HLOGA was birthed out of a desire to decrease corruption in politics by increasing the ethical standard to which lobbyists, in their dealings with elected officials, were held. While some of the reporting requirements are cumbersome, most lobbyists agree with being held to an ethical standard, because most lobbyists are not doing anything questionable. Anything to “remove the red ‘L’ from our lapels,” as American League of Lobbyists executive director Gina Bancroft put it. Here are some cues to follow to make sure that even if the current laws don’t cover it, your actions are ethical and you are in good shape to continue lobbying successfully in the long-term:
1) Visceral reaction – What is your gut telling you? If you’re calling on counsel, because it just doesn’t feel right, it might be because it’s not. Sometimes your stomach indicates more than indigestion.
2) The Washington Post test – Will this land you in the Washington Post (or other publication)? If so, in what light could it be portrayed? A negative story, whether the actions detailed are against the law or not, will affect business.
3) Try to separate lobbying from campaign donations. Discussing issues at fundraisers or while dropping off an envelope of campaign donations is not unethical, but it is distasteful. Avoid the appearance of impropriety: talk about family, hunting, the Nats/Caps (the Skins/Wizards might just make people angry), vacations, or anything else that is not relative to either of your jobs.