Business Politics

About the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995

The Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 (LDA) was designed to regulate lobbying activities within the US Congress and the U.S. Senate. It defines and limits terms such as lobbyist, lobbying contacts, and covered officials. There are also certain specifications and regulations that are stated within LDA that note the requirements, criteria, and personalities of which the lobbyist is allowed to operate. If the lobbyist is reported to have operated outside the confines of LDA, he or she, or even the firm of which he or she is employed as well as the client he or she represents, is subject to penalties provided and duly-approved in the LDA.

The intention of LDA is to resolve the restrictions imposed by the Federal Regulation of Lobbying Act of 1946 (FRLA), as well as plug the loopholes the law had. FRLA was so narrow and porous that the transparency it sought to achieve was not gained. FRLA did not have the specific requirements, limitations and parameters stated by the 1995 LDA.

In a study regarding lobbying policies by the Government Accountability Office in 1991, about 10,000 individuals and organizations listed in the 13,500-itemed Directory of Washington Representatives were not listed as lobbyists, although these people and institutions have been seen as key influence peddlers in the House of Congress. According to the study, disclosure reports were not complete, stating the unlikelihood that: (1) 60% of the listed lobbyist did not have any report on financial activity; (2) 90% did not report expenditures for wages, fees or commissions; (3) 95% did not account any expenditures on advertising and public relations and; (4) only 32% in the list were able to file the specific title or bill number for the legislation they were lobbying.

The Lobbying Disclosure Act has contributed largely to the increase of financial and expenditure reports. LDA has also increased the numbered of officially registered lobbyists, illustrated by the addition of 10,612 individuals and firms who were not listed during the first lobbying law.

Another important aspect of the LDA of 1995 is that the lobbying of congressional staff, of executive branch officials, and the lobbying on non-legislative issues are no longer exempted. Now, all paid, professional lobbyists are required to reveal who is paying them how much to lobby Congress and the executive branch, on what issues.

However, the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 also has flaws of its own. The LDA is enforced by two offices; the Clerk of the House and the Secretary of the Senate. Separately responsible, both offices have been noted for lack of monitoring for compliance and for lack of interest to verify the information disclosed by the registrant. The LDA also requires both offices to employ computerized systems for easier information access for the public; but, both the Secretary of the State and the Clerk of the House are still accepting registrations in paper format. Another hole in the LDA is the ‘revolving door’ it offers for former government officials who become lobbyists with special interests and personal agendas. Due to the increasing number of ex-government officials turned lobbyists and the increasing alarm the practice has generated, reforms in the LDA regarding conduct has been called for by the public.