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Of course, as any K Street insider knows, the LDA itself has plenty of loopholes — advocates who spend less than 20 percent of their time on lobbying activities, for example, are exempt. I call them “unlobbyists.”
American League of Lobbyists President Monte Ward said he sees no problem in bringing covert Wall Street operators into the LDA. While lawmakers are at it, he suggests, they could also tighten the loopholes to bring more unlobbyists out of the shadows.
“If you’re involved in the political process, we want everything to be as open and transparent as possible,” Ward said. “We want to make sure everybody who is involved is captured ... to make sure we don’t have anybody crossing the line.”
Just how this will work won’t be easy, though.
“Defining what political intelligence is and what meets the definition is going to be a chore,” said Ken Gross, a partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom who specializes in ethics and lobbying compliance.
But, he said, if there is a disclosure scheme, “it’s going to raise the ante. It will spread the bread crumbs for the regulator to look more carefully at the activity.”
You wouldn’t get an argument from Grassley there.
“Knowledge is power,” the senator said. “And in the case of political intelligence, knowledge is dollars.”
Kate Ackley is a staff writer at CQ Roll Call who keep tabs on the influence industry.