Erring on the Side of Accuracy

I sat down for a chat with lobbying law expert Cleta Mitchell a few weeks ago. We were discussing, among other things, the upcoming 2010 Edition of the Lobbying Compliance Handbook.

One of the most interesting things Cleta mentioned was that there is too much emphasis recently on the side of disclosure simply for the sake of disclosure. “People talk about erring on the side of caution, but really, instead of erring on the side of disclosure, they should err on the side of accuracy.”

Cleta has a passion for accurate, thorough information. She’s right – it is foolish to overdisclose and illegal to underdisclose. The solution to that problem is to completely and accurately follow what the law requires – which (among other things) is: full disclosure of lobbying clients, the issues upon which you’re lobbying (be thorough!) and amount of money that you’re earning to speak on behalf of your clients.

Why not take a moment to brush up on what the law requires? The payoff is knowing that you’re completely in line with the law. There is plenty of room within this model for good-government groups and ethics watchdogs (and lobbyists themselves, of course) to suggest improvements and changes in the information that is disclosed. That’s a good thing – a citizen-governed nation requires a lot of oversight and maintenance. But don’t assume that disclosure for disclosure’s sake is necessarily a good thing. ¬†As a lobbyist, you should already be maintaining a high regard for the facts – and a commitment to passing them along truthfully.

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