt Frei looks at the tradition of lobbying

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