When bailed out companies spend money to lobby the government, should we expect greater transparency about their lobbying operations? This is an important question considering that preliminary reports show that the top bailout firms spent over $10 million on lobbying the federal government in the first quarter of this year and $22 million on lobbying over the last six months. This is according to a Washington Post examination of lobbying disclosure reports:
The biggest spenders among major firms in the group included General Motors, which spent nearly $1 million a month on lobbying, and Citigroup and J.P. Morgan Chase, which together spent more than $2.5 million in their efforts to sway lawmakers and Obama administration officials on a wide range of financial issues. In all, major bailout recipients have spent more than $22 million on lobbying in the six months since the government began doling out rescue funds, Senate disclosure records show.
We have previously laid out principles that would inprove lobbying disclosure including, the real-time disclosure of lobbying contacts and the expansion of who registers as a lobbyist. It appears that commonsense would dictate that firms spending money on lobbying, and their hired lobbyists, while receiving taxpayer money to keep them from going bankrupt ought to, at the very least, be required to disclose lobbying contacts made to legislative and executive branch officials.
While I firmly believe that the disclosure of lobbying contacts should be adopted as an overall policy for all lobbyists, it wouldn't hurt to start with mandating disclosure from these select firms and their hired lobbyists.