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Proposed Reforms Regarding the Disclosure and Regulation of Federal Lobbying (summary)

Posted on 07-28-2005 10:22 AM EDT

The disclosure and conduct of lobbying the federal government are governed by the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995, the Ethics Reform Act of 1989 and congressional and executive regulations addressing travel, gifts and ethics. But recent lobbying abuses and scandals have highlighted fundamental problems with the nation’s lobbying laws. These problems include an inadequate system of disclosure; a revolving door that is spinning out of control between public service and the private sector; and excessive influence peddling by special interests and their lobbyists. Public Citizen recommends the following legislative and regulatory reforms for enhancing the disclosure and conduct of lobbying activities.

Section I: Improving Lobbying Disclosure

  • Require electronic filing and a searchable, sortable and downloadable database that:
    • Requires mandatory electronic filing for all lobbyists and lobbying firms receiving or spending $20,000 or more per reporting period.
    • Includes separate electronic fields for each record required to be disclosed, especially bill numbers and issue areas lobbied.
    • Provides a fully searchable, sortable and downloadable Web-based disclosure program.
  • Require quarterly filing.
  • Require lobbyists to report the frequency and subject of each “in-person” lobbying contact and record the names of authors of legislative provisions.
  • Require disclosure of paid grassroots lobbying activities directed at the general public through mass communications (rather than at an organization’s members, employees, officers or shareholders).
  • Require corporations, unions and organizations that are members of a lobbying coalition to disclose their involvement.
  • Require lobbyists to disclose previous federal government employment.
  • Designate a single reporting method for lobbying expenditures.

Section II: Slowing the Revolving Door

  • Extend the revolving door “cooling off” period to two years and include a prohibition on all lobbying activity during that period.
  • Temporarily suspend special privileges of members of Congress who became lobbyists.
  • Improve scrutiny and disclosure of waivers from conflicts of interest granted to executive branch officials seeking private-sector employment.
  • Apply the same executive branch conflict of interest restrictions to future employment to members of Congress and their senior staff seeking private employment.

Section III: Limiting Influence Peddling by Lobbyists

  • Prohibit privately-sponsored travel for government officials and their staff.
  • Restore the “no-cup-of-coffee” gift ban.
  • Prohibit registered lobbyists from making, soliciting or arranging for campaign contributions to those whom they lobby.
  • Establish a central ethics agency for Congress to monitor and enforce federal lobbying, travel, gift and ethics laws.
  • Strengthen the Office of Government Ethics to monitor and enforce federal travel, gift, and ethics laws and regulations for the executive branch.

A detailed paper outlining Public Citizen’s recommendations for reforming the disclosure and conduct of lobbying is available at: http://www.lobbyinginfo.org/reform/





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