What is a Contact with a Member of Congress?


We are pushing, as you may know, for a requirement that people who are paid to lobby should report all contacts with Members of Congress and their staff.

As a person who is paid to lobby, among other things — and trying to live up to our “report all contacts” proposal — I am now in the weeds of trying to figure out what a “contact” is. Clearly, if I spend 20 minutes with an old friend gabbing because I am trying to butter him up for some radical Open Government ideas, that needs to be reported. But what if I send a substantive email to an old friend (who happens to be a key staffer for a new Senator) and get no response? The main reason lobbyists would not want to report unreturned phone calls and emails is that they are a little embarrassing, perhaps, but as citizens, do we care? We might — if five lobbyists are all calling from the gas industry, perhaps the first call is unreturned, but the third call is returned because of the accretion of efforts to make contact. We all know that an unreturned phone call or email does not mean we didn’t listen or read. On the other hand, if all emails and phone calls are listed, including those shot off with out punctuation — “sounds good!” — we get into the land of the absurd.

Here’s the question of the day. Say I quickly dashed off a typo-ridden comment on a Member of Congress’ website, including my own contact information. I have a strong inclination not to report this, because I don’t want my colleagues to see the depths of my ability to add irrelevant capitalization when corresponding with a Member of Congress, and because it seems, well, trivial. On the other hand, if a lobby group hired an intern to dash of typo-ridden comments on every Member of Congress’ blog about the “death tax,” I would want to know.

In an excess of caution, I have chosen to take the open road. Here is my Open Lobby report (hidden under the fold):

Contacted: Jack Kingston When: December 14 Where: Comment on “Jack’s Blog” Read it yourself: http://kingston.house.gov/blog/?p=624#comments About Bills: S 2179, S 2180 About topics: 72 hour rule, Online filing, Lobbying Transparency, Punching the Clock Relations: I am not an ex-staffer, neice, mother, sister, or other relation to Jack Kingston, or any other Member of Congress. Special Notes: I had not eaten lunch yet.

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