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Obama's Unlobbyists | K Street Files

If the congressional officials in charge of administering the LDA hear of someone not reporting, they can refer the matter to the U.S. Attorneys office. With a few exceptions, that becomes a black hole, said Tom Susman, director of the American Bar Associations governmental affairs office.

Susman has been pushing Congress to lower the 20 percent threshold, but even he isnt sure what precisely is the magic number. Maybe 10 percent. Its arbitrary, he conceded. An alternative, he suggested, could be to do away with the time percentage and make it based on fees as a way to rope into the system grass-roots, media affairs and strategic advisers.

Craig Holman, a registered lobbyist with Public Citizen, said hed like a professional investigative agency that could audit unregistered Washington policy advisers such as Daschle, who works at DLA Piper.

The solution to the problem is not to get rid of all these ethics requirements, Holman said. The solution is to create an enforcement agency to enforce the law.

Registered lobbyists already must report to Congress their campaign donations including high-dollar bundling activities because of lobbying law changes after the Jack Abramoff scandal. But Susman sees the Obama effect as a major factor.

I dont think people would have such hesitation to register if not for the Obama administrations having handicapped lobbyists for employment, meetings, advisory panels, Susman said.

And who wouldnt just rather skip all the paperwork of disclosure and the branding as a lobbyist?

It just happens to leave the public voters unaware of the pressures on officials.

The opacity isnt likely to ebb as more Obama administration officials head through the revolving door for the private sector during the presidents remaining years in office.

Just this month, Bart Chilton, who left his gig as a commissioner at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, joined Daschles firm, DLA Piper.

Will Chilton represent some of the companies he regulated at the CFTC?

We may never know. A spokeswoman for the firm said he has no plans to register as a lobbyist.

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