Regulating PI

AN EARLIER POST to this blog referenced a “preliminary probe” by the SEC that has renewed debate about the role of the “political intelligence” industry. Yesterday, the Washington Post wrote about how the probe is shaping ongoing efforts by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) to cast light on the industry by developing a regulatory apparatus through which it can be monitored.

The second most interesting aspect of this story – behind the fact that Sen. Grassley is the former boss of Mark Hayes, the lobbyist at the center of the SEC probe – is that the model for this regulatory apparatus is the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA):

Grassley’s amendment proposed subjecting political intelligence consultants to the same disclosure rules as lobbyists, who under the Lobbying Disclosure Act must register if they come in contact with a government official and spent teen pokies at least 20 percent of their time advocating on behalf of lobbying clients in a three-month period.

Yet when Grassley and Slaughter first proposed this idea as an amendment to the STOCK Act, the House Finance Committee struck it down.  Why?  Because the definition of “political intelligence activities” was too broad.  Now a standalone bill is being drafted by the two legislators for a second try.  One would think that any controversial definitions would be altered, or at least give the appearance of being altered, in order to bolster the bill’s prospects.  One would be mistaken:

A spokesman for Slaughter said the upcoming bill is still being drafted, but the definition of political intelligence will be the same as that in the Grassley amendment, which was identical to what Slaughter proposed for inclusion in the original version of the STOCK Act.


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