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American League of Lobbyists, Washington, says it's time to treat lobbyists for state and local government entities as well as religious groups the same as other lobbyists. The group also wants lobbying restrictions to apply equally to 'nonregistered' lobbyists.
These are among the association's six recommendations it believes will increase transparency and accountability under the Lobbying Disclosure Act. The group maintains that the current law has been criticized because it allows "hundreds, if not thousands of lobbyists to avoid having to register." Among the recommendations:
• Eliminate exemptions, such as those for lobbyists employed by state and local government entities and for religious organizations engaged in lobbying. "These organizations and individuals are engaged in lobbying and should register and report their activities as any other lobbyist," ALL maintains. The group also believes federal employees who contact Congress to affect public policy should also have to register and be subject to LDA reporting requirements.
• Decouple “registered lobbyists” from restrictions. Current rules and policies that impose restrictions on registered lobbyists should either be removed or rewritten to apply equally to all - including associations and other organizations - whether registered or unregistered as lobbyists.
• One definition for lobbying. The LDA and the Internal Revenue Code require both taxable and tax-exempt entities to track their lobbying costs. But the definitions of “lobbying” differ between for-profit and not-for-profit entities. The definition of what constitutes lobbying with legislative and executive branch personnel should be harmonized while retaining the IRC’s definitions of grassroots, state, and local lobbying as well as political activity, ALL suggests.
• Shorter registration periods from the current 45-days to 20 calendar days.
• Mandatory ethics training as well as compliance with lobbying and campaign finance laws for lobbyists. Lobbyists would be required to take a refresher course every five years. The clerk of the House and the secretary of the Senate would certify entities to do this training.
• Enforcement: Move enforcement from U.S. Attorney’s Office to the same office of the Justice Department that handles matters related to the Foreign Agent Registration Act. Registration and reporting would still be done with the clerk of the House and the secretary of the Senate.
Also, ALL pledges to work with Congress to develop campaign finance proposals that are both appropriate and achievable. Details: www.alldc.org.