Archive for the 'Lobbying' Category

Fiascos and Matters of Degree

March 27, 2014
posted by Bob Bauer
The most recent issue of Election Law Journal offers interesting writing on lobbying. One of the articles, Money, Priorities and Stalemate: How Lobbying Affects Public Policy, is a study by Professor Frank R. Baumgartner and several colleagues who show that there is an unimpressive relationship between the resources devoted to lobbying and particular outcomes that the lobbyists had hoped to bring about. The authors do not suggest that the money put behind lobbying has no effect, only that we should understand better the nature of the effect and its limits. A number of factors, they argue, are relevant to the measurement of lobbying success, including the capacity of lobbyists to hold the attention of lawmakers who must choose among a broad range of issues in allocating their time. The co-authors of this study also stress that many of the advantages possessed by well-established interests are already "baked in" to public policy, and therein lies a major advantage: that it is much harder to change a policy than to establish one.

Assessing Lobbying Reform in the Obama Administration

March 18, 2014
posted by Bob Bauer

Assessing Lobbying Reform in the Obama Administration

Presentation to the American University Conference on Lobbying Reform in the U.S. and the E.U.

March 17, 2014

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The Opacity of “Transparency”

September 24, 2013
posted by Bob Bauer

Arguments about transparency have become hard to follow. Government can demand an accounting of money spent to influence politics or public policy; it can certainly compel disclosure of the paid, direct lobbying of legislators. But this is among the easier cases, after which there is disagreement—and confusion—about what the government has the power to do or members of the public have the right to resist.

David Keating and Senator Durbin had just such a difference of opinion. Durbin had asked the Center for Competitive Politics and other organizations (including the Cato Institute) to state for the record whether they had funded ALEC in 2013, and whether they had supported the organization’s “stand your ground” legislation. See, e.g., Letter from Senator Richard J. Durbin to John Allison, President and CEO of the Cato Institute (August 6, 2012). Keating disputed the request’s propriety. Letter from David Keating to Senator Richard J. Durbin (September 16, 2013). To his mind, the request was an act of intimidation and an abuse of office. Any association with ALEC was for political purposes, and Durbin, no friend of ALEC, was using official letterhead and a call for information to accomplish government intimidation of a political adversary.

In the fight over contribution limits, litigants argue over how much money, given by whom and in which ways, can push normal politics into corruption or the certainty of its appearance. McCutcheon tests the proposition that corruption can be a byproduct of the total volume of giving, not just how much a donor hands over to a specific candidate or political committee. McCutcheon v. Fed. Election Comm'n, No. 12-536 (S. Ct. docketed Nov. 1, 2012). Other cases bring the courts into the dispute over the relationship between corrupt potential and the size of the contribution, the tipping point at which the sum given exceeds what it is safe to allow. Nixon v. Shrink Missouri Government PAC, 528 U.S. 377 (2000). Threading its way through these arguments is the question of whether and how the identity of donors, such as political parties, should be weighed in the bargain. See e.g. Illinois Liberty PAC v. Madigan, Case:1:12-cv-05811 (N.D. Ill.).

Different Realms of Disclosure

August 26, 2013
posted by Bob Bauer
Organizations required to register and report under New York’s new lobbying disclosure laws have begun to seek exemptions to protect their donors from anticipated reprisal or harassment. This concern for donor privacy was once most prevalent among conservative critics of political regulation, more on the “right” than on the “left,” or at least its articulation there has been most prominent. It was also once primarily an issue in campaign finance disclosure. See, e.g., Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 71, 74; Brown v. Socialist Workers, 459 U.S. 87 (1982). It seems, however, that the argument is finding favor across the political spectrum and has spread to the regulation of lobbying. Putting aside particular cases and their merits, it is a development with much to suggest about the confused state of mandatory disclosure policy.