Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Limits on Lobbying? Don't Tell the Lobbyists

Ellen Miller, co-founder of the Sunlight Foundation, has spent years arguing for rules to force more disclosure of how lobbyists and private interests shape public policy. Until recently, she herself registered as a lobbyist, too, publicly reporting her role in the group’s advocacy of even more reporting. Not anymore.

In light of strict new regulations imposed by Congress over the last two years, Ms. Miller joined a wave of policy advocates who are choosing not to declare themselves as lobbyists.
Read the rest here; it gets better.
Should Congress regulate lobbying? In my view, no.  Beyond the enforcement issue, such regulation is not only inconsistent with free speech but counterproductive as well: it lulls voters into thinking the law has constrained special interests, when it has not.


Anonymous said...

You want to reduce lobbyists? Reduce the power of the government on the private sector. If you reduce the role of the government, you will reduce the incentives to buy into government power. Then if the corn industry wants to make more money, instead of spending its money on lobbyists to enact tariff regulations, maybe it'll spend its money on technological innovation to increase quality and reduce cost structure. I think the world would be better off with better technology than better lobbyists.

Jess Austin said...

Lobbying isn't much different from another aspect of legal corrupt vote-buying: campaign finance. Ds, along with certain "principled" Rs, supported massive reform of campaign finance regulations for years, when it seemed that Rs had the upper hand in crooked fundraising. Then, when we finally saw a relatively less corrupt R in the big race, and everyone had promised to scrupulously follow all the rules, Ds discovered they could outraise the opposition by not following the rules.

Overnight, we never heard anything about campaign finance rules ever again (shockingly enough, we still heard about "openness" and "transparency" for some time after that). The folks who know credit card back-office operations were scandalized by the donations that the Obama website took: raw CC numbers, no matching name, no address, no CVV, no way to verify, but pass 'em off to the clearinghouse anyway. Even though they had to pay higher settlement rates for their sloppiness, they also didn't have to worry about limitations on individual donor totals and offshore donations.

All of which supports Prof. Miron's point, there's no way we can root out this sort of corruption with a law. We could at least start calling it by its name. I don't hesitate to label "corrupt" any official action that helps a ruler more than his subjects. People get mad, start talking about slander, and deny that any laws were broken. Still, I hope others might start thinking. said...

lets face it, lobbying and campaign finance, although both are legal, they carry a taint-by nature. The answer then is a multi-prong strategy of mass-communicating possible, probable, and actual acts of misconduct in these two areas. see

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