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
Online posting of lobby data,
A way to see who is lobbying
on a particular bill and whether they are lobbying for or against it.
regarding how much particular industries are spending on lobbying.
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.
Many states have suffered from public officials being involved in
ethics scandals. While sometimes there is talk of reform and other
overtures, comprehensive reform is most often elusive. However, some
states have managed, either in response to one particularly egregious
event or a history of problems being overturned in a wave of
dissatisfaction, to truly make a fundamental change. This year
Connecticut once again moved forward with a multi-year ethics reform
initiative, and Louisiana enacted one of the most far-reaching ethics
overhauls any state has in generations.
In the age of Google, citizens expect to be able to find core
information on the Internet about government operations, but as a major
new report being released today highlights, most states are failing on
At the core of many voters' frustrations with government is the sense
that, too often, politics is for sale. High-priced lobbyists offering
"gifts" to lawmakers swarm state legislatures; companies looking for
public contracts get too cozy with those handing out public money; and
corporate campaign contributions grease the wheels as public policy is
auctioned to the highest corporate bidder.