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Immigration Battle Exposes Inadequacies of Lobby Disclosure

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Yesterday, the Senate moved one step closer to passing S. 1639, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill, which has been less than popular with the public, and with those on the left, the center left, the center right and the right. Of course, some are supporting the bill, but sadly, lobbying records are no help in determing who might be supporting it.

While the bill's opponents have been reporting on calls to lawmakers and posting videos on YouTube, the Senate Office of Public Records has posted only 17 lobbyist disclosure forms that list immigration as an issue of interest for 2007. In 2006, by contrast, 611 disclosures were filed, by everyone from the AARP and AFL-CIO to Wal-Mart and the Wine Institute, listing immigration as an issue on which they lobbied. But now, with a bill that would affect agriculture and construction, high tech and universities, food processing and small businesses, we know only that Duke University, Microsoft, and a handful of others are lobbying on the issue of immigration.

Are Gucci-loafered lobbyists whispering in senators' ears about cloture votes while offering to host posh fundraisers at which employees of their Fortune 500 clients will pony up tens of thousands of dollars in contributions? Are former chiefs of staffs and legislative aides and even senators gladhanding their old colleagues? Don't look to lobbyist disclosure to find out -- under the rules, lobbyists have up to 45 days after they start work to disclose a minimal amount of information--the name of their client and the issues they'll be addressing. Even then, it can take the Senate Office of Public Records, which at least posts the disclosures online, as much as 44 days to make the form public.

None of this necessary, of course -- meaningful lobbyist disclosure would bring their actions out from what Mark Steyn called the "metaphorically smoke-filled room" into the light of day. Wouldn't that make for a better process, not just on this bill, but on all of them.

Incidentally, here is the list of the immigration lobby as of June 27, 2007; again, I'm guessing this mildly understates K Street's interest.