On lobbying and transparency

April 20, 2009 at 3:50 pm Leave a comment

It’s a dreary, rainy morning here in Washington, D.C., a perfect excuse to curl up and read two interesting articles on lobbying and transparency.

First, from the Columbia Journalism Review, an article on how ProPublica is picking up the slack when it comes to putting ethics information on the internet:

“In the past, we could have used them for a story and then set them aside,” says ProPublica’s Amanda Michel, the former director of The Huffington Post’s OffTheBus project who now manages ProPublica’s distributed reporting efforts. “We put out these documents, first and foremost, as a part of our mission, to make these documents available for the press and the public.”

“You know that these documents will be helpful to someone, but we don’t know who would need it or when,” says Pierce. “At ProPublica, we’ve got sort of a weird hybrid between doing our own reporting and trying to be a reporting resource for other people.”

Second, an insightful piece from Newsweek that distinguishes between good lobbying and bad lobbying – and describes how new rules fail to note the difference:

As a matter of law, however, it is probably impossible to distinguish between them. Both are exercising the same First Amendment right to petition the government. Both have a legal obligation to register as lobbyists. The rule that bars the one Obama doesn’t want prevents him from hiring the one he does want. In addition to denying the president the service of any number of desirable nominees, the new rules are undermining the disclosure laws they’re intended to reinforce, since all kinds of lobbyists are now desperate to avoid registering. The exceptions Obama has made to this bad policy only make the unfairness worse.

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