After a year of operating under the new reforms Congress enacted after a series of lobbyist-related scandals, lobbyists are reporting little disruption in most of their activities. The Honest Leadership and Open Government Act was the major piece of legislation embodying Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s effort to lead the “most honest and open” Congress. The biggest impact of the law appears to be on the hosting of parties by lobbyists.
A recently released study from Lobbyists.info shows that forty percent of lobbyists report less involvement in “hosting events at their offices where a covered official may attend, and 28 percent reported less participation in fund-raising events.” There are a variety of reasons for this, including reluctance among members of Congress to accept invitations and a lack of clarity among lobbyists regarding reporting requirements for event on the new contribution disclosure forms (LD-203).
The study also reports little disruption in lobbyist day-to-day activities. Seventy-five percent of respondents said that they have had no change in the number of face-to-face meetings with members of Congress or staff. A larger number, eighty-five percent, reports no reduction in phone or email contact.
Grassroots activities do not seem to be effected much by the new disclosure requirements. This is despite claims by the National Association of Manufacturers claiming that the disclosure rules would silence organizations and keep them from joining coalitions and engaging in grassroots engagement. NAM filed a lawsuit against the disclosure rules, eventually losing in the Supreme Court.
An oft repeated complaint about the reform before it was passed involved the amount of time spent on record keeping. Lobbyists feared that this would impede their ability to do their jobs. While more than eighty-five percent of respondents reported a heavy impact on record keeping, as indicated by the lack of impact on ordinary lobbying practices, the new disclosure requirements have not impacted their ability to do their job. Also, the new disclosure requirements have led to seventy-eight percent of respondents to have a tracking system for both lobbying activities and contributions, up from forty-three percent prior to the reforms.
This record keeping data holds a lot of promise for future, more detailed disclosure reforms. If nearly all lobbying operations have a record keeping system in place for lobbying activities and contributions it will be much easier to increase the amount of disclosure as recommended in the Transparency in Government Act.