After being defeated for re-election in 2004, Daschle, like many retiring lawmakers, joined a law firm heavily engaged in lobbying and became a “policy adviser” to a number of corporate clients. He earned a salary from the firm that rose to over $2 million in the waning years of the Bush administration, in addition to $2 million in 2008 for advising a private equity firm.
While questions over Daschle’s taxes scuttled his 2008 nomination to become secretary of health and human services, he continued to play a key role, visiting the White House, participating in Obama administration meetings and working with legislators on healthcare policy. Now with the firm DLA Piper, Daschle simply refuses to register for his lobbying activities, though he counts major healthcare firms among his clients.
Daschle, like other unregistered lobbyists, could muster a legal defense for his failure to register. Designed to ensure that regular citizens petitioning their government would not be forced to register as lobbyists, the LDA has a three-pronged test to determine who must register—a test that inadvertently allows Washington’s biggest influence peddlers to ignore the disclosure law.
According to this test, a lobbyist is an individual (1) who earns at least $2,500 from lobbying over a three-month period; (2) whose services include more than one lobbying contact; and (3) who spends at least 20 percent of his time during a three-month period making “lobbying contacts.” If a lobbyist can argue that just one of these descriptions doesn’t apply to him, he is not required to register.
Lobbyists, moreover, are considered lobbyists only if they advocate on behalf of a certain position on legislation; if they’re simply gathering intelligence, they’re not considered lobbyists under the law.