Lobbying Reform

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Lobbying Reform

Conference Home Other Resource Sheets: Clean Money Elections | Ending Contract Pay-to-Play

The Problem:

The federal lobbying scandal tied to Jack Abramoff, who was recently sentenced to almost six years in prison for bribery, is unfortunately just a mirror of the flow of crooked money in our statehouses as well. The most prominent recent examples are Governor Bob Taft of Ohio pleading guilty of not disclosing gifts and golf outings paid for by lobbyists, and a Tennessee investigation leading to the May 2005 arrests of five current and former lawmakers on charges of accepting bribes, conspiracy and extortion. The danger of big money lobbying is clear:
  • Lobbying at our statehouses is a billion dollar per year business.
  • Nearly 47,000 separate groups hire more than 38,000 lobbyists or an average of five lobbyists and $130,000 in expenditures per state legislator.
  • The Center for Public Integrity recently highlighted the extent of pharmaceutical industry lobbying, a $44 million state operation during 2003 and 2004.
The Revolving Door: While there has been focus on lawmakers being treated to lunch and dinner, flown to resorts, given tickets to sporting events, and invited to golf outings, these gifts pale in comparison to the "revolving door" jackpot for some legislators�a cushy lobbying job for the legislators themselves when they leave office after serving the industry's interests. Again the pharmaceutical industry is a good example -- a third of federal lobbyists hired by the drug companies are former government officials and their state lobbying army includes dozen of former state lawmakers. And the drug companies are just one player in a lobbyist bazaar dangling the promise of a billion dollars worth of lobbying jobs for legislators and government officials after they leave their posts�as long as they deliver the goods on legislation, regulations or public contracts for industry lobbyists.

Best Practices on Lobbying Reform:

Banning Gifts: Seven states ban gifts from lobbyists completely, while others are increasingly tightening rules and disclosure on any smaller expenses like meals paid for at events sponsored by lobbyists. Disclosure: Most states force some degree of disclosure on lobbyists, but many lack key elements. Here are the best practices:
  • Disclosure filings on a monthly basis
  • Require lobbyists and their employees to report their compensation
  • >Report all lobbying of the executive branch or other agencies dispensing public money
  • Electronic posting of all disclosure information
  • Auditing authority by independent state agency or official given specific enforcement authority
  • Regular mandatory reviews and audits
  • Statutory penalties for late filing of disclosure forms
Ending the Revolving Door: Discouraging departing lawmakers from taking jobs with the interest groups that had previously lobbied them should be the top priority of all lobbying reform. Six states have imposed a two-year moratorium before former legislators or other government officials can become lobbyists, while twenty states have imposed a one-year moratorium.

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