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Tag Archive: Lobbyists

How much lobbying is there in Washington? It’s DOUBLE what you think

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With the help of the lobbying industry, Washington’s regional economy seems to have weathered the economic storm of recent years.  Curiously, though, the seemingly simple question “How much lobbying is there in Washington?” is surprisingly hard to answer.  After Congress passed the 1995 Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA), which ostensibly required all “lobbyists” to report their activities on behalf of paying clients, the answer should be a no-brainer: just find the legally-mandated disclosure forms, and count them up.  The Center for Responsive Politics, with support from the Sunlight Foundation, has been doing this (well!) for years.

The problem is that just about everybody in the influence world knows that these numbers fall way short of reality.  You might even say “under-the-radar,” “stealth,” or “shadow” lobbying is a bit of an Open Secret in Washington.  What we don’t know is just how many shadow lobbyists there are.

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The EU lobbyist register needs fixing

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After a summer of debate, the EU working group responsible for reviewing the joint lobbyist register of the European Commission and European Parliament is poised to make recommendations for the future of the register. Strong regulations can shed light on how lobbyists shape the policy making process in the EU. However, the register in its current form is “unsustainable, misguided and simply not credible” -- according to a detailed report by the ALTER - EU, a coalition of about 200 civil society groups, trade unions, academics and public affairs firms concerned with the increasing influence exerted by corporate lobbyists on the political agenda in Europe.

The Sunlight Foundation applauds efforts to create more transparency around lobbying in the EU and encourages everyone to sign the petition launched by the ALTER-EU coalition.

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Supreme Court Could Snuff Out Last Ember of the Campaign Finance System

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FECLogoOn Oct. 8, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, a case in which the plaintiff, Shaun McCutcheon, joined by the Republican National Committee, is challenging the constitutionality of the overall limit on contributions to federal candidates and political parties.  If the court rules in favor of McCutcheon and the RNC, it might as well tie a big bow around Congress and deliver it to a tiny percentage of the very, very rich. Plutocracy anyone?

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Sunlight Joins Effort Across the Pond as Britain Tries to Rein In Influence Buying

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The sign for K Street, NW in DC - the home of lobbying in America.A heated debate over proposed lobbying legislation is underway in Great Britain, where lobbying reform legislation has been offered as a result of a scandal in which Members of the House of Lords apparently offered assistance to fake solar energy lobbyists in exchange for payment. Prime Minister David Cameron proposed lobbying reform legislation in 2010, but it took the scandal to muster enough outrage to spawn reform efforts. Much of the outcry over the bill is focused on provisions that would limit the amount of money third parties could spend on elections.  But even more fundamentally, the bill fails to do what it set out to do—that is, shine a light on the activities of lobbyists. The bill is so poorly and narrowly crafted that it may result in less transparency than is currently provided by the UK’s voluntary (and woefully incomplete) lobbyist registry.

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What Have they Got to Hide? Lawmakers Should Allow Meetings with Lobbyists to be Disclosed

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The sign for K Street, NW in DC - the home of lobbying in America.Recently, my colleague Lee Drutman concluded that banks met with regulators at the Federal Reserve, Treasury and the Commodities Futures Trading Commission more than five times as often as reform-minded consumer groups in the past two years.  His analysis provides a valuable tool for the media, academics and the public to better understand who is trying to shape financial industry regulations. His conclusions, and the follow up questions that can now be asked (Did the banks get what they wanted? Are consumers’ interests being served?) are only possible because the agencies posted information about the meetings online. Which begs the question: If the regulators can provide information about who is trying to influence the regulations they write, why doesn’t the public have access to similar information about meetings Members of Congress or their staff have with lobbyists?

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