Saturday, April 23, 2016


Today’s the day that folks who lobby your elected representatives for a living have to file quarterly reports with Congress about what they’ve been up to. 

These reports will be carefully scrutinized and parsed by journalists and good-government watchdogs who track the business of influence in the nation’s capital. Alas, there’s only so much they won’t be able to find out. 

Lobbyists are required to report for whom they lobbied and on what issue and how much they got paid. But lobbyists for domestic interests, unlike those who represent foreign clients (even though they are often the same people) don’t have to report with whom they met, or how many times. Did they email with a deputy legislative assistant? Or have a tĂȘte-a-tĂȘte with a member of Congress? If they’re working on behalf of domestic interests (or foreign interests using a US-based corporate partner as a beard), we’ll never know. 

To check out the differences in reporting standards yourself, take a gander at a report the Podesta Group filed with Congress about its work for a domestic tobacco business, compared with one filed at the Justice Department describing the lobbying company’s work on behalf of some of its foreign clients.

There’s another gaping hole in our public information safety net: If you relied on the lobbying reports due today at the Clerk of the House and the Senate Office of Public Records, you might come to the conclusion that influence-peddling is a shrinking business in Washington. Numbers compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics suggest that the population of lobbyists in the nation’s capital has actually been dropping over the past few years. Fat chance. Can you spell L-O-O-P-H-O-L-E?

What is shadow lobbying? How influence peddlers shape policy in the dark - Sunlight Foundation Blog

What is shadow lobbying?

Shadow lobbying refers to someone who performs advocacy to influence public policy, like meeting legislators or their staff, without registering as a lobbyist — and it’s a big problem for anyone who cares about transparency in Washington. (For further reading on this topic, you can’t do better than to read Lee Fang’s 2014 investigation of shadow lobbying at The Nation.)