Because ALL would retain the contact prong for registration, the proposals also would not address the “Daschle Exemption,” named after former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), who avoided registration because he spoke only with clients and not with government officials. Query whether this is even a problem; under the logic that consultants should register as lobbyists, jury selection consultants who advise lawyers would be required to take the bar exam.
Where ALL’s recommendations may do some damage, however, is with respect to employees who are ancillary to a lobbying campaign and who make an isolated, one-time lobbying contact. This is particularly true for those who work at firms with other lines of work, such as legal or public relations services, and where a junior associate may spend only a few hours assisting a lobbyist with a client.
Because these individuals are not really lobbyists in most people’s opinion, requiring them to be registered as such would actually undermine ALL’s call for more “accurate registration and reporting.” These individuals also would be saddled with ALL’s recommendation for mandatory ethics training within six months of registration, as well as recent legislative requirements for additional reporting of campaign contributions and detailed employment histories, all to be filed under penalty of onerous monetary fines and even criminal charges.
Faced with withering attacks on a profession that is easily scapegoated, ALL has not retreated into a strategy of appeasement. However, the organization could do a better job at its proposed legislative line-drawing so as not to sweep into its ranks those individuals who make only isolated lobbying contacts.
Eric Wang is a political law attorney. He has been registered as a lobbyist in his prior employment at a law firm.