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May 24, 2012

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Howard Marlowe

The public has does not understand the value of the work that professional lobbyists are doing for them and their communities. For example, lobbyists for airlines are fighting this week to keep security fees low in the Senate Homeland Security spending legislation. Advocates for food and nutrition programs have been hard at work lobbying Members of Congress who are playing a role shaping the “Farm Bill.” That helps both farmers and rural communities. People generally take for granted the fact that each and every citizen of this great country has a lobbyist working for them.

Our recommendations to the Lobbying Disclosure Act are what the League’s Board of Directors approved after 15 months of meetings and discussions with ALL members, non-member lobbyists, academics, and former Members of Congress. While we’d like to see all or any of these recommendations put into law, it is by no means anything final. We’ve been working with several other “Good Government Watchdog” organizations who are interested in increasing the transparency of the lobbying profession to find common ground on which we can all stand. Personally, I think that if all of our recommendations were enacted, the folks at the Sunlight Foundation will find that our recommendations go far enough to provide more than adequate transparency.

I’m delighted to see that POGO has taken such a careful look at our recommendations. We’d be happy to discuss alternative departments aside from the office at DOJ that handles FARA. With that said, however, we think it is important to encourage more advocates to operate in the sunlight of transparency. Many lobbyists are concerned that moving enforcement to somewhere like the Attorney General’s office would risk the possibility of heavy-handed enforcement by young government attorneys trying to make a name (and a future career) for themselves. That would provide another disincentive to registering when the goal should be finding the right office that will actually focus on the currently neglected issue of compliance.

Finally, in response to the suggestion that in-house lobbyists who advocate for Federal grants and contracts should automatically register to lobby, I would note that by adapting the thresholds as ALL proposed and harmonizing the IRS Code to the LDA’s language, these lobbyists would indeed be registered once they make a single contact.

I hope you will keep the dialogue open with the League as we move forward and work with ALL to seek a hearing before the Judiciary Committee later this year.

Sincerely,

Howard Marlowe
President, The American League of Lobbyists

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