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Lobbyists and Transparency Groups Team Up on Registration Requirements

Groups advocating for greater transparency and accountability in government have long advocated for stricter standards dictating who must register as a lobbyist in Washington. Now it appears that lobbyists are coming on board as well:

The American League of Lobbyists has teamed with the Sunlight Foundation in hopes of changing the law to require more of Washington’s influence class to register.

“I don’t care if you call it a rainmaker or a strategic adviser, if you’re talking to a lawmaker about any issue or anything you’re lobbying,” said Dave Wenhold, president of the league, which represents 1,100 lobbyists.

The current law requires people to register if they spend enough time and money on lobbying. A lobbyist, according to the lobbying disclosure act, makes more than one lobbying contact, spends more than 20 percent of their time on lobbying activities and has more than $11,500 in lobbying expenses over the course of the year.

Such lax standards allow anyone who says he or she doesn’t clear the 20 percent benchmark to avoid registering and thereby skirt the disclosure requirements that apply to lobbyists. This wiggle room led to a rash of deregistering among lobbyists in 2008 and 2009, when thousands of lobbyists, including the Sunlight Foundation’s co-founder Ellen Miller, removed themselves from the books — an ironic side effect of tougher lobbying laws passed by Congress. Stricter requirements, good government groups hope, will help bring their activities back into the public record.

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