Archive for the ‘Congress Views’ Category
Saturday, March 17th, 2012 by Vbhotla
One of the most common sights in Washington, D.C. is the fly-in lobby days. People from off the Hill flood the hotel conference rooms of our Nation’s capital, sometimes in droves and others in trickles, so they can learn how to effectively carry their group’s message to their representatives. The largest effect of this is making life hard on the people that are already hard at work in DC. Woe is the life of a lobbyist who is just on time for a meeting only to see a line at the nearest security entrance where people are being held up for not realizing that metal detectors are, among other things, very good at detecting metal. Successful fly-in days are few and far between, though I am happy to write that earlier this week at least one organization got their fly-in day right and got the biggest bang for their members’ buck.
ASAE – The Center for Association Leadership, held their fly-in for members from throughout the country at the Hyatt Regency earlier this week and, having attended more than my share of these events, hit on exactly what a good fly-in day should be. There were panels that educated the visitors what to say, and more importantly, what to specifically ask for. Too often, people get caught-up in the moment speaking to the Members or staff that they forget to give the specifics for why they are there and what they are hoping to accomplish, leading to a wasted meeting and opportunity. Or they use the general “we want you to make things better” without offering a how, to which staff usually respond “we’ll look into that… or something…” Additionally, the panel went out of their way to instruct people what not electronic cigarette liquid salem to say, which is sometimes more important.
Also included was a panel on social media that was dedicated to both the follow-up for Hill meetings, and also to organize the ASAE membership. I’ve stated before that no matter how many members an organization has, being unable to reach them makes them all but useless, a point that ASAE demonstrated.
The often over looked part of the fly-in is the follow-up, which is really where most of the best lobby-related benefits from a fly-in are found. Too often the staff for an organization is focused on the day itself or the post-Hill day to properly see the future and long-term goals of a fly-in. Additionally, visitors are often tired after their day(s) of meetings and just want to get home without doing a proper de-briefing of what went on in their meetings. As a result, staff inquiries and contacts are often lost in shuffle and not properly followed-up with. ASAE used a special database and submission system in addition to the standard methods to keep track of contacts and conversations during the fly-in.
It is also good to see a well done fly-in day. Too often are they treated as vacations or an excuse to vent to staff when they should be done with a longer-term legislative goal or series of objectives in mind. More fly-ins like this will make all involved roll their eyes a little less when they see the groups walking down the hall. Now if only something could be done about the metal detector lines…
For more information about the ASAE lobby day, click here. Lobbyblog.com is published by Columbia Books Inc., which was a sponsor of the event and provider of Congressional Handbooks for ASAE.
Tags: Advocacy, ASAE, Congress, Congressional meetings, fly-in, fly-in days, legislative days, Lobbying
Posted in Advocacy, Congress Views, Legislative Strategy, Lobbying Communications, Lobbying News, Lobbying tips, Weekly Lobbying News Round-Up | Comments Off on Fly-in Days
Friday, March 2nd, 2012 by Vbhotla
Rep. Norm Dicks’ (D –Wash.) retirement announcement today, along with Rules Chairman Rep. David Dreier (R -Calif.) and Sen. Olympia Snowe’s (R – ME) shocker earlier this week, is a symptom of a larger problem in Washington, and one of the main reasons that retirements are up this cycle: being in Congress just isn’t as fun as it used to be. By any measuring stick, fewer things are getting done in a timely and regular fashion and people, both inside and outside the Beltway, are getting fed up with it. As a result, smaller problems are piling up on any number of legislative issues and fewer people feel like they have made a difference. Just talk with any staffer or lobbyist who has been in D.C. for more than 20 years and ask if all the technology that we have now have allowed them to accomplish more.
According to many of those staff, one of the reasons for this is that the nature of the fight between the parties has changed. Now the goal isn’t to win and get your legislation passed, but to not allow the other side to win. When Carl Perkins ran the House Education and Labor Committee, his standing order was that unless it would hurt one of the Democrats on the Committee, let the Republicans have the issue. As a result the members were actually civil to each other. One former member often told the story of the first time he met Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn. During a committee meeting, he said something that would be considered tame by today’s standards to a member across the aisle, but it got the freshman Dem summoned to the Speaker’s office. As he went to sit, Rayburn told him “I didn’t say you could sit down. I heard what happened in Committee and I’m going to tell you that we don’t speak to other members that way.” I can only imagine what Rayburn would have done if someone heckled President Truman during a State of the Union.
Part of the change in tone is due to a more “in your face” type news system that is constantly being broadcast. The dirty secret of 24/7 news is that really isn’t 24 hours of news being made every day, so anthills have to be turned into mountains for all the prime-time hours to be filled up. The rocketing influence of Twitter only ads to this phenomenon. One Senator a few years ago told me that it is Electronic Cigarettes “a lot easier to turn the other cheek when you are only hearing it once.” The changing format of the shows we get our news from has only exacerbated the problem, as Jon Stewart pointed out years ago. Since the news is constantly running campaign coverage because it draws eyeballs, the members, even if they are “safe” and not engaged in 24/7 fundraising, feel the sword of Damocles at all times. It is a lot harder to cut the guy across from you a break if you are only thinking about what will happen in November… 5 years from now.
Speaking of campaigns, increasingly gerrymandered districts are also having an increased impact. Dems controlled the House for more than 40 years with strangely constructed districts, yet most people would agree the debate was much more civil during much of that time. Additionally, the horrible apathy that voters have for the process gives the most partisan voters an outsized influence. That more people can name Brittany Spear’s ex-husbands than their own representatives is just an example of why both parties have to move further left or right. If only the wings of the parties are going to come out to vote in a primary, why care what the “average” person thinks?
Since the voters aren’t really watching (or rather doing anything about it), the checks and balances of the system have been thrown out of whack. These days neither party, despite the lip service they give, actually follows the rules. Between things like fired parliamentarians and former Majority Leaders saying that the “parliamentarian doesn’t run the [expletive deleted] floor, we do!” there is no longer a true referee for the game. Kind of gives the process an “inmates running the asylum”-type feel.
Sooner or later the pendulum will swing back to a system based on compromise, not extremes. At least no one these days is shooting or fist fighting anyone on the House or Senate floor (even if it has gotten close). Even when compromise was part of the M.O. of the day it still wasn’t as wonderful as the nostalgic, rosy-colored glasses “old timers” would have one believe. However, Members and staff, despite likely being able to make more in the private sector, signed up for the job to make a difference, and looking back on a career of only partisan fighting isn’t that appealing. No one wants to look back on a career and see they were a casualty of a system that won’t let anything happen.
Tags: Congress, Congressional retirement, Congressman Dicks, legislation, legislative system, retirement, Senator Snowe
Posted in Advocacy, Campaigns, Congress Views | Comments Off on Casualties of the System
Friday, February 3rd, 2012 by Vbhotla
Last night S.2038, the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act of 2012 (better known as STOCK), passed the Senate in a 96-3 vote. Introduced by Sen. Lieberman (I –Conn.) just over a week ago on the heels of the State of the Union, STOCK will introduce new regulations on Members and select staff regarding the insider information they receive during the course of their jobs. As insiders expected before the amendments began, it also doubled as a referendum on the lobby industry.
Over 40 amendments were offered to the bill (and that was with the limited number set by Maj. Leader Reid), most dealing more with lobbying than insider trading by those on Capitol Hill. As usual with Congress there were some good/interesting ideas introduced and were promptly voted down. So, without further ado, here are the top 5 good ideas that didn’t make it in to STOCK (and were D.O.A. anyways):
5. SA. 1480 – Sen. Heller – No Budget, No Pay. Despite how hard I’ve tried to the contrary, like a lot of Americans I don’t get paid for not doing my job. The populist in me loves when I see bills or amendments like this that will “stick it to those fat cats in Washington.” This amendment would have stopped Member’s pay for as long as they didn’t pass a budget, which has become an increasingly common occurrence. The realist knows that the budget and Approps process isn’t really the fault of individual offices when these things don’t get passed. Additionally, not all Members are rich enough to work for free (though that seems to be quickly changing) but those that do have money would have the upper hand in negotiations because they would have the ability to hold out. That aside, the reason 1480 made the list was because I love the message it sends to people: “not even Congress thinks Congress will do Congress’s job.”
4. SA. 1472 – Sen. Toomey – Earmark Elimination. Ever notice how we always seem to keep talking about the same issues over and over again each year? Like the above, this is one of those things that comes up on the campaign trail when you say how you’re trying to change the system but the old guard won’t let you. For most Members, earmarks are kind of like the cool party. You don’t like them till you can get past the bouncer, but once you get through the door you don’t want to leave. And you sure aren’t about to let someone kick you out once you get in.
3. SA. 1474 – Sen. Coburn – Legislation online at least 72 hours before votes – Talk about the ultimate double edged sword. Everyone has had a situation where this would help out and another it would kill their issue. It doesn’t seem like expanding the timeframe would really help most offices out (it is already required to be online, just buried on the House Rules website), but it would help outside activists and organizations organize their groups for letters and calls. The insider in me thinks a good compromise here would be required the bills to be printed up in a short run with first-come-first-serve and online earlier, just make them harder for outside sources to find.
Interestingly, they set-up this amendment so that it can be ignored if either body has a 2/3 vote, which just shows how both bodies still want the ability to push things through in the middle of the night.
2. SA. 1473 – Sen. Coburn – Preventing Duplicative and overlapping government programs – I firmly believe that Coburn got robbed on this one, which actually did end up with 60 votes (though it required 66 under a technicality about changing Senate rules). I think what gets under online blackjack wiki people’s skin the most about Coburn (aside from, of course, his politics) is that in a very short time in the Senate he has acquired an incredibly good grasp of the rules and procedures. He’s not afraid to take on popular issues or projects, even those that would give dollars to his own state. And Lord knows he has no problems with being unpopular, either among his colleagues or the press, which I think he feeds off of at times.
Having said that, I really wish he would pick his fights better. I get that part of his “charm” is that he’ll always fight any fight that needs fighting, but would it kill him to be a little less contrarian sometimes? I felt like 1473 was kind of an example of his reputation coming back to haunt him. If he was a different senator, I feel like the 66 (Senate rule change needs aside) would have been waived and the amendment gone through. But his relationships with other senators didn’t afford him this generosity, and the requirement to require the 66 kind of felt like a “haha, back at you.” It gave people cover to vote for it while knowing it would never go anyplace. That it even got to 60 made it feel like a taunt.
For the record, I haven’t really heard a good counter-argument to the amendment, though I will admit cleaning up duplicate programs would take a large amount of time and effort when the Congressional Research Service has little to spare. In this election year where we are trying to watch government and spending, it just seems like bad politics to be against this. Maybe the solution is to just not introduce bills for things that are already working…
1. SA 1490 – Sen. Paul – To require former Members of Congress to forfeit Federal retirement benefits if they work as a lobbyist or engage in lobbying activities. I know the idea and similar ones have been floated before, but it seems like kind of a $1,000 solution to a million dollar question. If Members want to lobby, fine, but make them spend at least a minute considering the decision. As written, it is one of those bills that looks much better than would actually work out, and sounds better as a campaign line. Also, with the income an ex-member can make in the private sector, it also would have a muted impact on their bottom line.
If this was going to be more seriously considered, I would consider changing the threshold around a little bit. Maybe set a cap for how much you can receive through lobbying activities before you get kicked off the benefits. Also, do away with trying to pass waiting laws so that ex-Members can maximize their value if they do decide to go that way. Either way, this is a topic that should be brought up and discussed but any answer needs to be decided fairly, both for the public and the Members. It would never in a million years get passed by itself and I respect Paul for trying to ride this one, after all, you can only shoot what is in front of you. But it needs to be work-shopped before it has a chance of passing.
BONUS: SA.1493, Sen. Grassley, DID go through (with 60 votes) and requires the disclosure of “political intelligence activities.” I couldn’t have supported this amendment anymore wholeheartedly than I currently do. Anything that makes being a staffer or lobbyist sound more like something out of an Ian Fleming novel should always be a Congressional priority and being involved with something as shady as “political intelligence” (though the phrase itself might be an oxymoron) perfectly fits that bill.
Tags: American League of Lobbyists, funny, Lobbying, S. 2038, STOCK Act, Top 5
Posted in Advocacy, Congress Views, Just for Fun, Lobbying News | Comments Off on 5 Best Amendments to STOCK that would have never happened
Wednesday, January 25th, 2012 by Vbhotla
Every time I watch the State of the Union address, I always wish I was a more optimistic person. I remember being genuinely excited when President Clinton used the line (not very original) “the state of our union is STRONG” in 1998. I have always believed, whether a Democrat or Republican is speaking, that the State of the Union address should be used to inspire and present the ideas that we should aspire to. Basically, I think the perfect State of the Union should make me want to sing out a certain “Team America” song whose name I can’t print here. Last night, while listening to President Obama, I kinda, sorta felt that way.
And I don’t mean that in a partisan way. Like most of the people now on the outside looking in, I’ve always believed that for President Obama to maximize his potential in office, he needs to be more combative. Even when I disagree, I’d rather he or the Republicans in Congress take a bigger chance; it isn’t like either side’s poll numbers are that great now. At the moment, it feels like I am watching a football game where both sides are so scared of turning the ball over they punt every 1st down.
What’s more sickening is the idea that we need a rebuttal response from the opposition. The idea that it is even needed in the first place just rings of two kids going “No, you’re wrong!” Can’t we put aside partisan bickering for one night and let the President, whichever party they are from, have the limelight? Even when President Obama said something that traditionally is “right of center” he couldn’t catch a break. I really don’t know why you’d even want to respond. It seems like the better political strategy is to just let it go, not seem contrarian, and move on to the next thing. Also, because it airs right after the State, there is no way for them to truly prepare online casino poker to “respond” to whatever the President actually says.
Why do I say that? Because the rebuttal is just another chance to make a mistake when you don’t have to. Michelle Bachmann’s ‘tea party’ response last year was a great example of this. Also, despite popular opinion, it isn’t like it really makes a difference in the polls. The historic “bump” that people believe the State of the Union gives the incumbent (especially during an election year) is minimum, if at all. Gallup did a great break down in 2010. (Already two years ago!)The biggest bump since the ‘70s came from that ’98 Address, though granted it was the first time in most people’s lives they were hearing or remembering the President announcing a balanced budget.
One last thought. Legislatively, it seems like the big issue the President pushes for each State of the Union has just around a 50/50 shot of working out well. Just ask President Bush about Social Security. Even when it does work, like Obama’s health care plan, it can seem like a Pyrrhic victory. I think it is just hopeful thinking that in the Halls of Congress we’d all have a “come to the light” moment where everyone goes “Oooooohhhhhh, that’s what we should be doing! OK”.
While President Kennedy didn’t declare we would end up on the moon in his State of the Union Address (I’m cheating here because it was still a joint session when he did it) that is what I believe the Address should be about. It is supposed to be a night where we come together and say “ok, this is where we are as a country.” Now we can’t even agree what our problems are, much less the solutions. As an American, I want to hear the unbridled and hopeful optimism regardless of the “political lean” of the idea. For me, the State of the Union has always been about defining the impossible: and how we will turn it into possible.
Tags: President Obama, speech, state of the union, state of the union address
Posted in Congress Views, Executive Branch | Comments Off on State of the Union
Friday, January 20th, 2012 by Vbhotla
In the 1980s the National Rifle Association pulled off one of the great lobbying/advocacy moves that is still remembered to this day. In an effort to defeat Congressional action, the NRA was able to organize over a quarter of a million calls and letters to Congressional offices within a 48 hour period. And this was during the 1980s! Before the Internet, before email, even fax for the most part! Since they proved their ability to organize members and generate interest, they have rarely had to do so again on such a mass scale. While there is debate as to whether they are still capable of organizing the required numbers of constituents to affect legislation, few offices in swing districts want to call their semi-bluff. Since it happened once, it can happen again. This week Congress saw the 2012 version of that NRA plan, and moving forward there are going to be some important lessons to be learned about grassroots advocacy and organization structure.
First, grassroots, like most legislative activity, can be divided into defensive (for example: trying to organize to prevent Congressional action) and offensive (trying to make changes to the current situation that will require some kind of active action). Offensive action is more technically complicated, since everyone needs to be on the same page, asking for the same thing, giving the same reason why it needs to happen, etc., but has the advantage of usually choosing the time it is required. This allows thing to be planned out and, more importantly, gives the upper tiers of the organization time to mobilize their members. Therein lays the weakness of most defensive grassroots organizational efforts: you don’t get to choose the time they are required.
The dirty little secret to real grassroots political power isn’t the number of members your organization actually has, but what you can do with those members and whether those members can be used at critical legislative times. If you have 10 million members that aren’t actually going to demi moore pokies do anything and can’t be mobilized, then they really aren’t going to make a difference in your legislative agenda when you need them. The number helps you get into meetings or maybe access to more resources, but when it comes down to generating letters or votes then the cat is out of the bag and the group can lose one of their main legislative tools.
However, a smaller group with a good top-down structure that can generate calls, letters, and e-mails, hold town hall meetings, contact other constituents, etc., in a timely basis can be much, much more effective. The question has always been how do you find a balance between an organization large enough to make a difference, but nimble enough to come together quickly, when needed?
This past week might answer that question. The opposition to the Senate’s Protect IP Act was able to passively organize a defensive grassroots movement. People go to Wikipedia on a daily basis, and when it blacks-out, they then want to know why. All Wikipedia had to do is shut down and post some info on what they want to be done, the site’s users do the rest. Google didn’t even have to shut down to generate interest and action; they just needed to black-out the site’s name. Most of the sites didn’t really provide facts or briefings for their users, just the message “Protect IP Act = BAD”. When people contacted their Congressional offices, they often didn’t have the correct facts on the phone or e-mail, but they were able to register their opinion with the legislation.
By shutting down, Wikipedia and others fulfilled the dream of every grassroots organization: they activated their members, and changed legislative policy. While black-outs aren’t a long-term legislative strategy, like the NRA they only need to be done once and then everyone knows that you can. Maybe the real lesson moving forward is the best way to organize your grassroots is to not go to work the next day.
Tags: Advocacy, Communications, grassroots, PIPA, SOPA
Posted in Advocacy, Congress Views, Legislative Strategy, Lobbying Communications, Lobbying Communications, Lobbying News, Lobbying tips | Comments Off on Grassroots lobbying and SOPA/PIPA
Friday, January 14th, 2011 by Vbhotla
There has been a lot of discussion of “changing Washington” in the months leading up to the transition from 111th to 112th Congress. Obviously, some of that was simply rhetoric, and some of it will be pursued with vigor (at least in the first session; enthusiasm may die down once the freshman class realizes some of the proposed changes will get in the way of effectively doing their jobs, just as high school and college freshmen realize by the second semester that things will not go exactly as anticipated).
Earmarks – You should know that the ban on earmarks is not in the House nor Senate rules. It is, however, in the Republican Conference rules (which point to the House rules for guidance on defining earmarks). As the definition of earmarks and what will and won’t be permissible is worked out, it is safe to assume if it was considered an earmark within the last five years, it will be considered an earmark moving forward.
However, experts argue that the current talk of an outright ban doesn’t make policy sense and will eventually reveal itself as allowing too much to the discretion of the Executive Branch. New members of the House, in particular, are expected to tone down the rhetoric once they realize an all-out earmark ban would tie their own hands.
Transparency – Electronic texts have newly been added to the House rules regarding accessibility of legislation to the American people. Though Congress has traditionally been concerned with the security implications of making legislation accessible online, this is expected to be the new standard as electronic media becomes more and more prevalent in society.
“Budget Czar” – Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) will have the power to unilaterally set policies regarding certain budgetary decisions, including the spending aggregate. He may also decide to sub-allocate funds to advance the conservative agenda.
Tags: 112th Congress, budget czar, Earmarks, electronic bills, electronic text, paul ryan, Transparency
Posted in Congress Views, Earmarks | Comments Off on Important to Note in the 112th
Monday, August 2nd, 2010 by Vbhotla
Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy’s (D-Ohio) press release on her latest anti-lobbyist bill showcased her feelings on lobbyists pretty clearly:
“When Americans on Main Street try to cheat or break the law, there are repercussions; but for years, there was no way to hold lobbyists accountable for games they play with their disclosures,” said Kilroy. “The Lobbying Disclosure Enhancement Act establishes a task force that will go after lobbyists who engage in shoddy reporting practices and hide behind ignorance of the law.”
Source: Press release, “Two Bills Authored by Mary Jo Kilroy Continue to Move Towards Law”
Tags: Congress Views, Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy
Posted in Congress Views | Comments Off on Congress Views: Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy
Monday, July 26th, 2010 by Vbhotla
A bill introduced in the House Judiciary Committee would impose fees on lobbyists, based on their number of clients.
Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy (D-Ohio) introduced H.R. 5751, the “Fee on Lobbyists Act,” in response to what she views as improper influence by financial services lobbyists during the financial services debate. Her bill “would properly enforce the rules for federal lobbyists and special interest groups by funding the offices that are tasked with holding lobbyists accountable.”
The text of the bill would “amend the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 to require registrants to pay an annual fee of $50, to impose a penalty of $500 for failure to file timely reports required by that Act, to provide for the use of the funds from such fees and penalties for reviewing and auditing filings by registrants, and for other purposes.”
The fee would be broken down to be $25 per registration, per chamber. So the total fee would be $50 per registration (client). The same payment would be made yearly, upon filing the first quarter’s LD-2 report. (Provision is made for the eventuality that a registration and a first-quarter LD-2 report will coincide, with a fee waiver for that problem.)
Failure to file as required by the Lobbying Disclosure Act would result in a $500 fine; failure to file properly on subsequent occasions would impose a $1,000 fine. The fines (and normal fees) will be used to conduct audits and quality control of filings. Other measures within the bill include: clean up of inconsistencies between the House and Senate databases, and mandated public disclosure of late or incorrect filers (name would be removed from the list following proper filing and payment of the fee).
The bill, introduced on July 15, is currently in committee. Assuming passage, the bill provides for application of the fee structure to registrations filed at the end of the 60-day period after the bill’s enactment.
The text of H.R. 5751 is available here at THOMAS. Rep. Kilroy’s press release is here: “Kilroy Works to Bring Sunshine to Washington’s Darkest Corners.”
Tags: LDA, LDA amendments, lobbying fees, Mary Jo Kilroy
Posted in Congress Views, Government Relations Alert, Regulations | Comments Off on Lobbying Fees Considered in House
Thursday, July 22nd, 2010 by Vbhotla
Candidate for U.S. Senate Alexi Giannoulias (D-Ill.) is no fan of lobbyists. Mr. Giannoulias, currently the Illinois State Treasurer, is running for the seat currently occupied by appointed Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.).
The Chicago Sun-Times reports that Giannoulias would work to enact major legislative ethics reforms if elected to the Senate.
“In Washington, D.C., everywhere you go you see a lobbyist,” Giannoulias said. “They run that town. Nine out of 10 people [you see as] you walk down the hall are all lobbyists.”
The Sun-Times reports that “[Giannoulias] wants a total ban on corporations and lobbyists donating to candidates and a lifetime ban on senators or congressmen ever becoming lobbyists.”
Giannoulias’ Senate candidate site is at www.alexiforillinois.com.
Giannoulias’ official state site is at www.treasurer.il.gov.
Tags: Alexi Giannoulias, Illinois, Revolving Door
Posted in Congress Views | Comments Off on (Potential) Congress Views: Alexi Giannoulias
Monday, May 17th, 2010 by Vbhotla
From time to time, we’ll post “Congress Views” on lobbying. These will be opinions published by or attributed to members of Congress, on lobbying, lobbyists, and the lobbying community as a whole.
First up, Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.):
Sen. Bennet, in introducing his bill to ban former members of Congress from the “revolving door” (moving from Congress to lobbying):
“The need for reform in Washington is glaring when 1,500 Wall Street lobbyists can drown out the voices of the American people and block a bill that reforms the big Wall Street banks,” Bennet said. “By preventing Members of Congress from lobbying when they leave Capitol Hill and preventing congressional staff from going back and forth through the revolving door, public officials can get about the business of helping the country.”
Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) has co-sponsored the bill. In his press release on co-sponsoring, Sen. Tester used similar language to Sen. Bennet:
“When Montanans sent me to the Senate, I imposed strict ethics rules on myself and my staff because Montanans expect open and honest government,” Tester said. “It’s about time for all of Congress to make sure decisions are being made based on what’s right for our country, not based on who hires well-connected lobbyists.”
Tags: Jon Tester, Lobbying, Michael F. Bennet, Revolving Door
Posted in Congress Views | Comments Off on Congress Views: Sens. Bennet & Tester
Monday, May 3rd, 2010 by Vbhotla
Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) recently released a bill designed to increase transparency in the U.S. Congress and in other branches of government. The Transparency in Government Act – H.R. 4983 – includes a change to the reporting requirements for federally registered lobbyists.
Some provisions of the bill include: (from Rep. Quigley’s press release on the bill)
- Establishing new definitions for lobbyists and stricter rules governing how and with whom they meet
- Creating a searchable, sortable, and downloadable database for earmarks, where taxpayers can see all appropriations in one place
- Improving public access to information about members of Congress, including disclosure of financial information, travel reports, gifts, and earmark requests
- Requiring committees to post all roll call votes and video of hearings and mark-ups online
- Improving oversight and accuracy of USAspending.gov (federal contracting Web site) by allowing the public to report errors and requiring audits of the information on the site
- Instructing all FOIA requests of federal agencies be published online promptly after they are completed
The change that would be biggest for current lobbyists is a potential shorter turnaround for disclosure reporting. The bill as it currently stands would require a 72-hour turnaround on registration, would could create significant paperwork problems for some lobbyists. When GAO released their LDA Disclosure Audit, they noted that some lobbyists complained that the time for paperwork preparation was already insufficient as it stands now. UPDATED: The phrase that we originally posted, “72-hour turnaround on reporting” was misleading. The bill actually would require lobbyists to register within 72 hours of their first lobbying contact, rather than having the option to wait up to 45 days, as the law currently stands. This is a registration requirement, not a reporting requirement. We apologize for the error.
The bill also requires a study by the Comptroller General of the GAO to determine whether “non-lobbyists” (who are engaging in either lobbying under the 20% time threshold, or not directly lobbying members of Congress) should be registering. The legislation’s language suggests that its framers are suspicious of lobbyists de-registering:
“Whether and to what extent persons exerting substantial influence on the legislative process and executive branch decisionmaking are avoiding the registration and reporting requirements under the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995.”
It remains to be seen whether this bill will gain any traction (it is currently sitting in the House Oversight and Government Reform, Rules, House Administration, and Judiciary Committees). But given the Democrats’ and Obama Administrations’ emphasis on ethics and transparency, further action may be likely.
As an interesting aside, Rep. Quigley discusses his new transparency bill and the role of lobbyists in the political process in a National Journal interview on May 1,
Quigley: “Lobbyists aren’t a bad thing. I respect that every interest has a right to be represented on the Hill by lobbyists. I tell my constituents, you may not like the pharmaceutical lobbyist or the tobacco lobbyist, but your school system has someone here, and the cancer society has someone here. People don’t understand that lobbyists advocate, educate, and inform — and that is super-important. I can hire a great staff, but lobbyists have some of the best information.”
The National Journal article is posted here (subscription required).
Tags: Disclosure, Lobbying, Mike Quigley, Transparency
Posted in Congress Views, Lobbying News | Comments Off on Rep. Quigley’s Transparency Bill – UPDATED