Last week, GoodbyeJim.com's Jonathan Marks wrote a post about a company called ProLogic. After noting that that company has made campaign contributions to Rep. James Moran, and has hired a sophisticated lobbying firm, PMA Group, whose employees have been generous contributors to Moran's campaigns over the years, Marks raises what I think is a fairly important question: How does ProLogic win business? How does it fair against competing firms that don't have the benefit of any representation from a savvy insider firm like PMA Group (which describes what it does here)? And what does this say about the way procurement decisions are made in the government? Are we always buying the best mousetrap? Are we unable to buy the best mousetrap without the mediation of lobbyists? Conversely, are we making do with somewhat overpriced, somewhat mediocre mousetraps because the company that manufactures them hired the lobbyist with the right connections?Continue reading
This story, about the problems that the Coast Guard and its contractor, Integrated Coast Guard Systems (a joint venture of Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin), are having with their Deepwater program, got me thinking--and about something other than this report on the program by the Inspector General of the Dept. of Homeland Security. Under federal law (it's title 31 U.S.C. section 1352, for those of you keeping score at home), contractors and subcontractors, for-profits and non-profits, universities and state and local governments that lobby the federal government for contracts, grants, cooperative guarantees, loans, loan guarantees or loan insurance have to file a form, called SF-LLL, when they lobby the federal government for that contract, grant, cooperative guarantee, and so on. The instructions that come with the form say, "The filing of a form is required for each payment or agreement to make payment to any lobbying entity for influencing or attempting to influence an officer or employee of any agency, a Member of Congress,an officer or employee of Congress, or an employee of a Member of Congress in connection with a covered Federal action."Continue reading
My colleague Zephyr Teachout asks what we as citizens (and more narrowly, those of us at the Sunlight Foundation) should be doing to push for real reform in how Congress goes about its business. There's no shortage of proposals out there, including proposals to establish an independent office of public intregrity for Congress, banning gifts, travel and meals paid for by lobbyists or special interests, and reforming lobbying disclosure. On the latter topic, one suggestion I'd make is to consider using as a model the requirements of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, a piece of legislation that dates back to 1938 and was enacted to "insure that the American public and its law makers know the source of information (propaganda) intended to sway public opinion, policy, and laws."Continue reading
It looks like judges are getting with the transparency picture. Today, U.S. District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina ruled that by the end of next week, the Secret Service must produce access to records of who visited Vice President in his office and at his personal residence.
The Washington Post asked for two years of White House visitor logs in June but the Secret Service refused to process the request. Government attorneys called it "a fishing expedition into the most sensitive details of the vice presidency."Continue reading
The Washington Post, and reporters R. Jeffrey Smith and Carol D. Leonnig, have more on the investigation of Rep. Curt Weldon, his daughter, and some of his close political allies. What's interesting to me is how much of the information in the story comes from documents that federal law requires lawmakers and the lobbyists that try to influence them to disclose, and how little of that information is actually available to the public in a useful, searchable form. For example, Smith and Leonnig report on privately funded junkets to Serbia, Russia and Jacksonville, Fla., taken by Weldon and a member of his staff; if it weren't for the efforts of groups like the Center for Public Integrity and now the Center for Responsive Politics, those reports would be available only to researchers who trekked down to the Capitol.Continue reading