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It’s worth imagining how the authors of the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act, now in its fifth year as the central legislation governing advocacy ethics, would react to preliminary results of a new survey by Lobbyists.info and George Washington University. The survey, designed to measure the effect of HLOGA five years after its passage, has been returning no shortage of contradictions.
So far in the survey, 83.1 percent of respondents say they have been in advocacy for seven years or more, three fifths of whom have more than 15 years under their belts. The sample therefore is composed overwhelmingly of advocacy veterans equipped with knowledge of the field extending well before HLOGA’s passage in 2007.
Despite their experience, respondents’ acquaintance with the law is less than impressive. Barely more than 40 percent have described their familiarity with HLOGA as “somewhat unfamiliar,” “very unfamiliar” or “don’t know.” Contrast this with the nearly 100 percent who are affected directly by ethics regulations and it becomes quickly apparent that no considerable discord underlies the relation- ship between HLOGA and those who are the primary object of its provisions.
Some relief might be provided by the answers to the following question: “Have you attended (either in person or via computer/phone) any ethics, disclosure or HLOGA specific training courses?” After all, the above 40 percent are in dire need of education. But these hopes are dashed by the alarming fact that a plurality of respondents not only have not received this training, but also have absolutely no interest in receiving it.
For a law that says in its summary to “provide greater transparency in the legislative process,” it seems to contribute more to bemusement than clarity. At least this is the case for those who are meant to be engaged with it on a daily basis. The full report will be available soon from Association TRENDS.