Registered lobbyists are mostly compliant – but what about the unregistered ones?

Tom Daschle. Photo credit: U.S. Senate

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report last week reviewing how well lobbyists follow disclosure rules; specifically in relation to the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995, which was amended by the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007. And, according to the report, registered lobbyists aren’t that bad.

What it misses, of course, is all of the non-lobbyist lobbyists out there who are as influential — if not more so — than the people who have official registrant IDs (an identifier you get when you register as a lobbyist).

Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich are among the more famous to lobby under the radar, with Daschle becoming a senior policy adviser in the government affairs division of DLA Piper in 2009. In 2012, the Washington Post reported that Gingrich got paid $1.65 million by Freddie Mac for consulting, not lobbying, yet the contract with Freddie Mac was overseen by the lobbying division of the the government-sponsored mortgage company.

Nonetheless, what the GAO found is that lobbyists are largely compliant with the rules they are held to. However, the GAO did find that 17 percent of lobbyists did not report some of their revolving door activity.

You can read the whole report on the GAO’s website. Below are the report’s key findings:

  • Ninety-six percent of newly-registered lobbyists filed LD-2 reports as required. Lobbyists are required to file LD-2 reports for the quarter in which they first register.
  • Ninety-six percent could provide documentation for income and expenses. However, 33 percent of these LD-2 reports were not properly rounded to the nearest $10,000.
  • Ninety-two percent filed year-end 2012 or midyear 2013 LD-203 reports as required.
  • Seventeen percent of all LD-2 reports did not properly disclose one or more previously held covered position as required.
  • Four percent of all LD-203 reports omitted one or more reportable political contributions that were documented in the Federal Election Commission database.