Posts Tagged ‘Tim LaPira’

The Lobbying Economy's Shadow

Thursday, October 9th, 2014 by Linnae O'Flahavan

IN A VOX ARTICLE LAST WEEK, researcher and online cialis reporter Andrew Prokop writes about a new research study done by Tim LaPira, a political scientist at James Madison University, which used the database to calculate the true lobbying economy, including a massive number of unregistered lobbyists. LaPira’s research found that less than half of federal lobbyists were legally registered to lobby, suggesting that the $3.3 billion officially spent on lobbying in 2012 was likely much closer to $7 billion.

LaPira and his team pulled out a random sample of people with federal lobbying-related jobs from the full catalog, and worked to recreate those people’s resumes using Google.

Once it was determined which of those people were engaged in federal public policy, LaPira calculated the percentage of those who were registered to lobby, which turned out to be a bit less than half of those in the sample. LaPira’s research confirms what many already suspected – that there is a massive underground “shadow lobbying” force at work.

This shadow lobbying force may exist for a variety of reasons.

The Center for Responsive Politics counts the number of lobbying disclosure forms filled out, but as LaPira argues in a post for the Sunlight Foundation, the LDA’s definition of a lobbyist is too narrow, and federal lobbyists are able to act as “strategic policy consultants” or “historical advisers” without ever having to register. Not to mention, a number of other factors may be cause for the current underground lobbying trend, including the Obama administration’s efforts to slow down the “revolving door,” new innovations regarding public relations strategies, digital advertising, the defeat of SOPA in 2012, and advances in social media.

Kate Ackley, in an article for Roll Call, suggests that one major cause for the decline in registered lobbyists is the lack of enforcement of lobbying laws. It’s true that Lobbying Disclosure Act violations are rarely prosecuted, although recently the Office of Congressional Ethics referred one case to the District of Columbia’s U.S. Attorney’s Office for failing to register. It’s possible that this signals a new era of harsher penalties and more frequent prosecutions, although it could remain in isolated incident. Understanding the reasons behind shadow lobbying and the de-registration of many federal lobbyists is difficult and complicated, but nevertheless the numbers show a trending increase in unregistered lobbying.

LaPira’s study produced well-researched quantifiable results confirming that despite a decline in the number of registered federal lobbyists, the lobbying economy is booming. While the results are not surprising, they are extremely helpful in better understanding the underground world of shadow lobbying. LaPira’s subsequent paper, co-authored by Herschel Thomas, describes his research methodology and results in even better detail. Here at Lobbyblog we are pleased to see the database put to such good use! Data Reveal $3.6 Billion in Undisclosed Expenditures

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013 by Geoffrey Lyons

IT’S WELL KNOWN within the beltway (and probably suspected from outside it) that most lobbying activity is off the record, hidden from the public eye.  When the GAO finds in its annual audit of lobbying disclosure reports that, for instance, 97 percent of lobbyists reported their income and expenses in 2012, the few of us who read such banal compositions have to chuckle, as if to say “yeah, 97 percent of registered lobbyists.”

It’s a plain fact that the so-called “influence industry” isn’t only comprised of registered lobbyists, and that recorded expenditures only make up a portion of what lobbyists are actually spending.  The rest of this money remains “dark,” “underground,” or whichever nefarious adjective fits the occasion.  But has anyone ever wondered how much is actually hidden?

Political Science Professor Tim LaPira has.  In his latest blog post for the Sunlight Foundation, LaPira takes data to estimate total lobbying expenditures in 2012. 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.

The magnitude of $6.7 billion is generously put into context:

Let’s put that number in perspective: For every one member of Congress, the influence industry produces about $12.5 million in lobbying. By comparison, the average 2012 budget for member [sic.] of the House of Representative’s office was only $1.3 million.  So, in 2012—a presidential election year, in a down economy, during arguably the least productive Congress ever—“government relaters” accounted for more than nine times the typical House member’s official operating expenses.

Whether LaPira’s findings are accurate is unknowable.  His calculations rely on the unfalsifiable assumption that lobbyists operating outside of the disclosure framework – “stealth” lobbyists, as he calls them – are spending just as much as their compliant peers.  Still, if LaPira’s estimate were off by as much as $2 billion, there remain billions that are being spent unaccountably and with insouciance for the law.  That’s concerning.