The nominating process for Democratic presidential candidates is complicated. It’s not just about who wins the most votes or the most states — it’s about who gets the most delegates to the Democratic National Convention. Most delegates are apportioned based on the results of state primaries and caucuses, but there are 712 “superdelegates” — including current and former elected officials, and high-ranking members of the Democratic National Committee — who can support whomever they choose, and can change their minds whenever they want prior to the convention.
And because this is Washington, some of these superdelegates are also lobbyists. Lee Fang at The Intercept has already highlighted several pro-Clinton superdelegates who are registered lobbyists. For example: This includes people like Bill Shaheen, who is registered to lobby for a company called Pain Care, which has “faced increasing scrutiny as local officials have noted that eight of the 10 most prolific opioid prescribers in New Hampshire’s Medicaid program worked for PainCare.” (Bill is also the husband of N.H. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, who’s already endorsed Hillary for president.) We think knowing which superdelegates are lobbyists provides transparency in the voting process, allowing voters to be aware of the potential currents of influence behind these superdelegates’ votes.
And accomplishing this can be more difficult than it seems: Not everyone who does what most of us would think of as lobbying is registered as a lobbyist. Individuals only have to register if they spend more than 20 percent of their time lobbying, and the number of registered lobbyists has actually declined as the disclosure requirements increased. Instead, these individuals might now describe themselves as a “policy adviser” or “government affairs specialist,” and there is little enforcement against those who don’t register but still perform lobbying activities. (If you want to understand the world of shadow lobbying, you probably can’t do better than to start with Fang’s piece at The Nation from 2014.) This is a very complicated and murky area — it’s really hard to draw clear lines on what counts as lobbying when the range of advocacy activities that happen in Washington is so great — but it seems clear that there’s a lot of lobbying activity that goes unreported and a lot of lobbyists who go unregistered.
Vox’s Alvin Chang recently published an excellent interactive chart identifying all the Democratic superdelegates, detailing where they’re from and what their role is within the committee. Alvin very kindly shared his data with us so we could create this spreadsheet, and we need your help. We’re going to be looking into which superdelegates are registered lobbyists, and which of them have roles that might be considered shadow lobbying.
You can help us by filling in the Google form below — list the delegate’s name and state, and provide a link to a source that shows a kind of advocacy activity. This could be a variety of things: a lobbying registration found through Influence Explorer, or a bio on a lobbying firm’s website. We’re also going to check state-level lobbying registrations, too, but that’s a lot tougher. As a reminder, we’re looking for terms like “government relations,” “public affairs” or “advising” related to policy, strategy, Capitol Hill or the White House. We’ll be following up and vetting these contributions, and updating this story as we go. Thanks for your help!