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Overview

Even as the federal government does almost nothing to force lobbyists to disclose their activities, most states require some degree of disclosure on lobbyists.  Disclosure laws typically require lobbyists to list who they are lobbying for on what issues.  The amount of each lobbying contract is also typically disclosed.  Additionally, lobbying activities should be overseen by an independent body that has the authority to investigate lobbying activities for compliance with the disclosure law, the ability to punish violators, and a mandate to make lobbying information easily accessible to the public.  While many states are ahead of the federal government on this issue, many even now don't require lobbyists and their employees to report what they spend, and many other loopholes remain in existing state laws.

Best practices for lobbying disclosure and oversight include:

  • Monthly reporting of lobbying expenditures, including lobbying contract information and lobbyist compensation.
  • Online posting of lobby data, updated frequently.
  • A way to see who is lobbying on a particular bill and whether they are lobbying for or against it.
  • Aggregating information regarding how much particular industries are spending on lobbying.
Wisconsin has recently merged its elections and ethics oversight activities under the Government Accountability Board.  Wisconsin is one of only five states that require lobbyists to disclose what position they take on bills they are working on, and the state's website allows users to easily track lobbying on particular bills.  Washington's Public Disclosure Commission, established by the state's Public Disclosure Law (Chapter 42.17 RCW), has an internet site with comprehensive information on campaign finance, lobbying activities, and the personal financial disclosures of elected officials.