Rep. Mike Quigley just might be K Street’s least favorite Member of Congress this week. That’s because the Illinois Democrat introduced a bill Thursday that would force lobbyists to disclose a lot more information about their Hill activities.
“We want to lift the top off the Dome so people can see what’s happening,” Quigley said.
His Lobbyist Disclosure Enhancement Act would require lobbyists to report which Member offices they meet with and would do away with the 20 percent threshold, which currently allows advocates who spend less than 20 percent of their time on lobbying to avoid registering as lobbyists. Quigley’s bill would also require lobbyists to register new clients within five days, as opposed to 45 days.
The Congressman said he doesn’t have anything against K Street and just wants more transparency in the process.
“I taught policy and politics for seven years at a university. I told my students, lobbyists are not a bad thing, they’re absolutely vital. Since I’ve been here I believe that even more,” he said. “People have a right to know. I get lobbied by governments, schools, nurses, charities. It’s not all a bad thing.”
Quigley introduced a similar measure last year as part of a larger government transparency package. The Congressman decided to break out the K Street portion this year, and he separately reintroduced the remainder of the legislation, titled the Transparency in Government Act, on Thursday. That bill would create a searchable database on earmarks and would post online information such as Members’ travel reports, gifts and financial information.
Quigley decided to introduce the lobbying bill separately for a strategic reason, he said. “We thought it would be easier to get some consideration on it if it was isolated,” he said. “I think it gives it a better change of passage. The more things in the bill, the more reasons people have to oppose it.”
Lobbyists, for the most part, don’t like the idea of having to disclose the Member offices they meet with. Dave Wenhold, the immediate past president of the American League of Lobbyists and president of the firm Miller Wenhold Capitol Strategies, said that’s a burden that lawmakers should carry.
Wenhold offered a suggestion for lawmakers.
“Let’s have the Members of Congress put down who they’re soliciting from in the lobbying community. I get invitations all the time from Rep. Quigley to go to his fundraisers,” the lobbyist said. “If you’re saying the American people have a right to know ... isn’t that your job, not the lobbyist’s job?”
Still, Wenhold said he agrees with some of Quigley’s proposals, such as eliminating the 20 percent rule, within certain parameters. “We agree that loophole needs to be closed,” he said. “But you run the potential of catching the CEO during a fly-in. It needs to be reasonable.”
Quigley said he knows he has an uphill battle and expects resistance not just from K Street but also from his own colleagues.
“Guaranteed — this one’s going to be tougher, but this is a process and sometimes things take a little longer,” the Congressman said. “If I wanted to win all my fights, I would be a Yankee fan. I’m a Cub fan.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.