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WASHINGTON, DC – Lobbyist registrations for 2016 hit an 18-year low according to reports filed this month with the Senate Office of Public Records. Just 11,143 lobbyists registered their work last year, compared with the 14,153 lobbyists registered publicly immediately before President Obama took office. The decline in lobbyist registrations reflects a growing “shadow lobbyist” trend, in which lobbyists use loopholes in the Lobbyist Disclosure Act (LDA) to avoid disclosing their work.
“The influence industry hasn’t gone anywhere – it’s just gotten less transparent,” said Andre Delattre, Executive Director for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. “Voters have a right to know what special interests are working to influence their lawmakers, and today’s laws don’t live up to that standard. Without any transparency, without the required disclosure, our laws are unenforceable and our voters are left in the dark. If Congress and the Trump administration want to act on ethics reform, the most important thing they can do is to close lobbying loopholes.”
Under current law, lobbyists are able to dodge registration under the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA) if they spend less than 20 percent of their time lobbying, or if they lobby for multiple clients, spending no more than 20 percent of their time on a single client. Reports estimate that today’s lobbying industry is twice as large as official numbers suggest as a result of unregistered lobbying activity. Over the course of President Obama’s first year in office, when the administration enacted new policies targeting registered lobbyists, lobbying registrations dropped precipitously, reflecting an increase in undisclosed lobbying activity
This month, lobbyists filed year-end lobbying reports with the Senate Office of Public Records. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, only 11,143 unique lobbyists registered their work over the past year. Since the enactment of the LDA in 1995, the high-water mark for lobbyist registrations was in 2007, when 14,822 lobbyists registered their work. This year’s registration numbers mark an 18-year low, since 1998 when only 10,404 lobbyists registered with the Senate Office of Public Records.
During the 2016 elections, Trump proposed a five-point ethics plan, re-instituting a five-year ban on all executive branch officials lobbying the government, creating the same ban for former members of Congress and their staffs, expanding the definition of “lobbyist” to close lobbying loopholes, issuing a lifetime ban against executive branch officials lobbying for a foreign government, and prohibiting foreign lobbyists from raising money in American elections.
U.S. PIRG, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, is a consumer group that stands up to powerful interests whenever they threaten our health and safety, our financial security, or our right to fully participate in our democratic society.
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