Congress Loosens Lobbyist Disclosure


The Clerk of the House and the Secretary of the Senate are loosening their interpretation of lobbyist disclosure provisions on gifts to lawmakers and staff members and on PAC contributions. The new rules will be put in place after lobbyists and ethics lawyers launched a lobbying campaign to loosen disclosure requirements in the new LD-203 form – a new disclosure document requiring disclosure of campaign contributions and gifts.

The two offices initially ruled that lobbyists must disclose the fee of events where a “covered official” is in attendance. This rule no longer applies:

The new revisions require lobbyists and lobbying organizations to report the fee or contribution for an event if a covered official is honored or receives an award and they are a “sponsor” as defined by the Senate and House gift rules.

The House and Senate’s gift rules take a narrow view of sponsor, requiring that a person or group not only make a financial contribution to an event but have primary responsibility for the event’s organization.

The new ruling also reduce disclosure for lobbyist spending through political action committees (PACs):

The previous guidance stated that lobbyists sitting on a PAC board would have to list all donations of the PAC on their personal LD-203 form. This could require a single lobbyist to list all the donations of several PACs they were involved with.

Under the new guidance, lobbyists are required to list only that they are on the board of the connected PAC, not document the individual contributions made by the PAC.

While certain lobbyists were complaining to force these changes, Sunlight’s John Wonderlich filed his LD-203 and had this to say about it on twitter, “lobbying disclosure was really painless.” Onerous disclosure requirements are in the eye of the beholder, I guess.