Lobbyist Lobby Pushes Tighter Registration Regulations

 @DanRivoli on April 09 2012 6:43 PM

The lobbyist lobby is keenly aware of the rap its members get. In February, the American League of Lobbyists asked President Barack Obama to tone down his rhetoric and work with it to strengthen regulations.

Now, ALL is ready to deliver a package of proposals to the U.S. Congress when lawmakers return from their Easter break, as the group's board Monday endorsed a package of tighter regulations.

Primarily, what we want to do is show we are being proactive, Howard Marlowe, ALL's president, said in an interview. We want to do our part to improve the system.

A key change the group is seeking would tighten regulations over who must register as a lobbyist. Current law covers people who spend more than 20 percent of their time lobbying with at least two contacts on Capitol Hill.

ALL is calling for any independent lobbyist who contacts just one official to register; government relations professionals who work in-house at companies would register if more than 10 percent of their time is spent on lobbying and they contact a federal official at least once a quarter.

The current law allows lobbyists to operate under different titles -- presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich tried to explain his consulting work for mortgage giant Freddie Mac by claiming he was hired as a historian.

They can call themselves anything they want if they fall below the current law's threshold, Marlowe said. The whole logic of this is to really provide the public with a good knowledge of who is doing the lobbying.

Other parts of the ALL's package call for ethics training for all lobbyists and give the U.S. Department of Justice unit that handles lobbyists who work for foreign governments power over enforcement, instead of the U.S. attorney for Washington, D.C.

When asked if a proposal for tighter lobbying rules will give its members a better standing among the public, Marlowe replied: It can't hurt.

We have our responsibility to try and do our part to help instill more public confidence in government, Marlowe said.

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