In a recent press release, Mary Jo Kilroy (D-Ohio) explained the purpose of her Lobbying Disclosure Enhancement Act, saying,
“When Americans on Main Street try to cheat or break the law; there are repercussions… [this bill] will go after the lobbyists who engage in shoddy practices and hide behind ignorance of the law.”
However, what Kilroy is trying to fix is not as much a lobbying problem as it is a federal government problem. Lobby disclosure may not be the most popular rule on K Street but it is still the law of the land and the vast majority of lobbyists willingly adhere to it. The only reason that lobbyists continue to hide behind “ignorance” of the law is because the Department of Justice has neglected its side of the bargain.
The idea behind Kilroy’s bill is nothing new; in fact some lobbyists have spoken out in favor of greater disclosure, saying that having a system of lobbying laws but no enforcement makes a mockery of the entire system. Following the law is the responsibility of each individual lobbyist. Enforcing the law is solely the responsibility of the Department of Justice. In short, Kilroy should be requiring the Department of Justice to change its “shoddy practices,” not lobbyists. But lobbyists are low-hanging fruit, since many citizens don’t understand the First Amendment political speech right of having a government relations representative.
Kilroy’s bill as originally introduced intended to place more impetus on the lobbyists themselves to ensure complete lobby filings, with fee structures and fines for underdisclosure.
Americans don’t speed down Main Street when a cop is sitting in the McDonald’s parking lot and lobbyists won’t be ignorant of the law if the federal government enforces its own regulations.