The American League of Lobbyists is opposing a provision in the Senate-passed STOCK Act that would require political intelligence operatives to register the same way lobbyists do.
The language, sponsored by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), is an effort to “shed sunshine” on the political intelligence world, according to a Grassley press statement. Political intelligence generally refers to gathering information about the legislative process to inform business decisions, which has not previously been counted as lobbying.
Howard Marlowe, president of the lobbyist league, said Grassley’s language would hamper his group’s efforts to reform the current lobby law. Marlowe wants to close loopholes that allow former Members of Congress, such as presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich, to engage in advocacy activities without having to register to lobby.
“All that Grassley does is add the political intelligence activity or political intelligence firm” to the Lobbying Disclosure Act, Marlowe said. “It hasn’t done anything other than to create another group of people who will not have to register, and they’re going to oppose any changes.”
Under current lobby laws, only those advocates who engage in 20 percent or more of their time for a client and who make two contacts with Members or other covered officials are required to register as federal lobbyists. ALL is trying to eliminate these thresholds to require more advocates to register as lobbyists.
“Adding these people to the lobbying law does nothing to close the gap, the Gingrich loophole ... people who are lobbying [and] not registering,” Marlowe said.
He added that by looping a large group of political intelligence players into the LDA, it would hamper his reform efforts because those new folks would not want to be subjected to a stricter regime.
“You now have a constituency who will not want to have any change in the law,” Marlowe said. “As we in the lobbyist league go out to get change, we have enough difficulty convincing Congress that there ought to be change.”
Marlowe has said the American League of Lobbyists plans to unveil a proposal for changes to the LDA in about a month.
For his part, Grassley said in a release touting his amendment: “Political intelligence professionals aren’t considered lobbyists, so they don’t have to disclose that they’re seeking information and are paid for it. As a result, members of Congress and congressional staff have no way of knowing whether such meetings result in information being sold to firms that trade based on that information. My amendment would shed sunshine on this kind of political intelligence gathering.”
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., takes a selfie with his cut-out head during the Hoops for Youth 16th annual charity basketball game held at George Washington University's Smith Center, September 8, 2014. The members of Congress team beat the lobbyist team 46-40. Buy photo here.