The lobbying industry, one of the only professions protected by the First Amendment, is in danger. On March 20, 2009 the White House issued a memorandum for the heads of the executive departments and agencies. The subject of the note is: Ensuring Responsible Spending of Recovery Act Funds. Contained within this memo is the following statement found in section 3(b) which, to me is a blatant attack on the lobbying industry. The statement is an attempt to prevent registered lobbyists from participating in face-to-face communications with members of the executive branch in relation to the Recovery Act.
“Upon the scheduling of, and again at the outset of, any oral communication (in-person or telephonic) with any person or entity concerning particular projects, applications, or applicants for funding under the Recovery Act, an executive department or agency official shall inquire whether any of the individuals or parties appearing or communicating concerning such particular project, application, or applicant is a lobbyist registered under the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995. If so, the lobbyist may not attend or participate in the telephonic or in-person contact, but may submit a communication in writing,” – Section 3b.
The only form of communication a registered lobbyists is allowed to engage an executive branch member in is writing. This section of the memorandum prohibits a certain sector from doing their job. This regulation prohibits people from doing their job in a bad economy none the less. I thought we were trying to create jobs not take them away! It is discrimination and can actually hurt legislation. Lobbying is done by experts, and the act of lobbying requires extensive research. Most of a lobbyist’s time is consumed by research and preparing for the act of presenting a well thought out pitch to law makers. Lobbyists present pertinent information to law makers that they might not otherwise see. I thought it was common knowledge that any mom and pop joint could hire a lobbyist, but the perception that lobbyists are only hired by the wealthy may still remain. Lobbyists give a voice to people who may not have the opportunity to be heard in a large government.
The act is supposed to promote transparency within the government. In section 3c of the same memorandum, the governmental entities that lobbyists communicate with are required to post the communications on the respective departments’ Website within three business days. This is supposed to let an engaged and interested public see what goes on when lobbying occurs. Again this section requires registered only registered take part in the same action.
Transparency is a very good thing but to me this section doesn’t make sense. Influential people can still reach executive branch members and persuade them to insert or propose spending for pet projects. (Think: campaign contributors, executives, ambassadors and so on.) I am really interested in lobbying, but this seems to be giving them too much credit. Everything that legislators pass isn’t the result of a registered lobbyist, and if it is our government needs to be reexamined. I guess I just don’t understand the fear of lobbyists. They are normal people doing their job. Lobbying occurs at all levels too, local, state, and federal. What do you think asking your boss for a pay increase is- you’re lobbying for more money. We all lobby, we just don’t really think of what we do as lobbying.
I am extremely afraid of what will happen if the lobbying industry does not regain its voice. It is an important function that represents a large number of people who want their opinions heard. The contradiction in transparency is this – how can a non registered person speak to an executive branch member, while a registered person can’t? How does that make sense? It seems that those registered would be held to a higher standard than those who are not.
Ideally I would like to see this overturned. It is unfair and a vain attempt to look good for a public who is wary of the government at the moment. Maybe try making changes that matter- not taking away someone’s freedom of speech. Until next week, I hope you find happier topics and lighter research topics than I did.