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The Texas Blue
Advancing Progressive Ideas

Bill Tracker: HR 804 – Stealth Lobbying

Congressman Lloyd Doggett (TX – 25) introduced this bill to eliminate reporting loopholes in our national defense against lobby abuse. The bill targets “stealth lobbying” and it was recently passed by the House.

The first question that came to mind: what is stealth lobbying? Some contend that it is “Phony grass roots lobbying.” Stealth lobbying is unreported under our current rules, and it is effective for exactly that reason.

According to research by the Center for Responsive Politics:

The first tactic involves companies, unions, and organizations with the same stance on an issue that come together to form a coalition. Lobbying disclosure forms then only include the name of the coalition but do not list its members — or how much each is paying in. Stealth coalitions have spent a total of at least $102 million on lobbying efforts between 1998 and 2006.

The second stealth technique can be likened to subcontracting, where one lobbying firm hires another to advocate for a client’s position on a particular issue. The disclosure forms include only the names of the two lobbying firms, one as the client and the other as the hired gun. If a corporation, union or other organization is the true client, its name is hidden from the lobbying industry’s regulators and the public. Lobbying firms have received a total of about $121 million for lobbying for other firms between 1998 and 2006.

Stealth lobbying is not limited to Washington, D.C. New York lawmakers have tried to eliminate it from their statehouse.

Congressman Doggett and the bills 64 co-sponsors are not trying to eliminate a new problem. This problem has been around for while and other members of congress have tried to change the system. Representative Marty Meehan and others have unsuccessfully tried to tighten up these loopholes.

Concerning the bill, Congressman Doggett said:

When deep-pocketed interests spend big money to influence public policy, the public has a right to know. Even a little light can do a lot of good.

If wealthy interests want legislators to sing their tune, the public has a right to know who is paying the piper. Of course, President Harry Truman said: 'The buck stops here.' But with stealth lobbying, we don't know where 'here' is or whose buck it is.

Combining "wealth" with "stealth" is a recipe for unaccountable government.

If transparency is one of the goals of lobbying reform, then we need solutions like these to problems like stealth lobbying.

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