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Tag Archive: LDA

Make Lobbying for Foreign Interests More Transparent

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Sunlight will be making a big push in the 112th Congress for improvements to lobbying disclosure. As part of that effort, we will also call for amendments to the Foreign Agents Registration Act, the law that requires anyone who lobbies the U.S. government on behalf of a foreign interest to register and report his or her activities with the Justice Department. FARA requires fairly detailed information from lobbyists, including the names of the government employees or Members of Congress contacted and the dates of each contact. (This fundamental information is not required by the Lobbyist Disclosure Act and is a reporting loophole Sunlight aims to close.) Unfortunately, many details regarding the work of foreign agents is hidden from public view because it is buried in unsearchable PDF documents. Sunlight and ProPublica have teamed up to put some of the FARA data in electronic form, but full transparency demands that FARA forms be electronically filed and all data reported made publicly available in searchable, sortable, downloadable databases.

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Lobbying data is public but not reliably searchable

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The 1995 Lobbying Disclosure Act, requires all lobbyists to file reports with the Clerk of the House of Representatives and Secretary of the Senate and that those two offices “maximize public access” to the documents through “computerized systems.” But the searchable database of every filing by registered federal lobbyists, made available through the Senate’s Office of Public Records, has a major problem: its search engine doesn’t work correctly.

One issue is reliability — searches by a wide array of Center reporters have frequently yielded false negatives or been stymied by system outages. In fact, a registrant search for “American ...

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