Lobbying provides lawmakers with valuable knowledge of societal problems and points the way to potential solutions. However, when the lobbying profession becomes too closely tied to money, it can lead to corruption. Meaningful lobbying reform should protect the right of all persons to lobby but attempt to break the potentially corrupting nexus between lobbyists, money and lawmakers.
Undue influence-peddling – in which special interests may exercise too much sway over public policy for self-serving purposes, can be a real problem for a democratic society. Democratic government requires legitimacy to function properly, and legitimacy comes from the trust and support of its citizenry. Any widespread perception of undue influence-peddling in government pokes holes in the fabric of that legitimacy.
In democratic societies, the rise of the profession of lobbyists – especially lobbyists whom are well compensated to represent special interests – has challenged this perception of governmental legitimacy. In some European democracies where public cynicism in the integrity of government is not so strong, carefully planned and administered efforts by lobbyists and their lobbying associations to abide by principles of transparent and honest policy-making may well be sufficient. The meaningful lobby reforms that Public Citizen advocates include a strong set of measures to rein in undue influence peddling.
Lobby reforms need to be tailor-made to meet each country’s political realities, but generally an effective lobbying reform program includes:
- Mandating registration and disclosure of professional lobbyists, their clients and certain financial activity, all records of which are to be made easily available to the public on the Internet in a searchable, sortable and downloadable fashion.
- Monitoring and enforcing compliance to the lobbyist registration and disclosure requirements, as well as any other violations of lobbying laws or ethics rules, through a governmental agency that is fully independent of the lobbying profession.
- Extending transparency and accountability measures beyond lobbyists to public officials as well, including restrictions on conflicts of interest, full financial disclosure of investments and properties owned by government officials, and restrictions and disclosure on the “revolving door” between the private sector and the public sector.
More Resources on Lobbying Reform
- Letter to the House Judiciary Committee in Support of Disclosing Foreign Influence Act (H.R. 4170), January 18, 2018
- Congressional Testimony on Foreign Agents Registration Act, April 27, 2017
- Self-Regulation and Regulation of the Lobbying Profession- Global Forum on Public Governance (PDF)April 23, 2009
- Lobbying Reform in the United States and the European Union: Progress on Two Continents (PDF)August 25, 2008
- Chart: Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007 (PDF)April 10, 2008
- Making the U.S. Lobbying Disclosure Act Work as Intended:Implications for the European Transparency Initiative (PDF)October 10, 2007
- Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 as Amended 2007 (PDF)October 1, 2007
- Organizing Astroturf: Evidence Shows Bogus Grassroots Groups Hijack the Political Debate (PDF)January 8, 2007
- Origins, Evolution and Structure of the Lobbying Disclosure Act (PDF)May 11, 2006
- Lobbying Rules: Foreign Agents Registration Act (PDF)July 25, 2005
- Lobbying Disclosure Act: A Brief Synopsis of Key Component (PDF)April 4, 2005
- Influence Peddling Laws: Several federal laws and regulations either restrict lobbyists’ activities or mandate disclosure of their activities. Learn more about what’s on the books.