Lanny Davis, Washington attorney and former Clinton White House counsel, wrote an very interesting editorial that was published earlier this week in The Washington Times. In it he advocates for "total transparency" lobbying reform.
Here's his proposal:
Every lobbyist visiting a member of Congress or the executive branch to influence official action (the definition of lobbying) should first be required to sign in on an online, real-time computer (and thus, immediately accessible to all). Information to be disclosed before the meeting should include the lobbyist's name, the client represented, the amount paid by month or year for lobbying, the specific purpose of the meeting, the position to be taken by the lobbyist, the legislation to be discussed, the action to be requested (the "ask" or "asks," to be updated after meeting), and the amount of current and prior campaign donations made by the client, the lobbyist and relatives associated with both. Every time, every meeting. It's as simple as that.
He says that total transparency would level the playing field. Both the lobbyist and the legislator or executive branch official would realize that the public would soon know everything that they discussed and pitched. "With total transparency, lobbyists and the officials they try to influence will have to ask themselves the question ‘would I mind if this lobbying meeting is fully reported in all respects in tomorrow's newspaper?'" Davis writes that if the answer is "yes" then the meeting is cancelled. This is a good thing, he adds, "for the public - and certainly for the lobbyist and the legislator as well, who probably do not want to risk going to jail."
Sounds great to me!
Hat tip: OMB Watch.
Update: For more information, check out what Sunlight researcher Paul Blumenthal wrote on Monday.