Reform must fix broken lobbying system

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Duane Raiche
Friday, June 11, 2010

Lobbyists are important, but disclosure is essential. Our federal government needs to step up and fix the broken system it has created for lobbyists.

Professional lobbyists are paid to convince an official—often using money—of their beliefs in a political situation. Contrary to popular opinion, however, lobbyists are not inherently corrupt or evil—they are experts in their specialized fields and are required for Congress to make informed decisions.

Under the Lobbying Disclosure Act, federal lobbyists are required to register with the government and disclose how much they are being paid and have spent on lobbying to influence their desired political outcome. Unfortunately, the disclosure forms and database, which can be searched by anyone online, are poor and outdated. They do not reveal any important or reliable information.

As Lee Mason of OMB Watch has said, “We want to see what they talk about,” not just who they talked to.

The influence of money in politics is an issue, but we can’t decide what to do about it until we have reliable information from this database, which Jeff Patch from the Center for Competitive Politics describes as “meaningless and unsearchable.”

It would not be hard at all to revise the disclosure system, and with that we would have accurate statistics to make assumptions as to how much influence can really be bought in Washington. Once we have a general idea of money’s impact, we can move forward with the reform necessary to fix the issue of money in politics—both in campaign finance reform and in lobbying reform.

However, first things first; our federal government must take the time necessary to revise a broken disclosure system so we may move forward and do things right the first time around.

Duane Raiche wrote this as part of Washington Seminar at Janesville Parker High School.

Last updated: 2:06 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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