Monday, January 18, 2010

Lobbyists Underground: When is a Lobbyist not a Lobbyist?

When is a lobbyist not a lobbyist? When they choose not to register as one. The choosing appears to be a necessity. Even Ellen Miller, the co-founder of the Sunlight Foundation has gone underground - no longer registers as a lobbyist. Miss Miller is not a lobbyist in the true sense of the the word:

Miller's job is to keep an eye on those who shape public policy by pressing  "lawmakers directly."It is all about disclosure, and why would you want to register as a lobbyist when our President said there would be none inside his administration? Of course, lawmakers might invite "dozens of lobbyists to the DNC fundraiser last fall...but, well it was a mistake - so sorry. But inside the White House, lobbyists have a revolving door - because the President lifted his own ban, for his own convenience.

 This from June 2009:

There are now about 40,000 lobbyists eligible for jobs in the White House. I wonder what how he plans to control what they lobby for. 1 vs 40,000 doesn't look like good odds to me. If he can bend a rule this early in his term, there is no saying where he'll go next.

 The number of registered lobbyists fell by about 2,000 to 1,300 in 2009:
The falloff began shortly after Congress passed a sweeping ethics and lobbying law that imposed on registered lobbyists both heavier reporting requirements and potential criminal penalties. The law required lobbyists to report four times a year instead of two, and to detail any campaign contributions and certain meetings with public officials. The law also made it a crime for registered lobbyists to provide gifts or meals to lawmakers or their aides.
But for all its penalties, the law left the definition of a lobbyist fairly elastic. The criteria included getting paid to lobby, contacting public officials about a client’s interests at least twice in a quarter and working at least 20 percent of the time on lobbying-related activities for the client.
The irony is, Congress demands certain things from those who register as lobbyists, but Congress does not demand that you register as a lobbyist in the first place, to continue doing the job of a lobbyist. Here's an example:
Of course, even before the new rules, there were some public policy advisers who avoided registration while nonetheless profiting handsomely by helping private clients influence Congress and the White House. Under the Obama administration, the most conspicuous example is Tom Daschle, the former Democratic Senate leader. He advises colleagues and private clients on health care policy as a member of the lobbying firm Alston & Bird. And he also informally consults on health care policy with Mr. Obama, senior White House officials and former Senate colleagues. But he is not registered as a lobbyist. (Mr. Daschle has said he complies with all the rules.)
Anyone want to venture which lobbyists have access to the President, and which do not? The Obama administration is a blank slate representing a bald-faced lie.

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