H.R. 1 Misses the Mark on Closing Shadow Lobbying Loopholes
Updated: Mar 17, 2021
Fairfax, VA – March 9, 2021 – The National Institute for Lobbying & Ethics (NILE) Board of Directors issued the following statement regarding House passage of H.R. 1, For the Peoples Act. While certain provisions included in the bill are a step in the right direction for Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA) reform, the following statement is not an endorsement of the legislation by NILE or its Board of Directors.
NILE recognizes the need for reform and has been urging Congress to pass sweeping LDA legislation for the past five years. These changes are needed to ensure individuals working as lobbyists register and meet reporting requirements under the LDA. NILE released its proposal for reform, Path Forward for the Future, in 2017, after a yearlong review of the LDA. This proposal detailed plans to significantly overhaul the LDA in a way that allows the legislation to keep pace with a profession that continues to change rapidly. NILE is pleased to see some of those recommendations in H.R. 1.
NILE supports Section 7201, Expanding Scope of Individuals and Activities Subject to Requirements of the Lobbying Disclosure Act included in H.R. 1. Similar language is included in the Path Forward for the Future proposal. Section 7201 clarifies the definition of “lobbying activities” and broadens the definition by reducing the threshold of lobbying contact required to register as a lobbyist from “less than 20 percent” to “less than 10 percent”.
Shadow Lobbying continues to be a large problem facing the lobbying profession today. This clarification of language is an essential first step to cut down on shadow lobbying. NILE is calling on Congress to work with the profession on additional measures which will do more to crack down on those individuals who do not to register. NILE believes our country needs modern rules for modern lobbying.
NILE opposes Section 7202, Prohibiting Receipt of Compensation for Lobbying Activities on Behalf of Foreign Countries Violating Human Rights. This act bans any registered lobbyist from accepting financial or other compensation for lobbying activity on behalf of a client whose government has been determined, by the United States President, to engage in gross violations of human rights.
While this act may appear to have strong merit on paper, lobbying is protected under the First Amendment in the United States Constitution and Section 7202 restricts the ability to lobby. This goes against NILE’s fundamental belief that everyone has the right to petition the government. A lack of representation only exacerbates bilateral relationships and provides fewer chances to resolve any given situation through diplomatic means. Increasing dialogue and engaging with these countries will lead to more productive outcomes than censorship tactics. NILE continues to promote transparency and believes such firms and individuals should register and report activity as required by FARA.
NILE opposes Section 7203, which Requires Lobbyists to Disclose Status as Lobbyist Upon Making Any Lobbying Contact. NILE opposes this section because there is no enforcement mechanism in place, making it an ineffective way to accomplish the intent of Congress. There is nothing to prevent a Member of Congress or their staff from making this inquiry today before accepting any meeting. Section 7203, while well intentioned, does nothing to solve the problem of Shadow Lobbying.
Since 2016, NILE has been proposing the requirement that all registered lobbyists be issued an official government identification card to be worn on their person while in all federal buildings. The ID cards would be issued by the House/Senate Sargent of Arms and would be required to be renewed each year. These government issued ID badges would be an effective way for Members of Congress, their staff, agency personnel, and the Capitol Police to identify who are in meetings and federal buildings. NILE is urging Congress to follow the lead of the 29 states that require government issued ID cards for lobbyists in their State Capitals.
NILE supports efforts to reform the lobbying industry, increase transparency, and create a more ethical system of government that allows for broad access for the public. NILE opposes ineffective, politically driven legislation masquerading as real reform. We believe real reform is possible and have laid out a clear strategy in the Path Forward for the Future plan. Together we can create a transparent and ethical system that lives up to the congressional intent of the Lobbying Disclosure Act.
The National Institute for Lobbying & Ethics (NILE) is the professional association for those in the government affairs, public-policy, lobbying, grassroots, political action committees, and communications fields. NILE’s focus is on promoting ethical lobbying and providing the profession with continuing education.