Posts Tagged ‘HLOGA’
Wednesday, March 26th, 2014 by Vbhotla
NO ONE ENJOYS filling out paperwork, but if you’re a lobbyist, failure to do so can be costly. The Washington Post reported last week that Alan Mauk and his firm, Alan Mauk Associates, failed to file required quarterly lobbying reports at least 13 times in the past four years—an indiscretion that carries a hefty price of up to $200,000 per violation. The civil complaint filed against Mauk and his firm is the latest of several lawsuits the government has filed in the past year as a result of negligence.
Back in June, the Blog of the Legal Times reported that the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia slapped Biassi Business Services Inc., a consulting firm based in New York, with a lawsuit that could cost the firm up to $33 million in fines. Biassi reportedly filed several disclosures for 2012 and 2013 after the lawsuit was filed, and it remains to be seen how much of the fine Biassi will ultimately have to pay.
But lobbyists aren’t merely being fined for domestic lobbying violations. In August, this blogger wrote on how federal prosecutors filed a criminal complaint against two lobbyists for alleged violations of U.S. sanctions and the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) by lobbying on behalf of Zimbabwe and its president, Robert Mugabe. Likewise, in 2011, a lobbyist was charged with FARA violations for failing to disclose lobbying activities for a foreign entity.
So, why are we just recently seeing the Feds come down hard on disclosure violators? As noted before on this blog, between 1995 and 2010 the U.S. Attorney’s Office settled with just three lobbyists, yet since 2010 there have been at least five lawsuits filed related to HLOGA and FARA violations.
One explanation is that we’re entering the enforcement stage of a cycle that begins with complacency (itself a symptom of lax enforcement) and ends in scandal. With the lobbying industry moving underground, it’s only a matter of time before a lobbyist or firm stretches the current rules too far, at which point we may see a successor to HLOGA. Until then, we’ve yet to experience the kind of enforcement that these laws originally intended. But it looks as if we’re getting closer.
Tags: Alan Mauk, Alan Mauk Associates, Biassi Business Services Inc., Blog of the Legal Times, FARA, Foreign Agents Registration Act, HLOGA, Robert Mugabe, the washington post, U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia, Zimbabwe
Posted in Lobbying News | Comments Off on The Return of Enforcement
Friday, February 28th, 2014 by Geoffrey Lyons
THE “SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP” between the U.S. and U.K. is defined by many shared characteristics, the most salient being a common tongue and a commitment to democracy. Such a bond is more than just quaint: similarities make it easy for one country to learn from the mistakes of the other. Noah Webster, for example, famously purged American spelling of much of its inherited inconsistencies.
Yet last month, when “The Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill” became an Act of Parliament (law), the U.K. proved that it hasn’t learned a thing about the ongoing blunder that is U.S. lobbying law.
The law, apparently modeled on HLOGA, establishes a registrar to enforce lobbying registration and imposes limits on campaign spending for non political parties (trade associations, faith groups, etc.). Critics have been quick to pounce. The measure has already earned a negative reputation as the “gagging law” for its arbitrary restrictions on the freedom of association, the same alarm that’s still being sounded on this side of the Atlantic. The EU Observer calls it “misdirected,” and predicts that it will “further cleanse the political sphere not of corruption, but of the public itself.”
The Nottingham Post’s reaction to restrictions on non-party campaigning, which is the most contentious part of the law and which will be enforced in the run-up to elections–“crazy.” “The run-up to elections is just the time we want to have our say. That is the time we want to have debates in public space about what matters to us down our streets and in our playgrounds and workplaces.” Ekklesia, a Christian political think tank, is even more indignant, predicting the law will “gravely damage democracy and human rights.”
How can such flawed legislation achieve Royal Assent? The EU Observer summarized it beautifully, writing that proponents must rely on the “transforming [of] a democratic right such as lobbying…into an object of suspicion.” Congress has been there, done that, and active citizens are still facing the consequences. It’s a shame that Parliament has opted for a similar fate.
Tags: Ekklesia, EU Observer, HLOGA, Noah Webster, Special Relationship, The Nottingham Post, The Transparency of Lobbying Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill
Posted in Lobbying News | Comments Off on Not Their Finest Hour
Friday, February 21st, 2014 by Geoffrey Lyons
THE LATEST EDITION of The Nation has as its cover story a detailed expose of what it calls “the shadow lobbying complex,” an issue explored at great length in this blog. While reading the article and delighting in its infographics, this blogger decided that a brief timeline of modern disclosure laws would make for an interesting post.
And so I began with the summer of 1935, when Rep. Denis Driscoll (D-Pa.) received 816 telegrams from constituents pleading him to oppose a measure that would break up the utility trust companies, which were then being run by a handful of remarkably wealthy men. The telegrams would have made for an impressive case study in lobbying from the bottom up, or “grassroots lobbying,” except for one important detail: the constituents behind the telegrams were completely fabricated. The whole thing was a sham, conjured together and funded by the utility companies.
This incident and the broader debate surrounding the Wheeler-Rayburn Utility Holding Company Act set the gears in motion for modern disclosure law, which today is ridiculed as an utter failure. Were I actually to have posted a timeline of lobbying disclosure, I might have used just five dates:
- 1946: The Federal Regulation of Lobbying Act is passed as a late response to the utility company debate
- 1991: the GAO exposes the law’s shortcomings
- 1999: The Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA) is passed as a second try
- 2006: Jack Abramoff reports to prison, proving LDA a failure
- 2007: The Honest Leadership and Open Government Act (HLOGA) is passed as a third try, a significant amendment to LDA that adds criminal sanctions and stricter reporting requirements
Yet this would appear a very lopsided timeline, with nearly half a century separating the first two dates. Did nothing relevant transpire between the passage of The Federal Regulation of Lobbying Act and the GAO report that deemed it a failure?
In fact, something did. In 1977, a book was published that would become the basis for the GAO’s report. According to The Nation, the report found that “10,000 lobbyists listed in an industry guidebook had failed to register. Of those who had, as many as 94 percent failed to complete their registration forms as required by law.” This “industry guidebook” just happens to be Washington Representatives, a Lobbyists.info publication entering its 37th year. If one accepts The Nation’s claim that the GAO report was the “impetus” for LDA, and former Rep. Charles Canady’s (R-Fla.) assertion that the Washington Representative’s finding “underscored” the need for LDA, then to a significant extent Washington Representatives is responsible for LDA. The innumerable ironies that come packed with this are too rich and detailed for this blog. Needless to say it’s a fascinating discovery.
Tags: Charles Canady, Denis Driscoll, GAO, HLOGA, Jack Abramoff, LDA, The Federal Regulation of Lobbying Act, The Lobbying Disclosure Act, The Nation, Washington Representatives, Wheeler-Rayburn Utility Holding Company Act
Posted in Lobbying News | Comments Off on The Book Behind Current Lobbying Law
Monday, February 10th, 2014 by Vbhotla
IT’S WELL KNOWN in Washington that congressional staffers tend to be underpaid and overworked. One might assume that they accept these conditions in exchange for the connections and prestige that Congress affords. Increasingly, however, the motivation is a lucrative job on K Street.
Despite HLOGA, more than 1,650 former Congressional aides have registered to lobby less than a year after leaving Congress, according to the New York Times. These freshly-minted lobbyists often return to the Hill to lobby on the very legislation that they worked on while they were staffers. The rules that intended to prevent this “revolving door” effect are so weak, particularly in the House, as to be practically nonexistent. As the Times points out, former House staffers can avoid the one-year moratorium on lobbying as long as their salaries are less than the paltry sum of $130,500.
In fact, restrictions on the revolving door have been so easily circumvented that, according to the Sunlight Foundation, the number of registered lobbyists with previous government experience actually peaked in 2009, two years after the passage of HLOGA. To make matters worse, as LobbyBlog reports, even though lobbying registrations are on the decline, there is a well-known shadow industry of unregistered lobbyists who are working as “strategic advisors” while still technically complying with current disclosure rules. It stands to reason that there are even more former staffers who are “unlobbyists” to whom the current lobbying restrictions don’t apply at all.
So why is this a big deal? The biggest concern is that staffers and members who are eyeing a cushy job on K Street will try to influence legislation to favor their future employers before they even leave Capitol Hill. Indeed, as the Times points out, staffers are often hired because of specific legislation or issue areas on which they worked, and when the turnaround from staffer to lobbyist can be measured in months or even weeks, the current system’s potential for abuse becomes apparent.
Tags: HLOGA, LobbyBlog, New York Times, Revolving Door, sunlight foundation
Posted in Lobbying News | Comments Off on Revolving Door Spinning at Cyclone Speed
Tuesday, February 4th, 2014 by Geoffrey Lyons
LOBBYISTS HAVE TAKEN a lot of damage over the years. Abramoff inflicted a wound that was salted by HLOGA. Obama campaigned on combating special interests, and landed his first blow by way of executive order.
The obstacles these produce, both real and imagined, make the business of advocacy more challenging than it should be. Yet lobbyists have reason to enjoy the status quo while it lasts, because things could soon get worse.
According to Karen Hinton, an advocate representing Ecuadorians in a long-standing oil pollution suit against Chevron, lobbyists could soon be vulnerable to racketeering charges by their opposition. If Chevron wins their case on the grounds that Hinton and others are colluding in a fraudulent lawsuit, then a precedent will be set whereby “hard-hitting press releases and lobbying before Congress and government agencies by (insert you and your client) against (insert your client’s competitors or opponents) about (insert issue that financially benefits your client) could equal extortion and be a violation of the RICO statute.”
RICO stands for Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. By law, a plaintiff who wins a RICO case “…shall recover threefold the damages he sustains and the cost of the suit.” Hinton argues that because of this “treble damages” clause, companies and trade associations targeted by RICO cases could go bust. Pursuing this to its obvious conclusion, advocates with less to spend could be bullied out of lobbying altogether.
That would be bad indeed, and is something for which lobbyists should collectively oppose.
Tags: abramoff, Chevron, HLOGA, Karen Hinton, Obama, RICO
Posted in Lobbying News | Comments Off on Another Day, Another Hurdle
Friday, January 3rd, 2014 by Geoffrey Lyons
IN TUESDAY’S New York Times, opinion writer Thomas Edsall wrote about the changing face of lobbying since the passage of HLOGA, echoing many themes that have recently appeared on this blog. On earmarks, for example, Edsall wrote that “…the lobbying firm Cassidy and Associates has paid a heavy price for the earmark ban.” LobbyBlog had previously asserted that “for Cassidy and others, losing earmarks was like losing the ground on which they stood.” Edsall also cited a recent study that used Lobbyists.info data: “Using LaPira’s reasoning, total spending to influence legislative and regulatory outcomes in 2012 doubled from $3.1 billion to $6.7 billion.” LobbyBlog had, of course, cited the same study: “The current figure, which only accounts for legally disclosed spending, is $3.31 billion. LaPira estimates that over twice that – an eye-watering $6.7 billion – was actually spent last year.” (For the record, $3.31 (not $3.1) billion is the correct figure).
If these excerpts are indications that Edsall is a fan of this blog, then your humble bloggers are pleased. If, more likely, they merely highlight the general consensus among the few of us who write about lobbying that certain undeniable trends are reshaping the business, then your humble bloggers are no less pleased. This is mostly because Edsall casts refreshing new light on the phenomenon of de-registration to supplement the old arguments about lobbying drifting into the shadows, or the inaccuracy of disclosure numbers (Edsall: “If you look at the numbers, it may seem that lobbying is in decline, but it isn’t; it’s just taking different forms.” LobbyBlog: “A decline in reported lobbying is not always synonymous with a decline in lobbying.”)
For example, most commentaries on de-registration or the “driving underground” of a formerly functioning disclosure framework don’t even attempt to explain what these newly underground lobbyists are doing with themselves. Edsall’s, on the other hand, focuses entirely upon this point. “The action has shifted,” he writes, “to what is known in the business as strategic advice: how to convince and mobilize voters and opinion elites in support of a client’s agenda.” This description demands greater clarity, which Edsall is quick to supply:
So what does this new strategic adviser actually do? He or she can plan out a legislative campaign or a drive to affect the implementation of regulation, determine which officials and agencies must be dealt with, and propose potential coalition partners….Interestingly, all this can be done without making direct contact with elected officials, congressional aides or top-ranked department and agency appointees and employees. This arms-length approach permits strategic advisers to avoid lobbying registration and reporting requirements.
Something is striking about the idea that “…all this can be done without making direct contact with elected officials….” If this is so, are we still talking about lobbying? The case can be made here that if the “unlobbyist” is refraining from the fundamental activities that define lobbying, then maybe lobbyists aren’t being driven underground but rather driven out. Even if Edsall doesn’t make direct appeal to this point, he at least provokes one to explore it, and to explore lobbying’s future, rather than dwell on its present. The future of lobbying: that, alas, is for another blog post. Or, if he gets to it first, another article by Thomas Edsall.
Tags: cassidy and associates, HLOGA, LaPira, LobbyBlog, lobbyists.info, thomas edsall
Posted in Lobbying News | Comments Off on Lobbyists as “Strategic Advisers”
Thursday, August 22nd, 2013 by Vbhotla
LAST WEEK, this blogger wrote on how the government is cracking down on illegal foreign lobbying. In July, the feds came down on Biassi Business Services, Inc. for failing to disclose domestic lobbying activities. Such cases are usually settled, and in the fifteen years between 1995 and 2010, the U.S. attorney’s office settled with just three lobbyists. In the past three years alone, however, the attorney’s office settled three more cases.
At LobbyBlog, we’ve noticed a general cycle that forms around lobbying violations and the inevitable government crackdown. The cycle kicks off when a scandal erupts, then perpetrators are punished and the government enacts beefier regulations. This happened in 2007 following the Abramoff scandal with the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act (HLOGA).
For a while, lobbyists are on their best behavior (reports from the GAO show that filings increased significantly following HLOGA), but within a few years they start to get complacent, resulting in increased violations, as has been the case since 2010 and particularly as of late. After complacency comes scandal, and then another crackdown.
We are currently in the middle of the complacency stage, and the federal government is taking notice. If the cycle holds true, a scandal may erupt at any moment.
Despite the recent decline in lobbying, there are more than enough lobbyists who will continue to skirt the law until, once again, the federal government steps in and the cycle begins anew. The shrewd veteran lobbyist will know when it’s unwise to misbehave.
Tags: abramoff, Biassi Business Services, GAO, HLOGA
Posted in Lobbying News | Comments Off on Ethics Unraveling: On Compliance and Complacency
Friday, January 18th, 2013 by Geoffrey Lyons
LOBBYBLOG REMINDS YOU that two disclosure deadlines are approaching:
January 20 – LD-2
The once semi-annual, now quarterly report of lobbying income/expenditures is due for the fourth quarter of the LD-2 reporting calendar (see below). “Each registrant must file a quarterly report on Form LD-2 no later than 20 days (or on the first business day after such 20th day if the 20th day is not a business day) after the end of the quarterly period beginning on the first day of January, April, July and October of each year in which a registrant is registered.” (House Office of the Clerk). January 20th is in fact a Sunday, and the following Monday is a holiday, so make sure to get your LD-2 forms ready by Tuesday the 22nd.
|Jan 1 – March 31
|April 1 – June 30
|July 1 – Sept 30
|Oct 1 – Dec 31
January 30 – LD-203
The semi-annual report is required of all lobbyists to certify ethics compliance and disclosure. “Form LD-203 is required to be filed semiannually by July 30th and January 30th (or next business day should either of those days fall on a weekend or holiday) covering the first and second calendar halves of the year. Registrants and active lobbyists (who are not terminated for all clients) must file separate reports which detail FECA contributions, honorary contributions, presidential library contributions, and payments for event costs.” January 30th is a Wednesday.
For quick guidance on disclosure, visit lobbyingdisclosure.house.gov. For a more substantive reference guide, consider The Lobbying Compliance Handbook.
Tags: compliance, Disclosure, filing, HLOGA, LD-2, LD-203, LDA, lobby, Lobbying, lobbyist, the lobbying compliance handbook
Posted in Lobbying News | Comments Off on Federal Lobbying Disclosure Due
Tuesday, June 7th, 2011 by Vbhotla
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.
Tags: campaign donations, fundraisers, HLOGA, lobbying at fundraisers, lobbying code of ethics, Washington Post
Posted in Ethics Tip | Comments Off on Ethics Tuesday: Beyond Laws and Codes
Thursday, February 3rd, 2011 by Vbhotla
America’s Big Game happens Sunday, and some (including Sports Illustrated’s Peter King) speculate this could be the last we see for a year or so.
Lavish SuperBowl parties are going to be in full force across the nation. Many will flock to Dallas to see how they may get in on the action. People will lose their minds and forget all of the rules. However, lobbying watchdogs will not forget. And here at LobbyBlog, neither will we. So, to keep you in compliance this Superbowl weekend, here are some things to remember:
- You may NOT buy any staffer/member/executive branch appointee a ticket to the SuperBowl. With tickets quickly approaching $5,000 each, unless the member/staffer/appointee pays for his/her own ticket, this amount far surpasses the acceptable gift limit for 100 (gifts (over 50 years!)! (Remember, the rule is $50 per occurrence, $100 total per year for gifts, but NO GIFTS FROM LOBBYISTS.)
–> This does not mean it is okay to invite the staffer to pay $25 for a standing-room-only ticket, and grant him full access to your company’s corporate suite, like the Redskins attempted to do a few years back. It is a bad idea. Don’t try it. The fallout will be highly publicized and you WILL go to jail. (Think no one will know? So did Abramoff.)
–> Although exceptions do exist, it is advisable that perhaps a $5,000 SuperBowl ticket is not a good time to try out the personal friendship exemption. However, feel free to take your staffer/member/appointee staff spouse to Cowboys stadium (or surrounding bars/parking lots) Sunday. HLOGA implicitly states that gifts from spouses are exempt.
- The personal friendship exemption is, however, permissible if you are inviting a staffer/member/appointee to your Big Game party, assuming there’s a legitimate history of personal friendship. If there is no such history, personal hospitality alone will not cut it. Make the party potluck, and have your covered guest bring a dish. If it’s the member’s party, costs must come out of his/her personal bank account, not a campaign fund or expense account.
- Meeting at a bar to watch the main event? Go ahead and spring for the pitcher of beer at halftime, whether there are covered officials present or not. Nachos? Margaritas? Go for it, provided they’re of minimal value and offered in a social setting to everyone in the vicinity. (BBQ chicken nachos with sour cream and refried beans are teetering awfully close to the official definition of a meal, however, so you may want to stick with ordinary cheese-and-jalapenos chips.) You may NOT invite only the member/staffer/appointee to the bar and pick up ONLY his/her tab. Unless of course the personal friendship, dating (more than casual), or marriage exemptions qualify as a personal relationship.
Tags: bar tabs, gift exemptions, gift rules, HLOGA, lobbyists buy a meal, Superbowl lobbying, superbowl parties
Posted in Just for Fun | Comments Off on Superbowl Sunday Compliance
Tuesday, December 21st, 2010 by Vbhotla
This time of year, everyone is throwing parties and receptions to commemorate the holiday season. And, especially in Washington circles where everyone seems to know everyone else, it may be tempting to invite members of Congress or staffers to these functions. As innocent as this may be (not everyone is inviting Hillers with hopes to gain favor, some are just being nice), there are still several things to look out for when planning the functions.
- Follow the “toothpick rule” when planning the menu. If it can’t fit on a toothpick, it may be consider a meal, and therefore members and their staff are unable to eat. The good-intentioned gesture that was the invitation turns sour when invited guests are unable to eat.
- The entertainment should be of a minimal nature. A jazz trio, harpist, etc are acceptable. A headliner concert….probably not.
- Valet, coat check, party favors and gift bags can be accepted by a member or staffer only if the value of the items does not exceed $10.
It is important to note that a holiday reception would not fall under the “widely attended event” exception to the gift rules relative to meals. A widely attended event must be related to the staffer’s official duties. A good way to make sure you’re in the clear is to indicate that “light hors d’oeuvres and cocktails” will be provided on the invitation. Just be sure to make sure the event is not transformed into a lavish party, which could get both you and the member/staffer in trouble.
Tags: gift rules, HLOGA, holiday party, lobbyist-sponsored reception
Posted in Ethics Tip | Comments Off on Tuesday Ethics Tip: Holiday Party Edition
Friday, October 22nd, 2010 by Brittany
K Street Compliance for 2011
Disclosure compliance, filing, gift and ethics rules, and campaign finance
November 16, 2010 · 2:00 p.m.-3:30 p.m. EST
After the midterm elections are over, Congress will take fresh aim at ethics. Lobbyists are fair game and “I didn’t know” won’t keep you out of the headlines – or exempt you from the stiff penalties associated with HLOGA, LDA and FARA.
If you aren’t sure what those acronyms stand for, you’re a sitting duck for ethics investigations and compliance violations. Even if you do know the basics of lobbying laws, you’re still at risk unless you’re absolutely certain you’re meeting deadlines, reporting, and recordkeeping requirements.
Why risk fines, penalties and negative PR? Here’s your “primer” on the basics you must know to follow the rules in the complex world of government relations.
Register now for Lobbying: The Basics of K Street Compliance for 2011.
Tags: FARA, HLOGA, jill holtzman vogel, K Street, LDA, Lobbying, lobbying law, lobbyists
Posted in Training & Events | Comments Off on New Audioconference: Need to know lobbying laws for 2011
Tuesday, September 14th, 2010 by Vbhotla
Tags: HLOGA, Lobbying
Posted in Lobbying News | Comments Off on On This Day in Lobbying History
Monday, September 13th, 2010 by Vbhotla
Transparency advocates can celebrate September 14 this week because of The Honest Leadership and Open Government Act. The lobbying disclosure amendment – a major piece of legislation amending the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 – was signed into law by President George W. Bush on September 14, 2007.
The legislation was the result of a top Democratic priority in the 11oth Congress – “clearing the swamp” after multiple Congressional ethics scandals. Newly appointed Speaker Pelosi, along with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, sought to take advantage of the public discontent to add an additional layer of scrutiny – as well as criminal sanctions – to the ethics rules already in place in Congress.
The bill, which was S.1, introduced by Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), passed in the Senate quickly, in January 2007, and then a companion bill, introduced in the House by Rep. John Conyers, (which originated as H.R. 2316) languished in the House until July 2007. Differences were resolved over the course of three days, and the bill was sent to the White House in early September.
A 2007 article from the Washington Post highlights several objections that then-Pres. Bush had at the time that he signed the bill, including a belief that the legislation was not tough enough on earmarks:
“Bush had complained that the earmark disclosure requirements are too loose, and hinted in early August that he might veto the bill. In a statement Friday, he said the bill has important elements but must be followed by measures to crack down further on earmarks.”
The Washington Post story is here: “Bush Signs Lobby-Ethics Bill.” Read the full text of the public law here, on the GPO site, and read the House and Senate versions here: House and Senate.
Tags: HLOGA, lobbying disclosure
Posted in Government Relations Alert | Comments Off on Happy Third Anniversary, HLOGA!
Wednesday, August 11th, 2010 by Drew
Thomas Spulak, writing in The Hill on Monday, made some fantastic points about problems facing the lobbying industry right now. Lobbyists are de-registering in droves, he says–a result of stricter HLOGA rules and the rush of anti-lobbyist sentiment stemming from Obama’s ongoing campaign against the industry.
Singling out lobbyists is, in fact, a source of the sense of corruption the administration is seeking to end. Spulak writes:
The singling out of lobbyists and the attendant attachment of the Scarlet L has caused individuals to seek loopholes and exceptions to avoid registration. When someone, no less than the president of the United States, says lobbyists are bad, who would want to be one? It is ironic that those who want to go beyond the letter of the law and adhere to its spirit by registering are thrown into a class subject to suspicion and disdain by the leaders of our government.
The problem, Spulak says, is that demonizing an entire profession does us all harm because there will always be lobbyists; the right to lobby is, after all, protected by the Constitution. Further, not all lobbyists are advocating for “evil corporate interests”–there are lobbyists for Boy Scouts! And whales! And poor people! And puppies! Spulak says it best:
There will always be lobbyists; they are mere advocates for interests. Certainly, not all interests are as popular as others, but shouldn’t unpopular causes have a chance to be heard? Government officials can always ignore what they hear or even refuse to meet with certain industries or interests. That has always been the case anyway. Continuing to rail against lobbyists may be good political fodder in the short term, but in the long run it creates a false sense of corruption in Washington that makes all government officials guilty by association with the bogeyman that they created.
A blog post on OMB Watch (“Greater Disclosure Reduces Sense of Corruption”) makes an excellent point to complete this discussion: instead of demonizing an industry which may have some bad actors but overall offers a necessary democratic service, let’s move towards improving the disclosure system to obviate the impulse for corruption in the first place. “The registration process is cumbersome and unevenly recorded by the Clerk of the House and the Secretary of the Senate,” OMB writes. “And don’t try getting information out of those systems … the demand should be focused on better systems of disclosure.”
Tags: Disclosure, HLOGA, Lobbying, lobbyists
Posted in From the Eyes of the Editors | Comments Off on The real problem isn’t lobbyists, it’s lobbying rules