In the most recent, and possibly most repugnant, turn of the revolving door, FCC commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker will join Comcast just months after approving the Comcast/NBC Universal merger. The move spurred the New York Times to call for expanding the definition of lobbying. We agree. While Baker’s hiring may be a done deal, the lobby laws need to be changed so that we know who she is lobbying, about what, and when.
Rules put in place by the Obama administration mean that Baker will not be allowed to lobby anyone at the FCC for two years. That’s a sliver of an exclusion that leaves her plenty of opportunities to spread the Comcast/NBC message inside the beltway. The day after she starts, this well-connected, high-ranking administration official can start lobbying Congress on any issue, including the Comcast/NBC merger.
The current laws do next to nothing to inform the public about the ways Baker will wield her power on Capitol Hill. Sunlight is calling for changes in the current Lobbying Disclosure Act that would require her and others like her to report the names of the offices she lobbies—whether in person, on the phone, in writing or email—and link the names with the specific issues on which she sought government action. We would require that reporting to happen in real time and online.
We may not be able to close the revolving door, but we can find out what happens whenever people pass through it.