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Thursday, July 7, 2016

Lobby "Reform" Spurred Shadow Lobbying

At Politico, Isaac Arnsdorf tells how the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007 led to an explosion of shadow lobbying.
Nine years later, the result of the law is very nearly the opposite of what the American public was told it was getting at the time. Not only did the lobbying reform bill fail to slow the revolving door, it created an entire class of professional influencers who operate in the shadows, out of the public eye and unaccountable. Of the 352 people who left Congress alive since the law took effect in January 2008, POLITICO found that almost half (47 percent) have joined the influence industry: 84 as registered lobbyists and 80 others as policy advisers, strategic consultants, trade association chiefs, corporate government relations executives, affiliates of agenda-driven research institutes and leaders of political action committees or pressure groups. Taken as a whole, more former lawmakers are influencing policy and public opinion now than before the reform was enacted: in a six-year period before the law, watchdog group Public Citizen found 43 percent of former lawmakers became lobbyists.

This is not another story about best intentions and unforeseen consequences. The 2007 law was deliberately watered down by lawmakers concerned about their own job prospects, POLITICO has learned from dozens of interviews with former legislators and staffers. Those lawmakers made sure that their departing colleagues could secretly negotiate lucrative new jobs and orchestrate lobbying from behind the scenes without fear of detection or punishment. Many of the lawmakers who shaped the bill — including Sens. Trent Lott (R-Miss.), the late Bob Bennett (R-Utah), Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), and Jim DeMint (R-S.C), and Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-Calif.) — then went on to join the influence economy themselves.