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Lobbyist Government

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Federal Lobbying
In the United States, there are more than fifty different versions of lobbying laws in states and territories. On the Federal level, lobbying is defined as being “any communication made on behalf of a client to members of Congress, congressional staffers, the president, White House staff and high-level employees of nearly 200 agencies, regarding the formulation, modification, or adoption of legislation.” Though there is much disagreement about lobbyists, there have been laws enacted to try and control them and those who abuse lobbying. There is always room for improvement with regards to lobbying laws, because there is still your classic loop holes that people use to avoid being in violation of the law.
Corporations, organizations, universities, non-profit groups, and even churches lobby the federal government. Organizations, such as those listed, purposely employ people who are known as lobbyists, for services that include “making more than one lobbying contact on behalf of a client” and who also engage in other lobbying activities. Since 1988, 22,000 companies and organizations have employed 3,500 lobbying firms and over 27,000 lobbyists. Over time, many would agree that lobbyists have become very powerful. With the increase of power that these lobbyists have with regards to governmental policies, regulations and laws must also be revised and re-enacted to combat the increased power being gained.
Lobbyists are required to register with Congress if their lobbying expenditures exceed more than $24,500 in a six month period. The Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the House of Representatives oversee federal lobbying. Under the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995, both offices are required to ensure timely and accurate reports which are to be made available to the public. However, according to the Center for Public Integrity report, 14,000 documents that were supposed to be filed with the Senate’s Office of Public Records were never filed, nor can they be found. In addition, in the past six years, forty-nine of the top fifty lobbying firms failed to file required forms.
In addition to the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995, federal lobbying is also regulated by the Ethics Reform Act of 1989, and congressional and executive regulations addressing travel, gifts and ethics. The rules of the United Sates House of Representatives on Gifts and Travel as well as touched on this subject in saying that, “as travel expenses may not be accepted from an individual who is a registered lobbyist, they likewise may not be accepted from a lobbying firm.” This was seen with the well known lobbyist Jack Abramoff case in which he clearly violated and abused lobbying laws. Abramoff financed trips made to former house Majority Leader Tom DeLay and other alleged favors performed. Although you think it would of ended here but it has not. In addition to Abramoff’s case there have ninety other ethics violation in accordance to lobbyist laws.
The continuing abuse and scandals involving lobbyists has brought to light the problems that we have with our current nation’s lobbying laws. Many people believe that we should in fact limit the influence that lobbyists have in the political realm. Some believe that we should start by decreasing the relationships that politicians have with lobbyists, and decrease a politician’s dependency on lobbyists for money and political strategy to prohibiting private groups. For others it is as easy as three parts, improving lobbying disclosure, slowing the revolving door, and limiting the influence peddling by lobbyists.
With regards to our problem involving paperwork not being filed or processed as they should be, there needs to be a requirement for electronic filing, searchable and downloadable databases with the ability for it to be sorted, which could help with eliminating our current problem. This would be a web-based disclosure program, which would require lobbyists and lobbying firms to electronically file all paperwork needed for records. Someone could also push the bar a little further for a single reporting method for lobbying expenditures, to keep track of how much, when, and for what.
Since lobbyists only have to report twice a year, there is a significant lack of paperwork being filed, which can mean that a bill can be passed before anyone is able to find out what lobbyists did to pass it. Hundreds of millions of dollars are not being accounted for and are being exempt from disclosure; we are not seeing how the money is being spent. Lobbyists donate large sums of money to a politician to support their campaign, and the only way we see the money spent is if we see a television ad, or a sign on the side of the road. These systems need to be updated with our rising technology.
The second section, slowing the revolving door, would extend the revolving door “cooling off” period to two years and include prohibition on all lobbying activity during that period. Those whom were once members of Congress and turned to lobbying should be stripped of their special access including perks and privileges with their colleagues. The third section, states to prohibit registered lobbyists from making, soliciting, or arranging for campaign contributions to those whom they lobby, in addition to prohibiting privately- sponsored travel for government officials and their staff.
Additionally, we need to establish some sort of agency that would act under Congress to help monitor and enforce federal lobbying, travel, gift and ethics law. With having an agency dedicated solely to reviewing lobbyists, then we will be able to keep track of the money being donated, and where that money is being spent. Another perk to having an agency for monitoring lobbyists is so they can help prevent lobbyists from abusing the system. These changes later became known as the Lobbying and Ethics Reform Act of 2005.
In 2007, criminal and civil punishments were finally enacted for those who chose not to follow the ethics rules, lobbying registration requirements, and lobbying reporting requirements. This task was accomplished through the passage of the Honest and Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007. Punishments for violating such an act could be anything from a fine up $200,000 in addition to up to five years in jail. Since this federal law has been enacted several states have also been busy changing their current lobbying laws to mirror the federal government’s new law to help combat lobbyists.
Investigations have also become increasingly prevalent, because more and more lobbyist groups are still abusing the laws and being able to hide under the radar without anyone noticing for long periods of time. A prime example of lobbyists flying under the radar can be found in the federal investigation of the Titan Corporation. The Titan Corporation was in violation of the Lobbying Disclosure Act, which required organizations to report both in-house lobbying expenses and those expenses that happen to represent the executive and legislative branches. The Titan Corporation had failed to report accurate lobbying expenses for almost four years before someone pick up on it. The most recent change regarding lobbyist control reform occurred on March 20th with the Obama Administration. The Obama Administration released an executive order that was directly related to lobbying activities. President Obama increased the restrictions of lobbyists and their role in helping companies obtain federal stimulus funding. In May 2009 Obama, along with the help of his administration, were able to successfully banned lobbyists from speaking with administration officials about specific economic stimulus projects. By banning lobbyists from being able to talk to Congress, this took away the upper hand that lobbyists may have had over persuading Congress to vote a particular way during voting time on stimulus package bills. First and foremost, lobbyist laws need to keep up-to-date. Times, technologies, and society, are all constantly changing and evolving, as should our lobbying laws. By doing this we would not be leaving as many loopholes for lobbyists and others who are clearly abusing these laws. This goes along with making sure lobbying laws are precise and are carefully drafted before being enacted. By having broad laws it gives companies and agencies opportunities to find ways around the law, back to the loophole comment. “Federal lobbying law has taken on a dynamism that was not envisioned when the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 (LDA) was enacted. There is no sign that the rate of change will slow significantly in the future.”
In January 2007, lobbying reform was the first order of business for the 110th congress. The main reasoning for this was the rigorous gift and travel rules aimed specifically towards lobbyists, which were immediately put in to effect. However, many argue that even after lobbying reform more still needs to be done with gifts and travel rules. That the dictation of how and what things lobbyists and other companies can use their money for is still unclear or that laws should be even more strict. Much of the changes should have been made, have been already made, or are currently in the works. HLOGA, Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007, as mentioned earlier in the paper, have done a lot to help with reforming lobbyist laws. In terms of closing a lot of those loopholes, it also allows for the disclosing of lobbyists past executive and congressional employment so that the public has the ability to know the past relationships they had. A strong addition to lobbying laws is the new law that involves increasing civil penalties, along with strengthening enforcement of the House and Senate’s ethical rules. A lot of the new laws being enacted will help with cutting down on lobbying abuse and disclosing information more to the public. We need to, as previously stated, stay on top of documentation making sure we are able to get the documentation needed timely and correctly. All things need to be accounted for especially when it comes to money. By having tighter security it can also improve on cutting down on current issues. We have come a long way from our beginning problems in which nothing was truly being done about it.
There will continue to be much disagreement about lobbyists and lobbying. Perhaps we will never make everyone happy with the current laws enacted, those currently trying to get past, or the ones we will be created in the future. There is always room for improvement with regards to lobbying laws, because there is still your classic loop holes that people use to avoid being in violation of the law. However, just like society, we have laws for speeding, murder, rape etc. We can implement as many laws as we want but there will always be those who violate them, as with lobbying.

National Conference of State Legislatures . (2008, March). NCSL: Legislatures and Elections . Retrieved October 1, 2009, from Ethics: How States Define "Lobbying" and "Lobbyist": http://www.ncsl.org/LegislaturesElections/Ethics/EthicsHowStatesDefineLobbyingandLobbyist/tabid/15344/Default.aspx

Brown, E. (2006, January 18). The Center for Public Integrity:Lobby Watch. Retrieved October 1, 2009, from Lobbying FAQ: What is Permissible? Out of Bounds? Punishable?: http://projects.publicintegrity.org/lobby/report.aspx?aid=775

Ibid, see footnote 2 Ibid, see footnote 2 Ibid, see footnote 2 Ibid, see footnote 2 Ibid, see footnote 2 Ibid, see footnote 2 Ibid, see footnote 2 Ibid, see footnote 2 Public Citizen. (2005, July 28). LobbyingInfo.org. Retrieved October 2, 2009, from Proposed Reforms Regarding the Disclosure and Regulation of Federal Lobbying (summary): http://www.lobbyinginfo.org/reform/page.cfm?pageid=23 Brodsky, R. (2006, June 12). The Center of Public Integrity. Retrieved October 3, 2009, from Flouting the Rule on Lobbyist-Paid Travel: http://projects.publicintegrity.org/powertrips/report.aspx?aid=266

Ibid, see footnote 12 Ibid, see footnote 12 Ibid, see footnote 11 Public Citizen. (2009). LobbyingInfo.org. Retrieved October 1, 2009, from Reform the System: http://www.lobbyinginfo.org/reform/

Ibid, See footnote 13 Ibid, see footnote 13 Ibid, see footnote 13 Ibid, see footnote 13 Ibid, see footnote 13 Ibid, see footnote 11 Ibid, see footnote 11 Ibid, see footnote 11 Ibid, see footnote 11 Ibid, see footnote 13 Ibid, see footnote 13 Keeley, K. (2009). LobbyingLaws.com. Retrieved October 2, 2009, from Survive the audit AND stay off the front page!: http://www.lobbyinglaws.com/

Ibid, see footnote 25 Ibid, see footnote 25 Ibid, see footnote 25 Public Citizen. (2004, July 26). Public Citizen Calls for Investigation of Titan’s Lobbying Records. Retrieved October 3, 2009, from Press Room: http://www.citizen.org/pressroom/release.cfm?ID=1755

Ibid, see footnote 29 Ibid, see footnote 29 Ibid, see footnote 29 Ibid, see footnote 25 Ibid, see footnote 25 Ibid, see footnote 25 Shalal-Esa, A. (2009, September 13). News Daily. Retrieved October 3, 2009, from Obama lobbying rules having unintended effects: http://www.newsdaily.com/stories/tre58c1mk-us-obama-lobbying/

Luneburg, W., Susman, T., & Gordon, R. (2009). The Lobbying Manual: A Complete Guide to Federal Lobbying Law and Practice, Fourth Edition. Chicago: American Bar Association Publishing .

Ibid, See footnote 40 Ibid, see footnote 40 Ibid, see footnote 40 Ibid, see footnote 40

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