This is outrageous.
National Journal’s Under the Influence blog has a piece up on a new lobbying shop whose selling point appears to be that they can provide some services lobbying firms would provide, but without the reporting requirements.
Citing what its founders call a “volatile climate for lobbyists,” K Street Research opened shop today in hopes of helping clients with policy and research needs while lowering their lobbying disclosure numbers.
First, “policy and research” are incredibly vague descriptions.
Second, the lobbying disclosure act was designed to require disclosure of this sort of research. See 2 USC 1607 (7):
(7) Lobbying activities The term “lobbying activities” means lobbying contacts and efforts in support of such contacts, including preparation and planning activities, research and other background work that is intended, at the time it is performed, for use in contacts, and coordination with the lobbying activities of others.
Engaging in such lobbying activities isn’t enough to qualify as a lobbyist who has to file, however:
(10) Lobbyist The term “lobbyist” means any individual who is employed or retained by a client for financial or other compensation for services that include more than one lobbying contact, other than an individual whose lobbying activities constitute less than 20 percent of the time engaged in the services provided by such individual to that client over a 3-month period.
Apparently, by avoiding making more than one lobbying contact, this firm intends to make a business out of lobbying activity (writing white papers, etc), without triggering reporting requirements.
They’ll likely succeed in that, since there’s a strong demand for political influence, and a strong demand to avoid the scrutiny that comes along with it.
They should also succeed in drawing attention to the need to update the Lobbying Disclosure Act, since this business is apparently based on the benefits of skirting it.
I should add that everything I know about the new firm I’ve read in the National Journal’s blog post, so I’m reacting solely to what’s suggested there.
Costs like “policy advice and research”, however, don’t inflate lobbying reporting numbers, they’re intended to be part of them. This story suggests a way has been found to avoid having to report them.