Lobbyists Wailing about Delicious Hell for Lobbyists

Remember how last Friday I was jumping up and down with glee at the delicious hell that Obama had set up to prevent lobbyists from gaming stimulus funds?

With this memo.

Sec. 3. Ensuring Transparency of Registered Lobbyist Communications.

(a) An executive department or agency official shall not consider the view of a lobbyist registered under the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995, 2 U.S.C. 1601 et seq., concerning particular projects, applications, or applicants for funding under the Recovery Act unless such views are in writing.

(b) Upon the scheduling of, and again at the outset of, any oral communication (in-person or telephonic) with any person or entity concerning particular projects, applications, or applicants for funding under the Recovery Act, an executive department or agency official shall inquire whether any of the individuals or parties appearing or communicating concerning such particular project, application, or applicant is a lobbyist registered under the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995. If so, the lobbyist may not attend or participate in the telephonic or in-person contact, but may submit a communication in writing.

(c) All written communications from a registered lobbyist concerning the commitment, obligation, or expenditure of funds under the Recovery Act for particular projects, applications, or applicants shall be posted publicly by the receiving agency or governmental entity on its recovery website within 3 business days after receipt of such communication. [my emphasis]

Remember how I predicted big money would be finding ways to have employees avoid registering as lobbyists?

I like it (though I expect big money is already inventing a new way around registering as lobbyists).

Big money is so damned predictable.

The restrictions, which began taking effect unevenly this week, have angered lobbyists already upset with Obama’s repeated shots at them for wielding too much influence. Critics charge it may be unconstitutional to bar certain people — registered lobbyists — from speaking to government officials.

"What disqualifies lobbyists from exercising their First Amendment rights?" said J. Keith Kennedy, a top lobbyist for the Washington firm Baker Donelson.

William Luneburg and Thomas Susman, co-authors of the American Bar Association’s manual on lobbying laws, said they knew of no previous administrations curtailing lobbyists’ conversations with government officials.


Since the prohibition applies to registered lobbyists, some firms are thinking about having some of their lobbyists rescind their registrations, which could let them pitch stimulus projects to government officials. That, though, would severely limit the time they could spend lobbying each year while undermining disclosure laws requiring registered lobbyists to publicly report their activities.

Read the whole thing. It’ll really bring tears to your eyes.

29 replies
  1. MichaelDG says:

    Oh, that is rich. I’m crying my heart out for the poor suckers.

    “It’s very dubious that there’s a First Amendment right to have your hired gun with you when you talk about those projects,” said Luneburg, a University of Pittsburgh law professor.

    I guess we knew it would happen.

  2. Rayne says:

    Hoo boy…unconstitutional to exercise their First Amendment rights in writing versus whispers over lunch at places like Signatures?? Whiners.

    Corrupt, weak-assed whiners.

    I’d like to know when the Obama administration will also do something about day trading by members of Congress, too; I’ll bet there’s a correlation between registered and unregistered lobbyists and improvements in certain persons’ asset valuations, particularly stocks.

  3. MichaelDG says:

    From a related link at the bottom of the page:

    DAVE WENHOLD: It’s very dangerous ground that the president is trampling on right now.

    Dave Wenhold is president of the American League of Lobbyists.

    WENHOLD: I think personally it’s discrimination, segregation and unconstitutional against a class of Americans who are just trying to do their jobs.

    Ha Ha Ha!

  4. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    So, as I get out my hankie to wipe me weeping eyes, is it a good time to copy a bit of Matt Taibbi’s fine: The Big Takeover, from the most recent Rolling Stone…?


    So that’s the first step in wall street’s power grab: making up things like credit-default swaps and collateralized-debt obligations, financial products so complex and inscrutable that ordinary American dumb people — to say nothing of federal regulators and even the CEOs of major corporations like AIG — are too intimidated to even try to understand them. That, combined with wise political investments, enabled the nation’s top bankers to effectively scrap any meaningful oversight of the financial industry. In 1997 and 1998, the years leading up to the passage of Phil Gramm’s fateful act that gutted Glass-Steagall, the banking, brokerage and insurance industries spent $350 million on political contributions and lobbying. Gramm alone — then the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee — collected $2.6 million in only five years. The law passed 90-8 in the Senate, with the support of 38 Democrats, including some names that might surprise you: Joe Biden, John Kerry, Tom Daschle, Dick Durbin, even John Edwards.

    So much for tears of sorrow.
    I’d like a few more tears laughter, of the sort served up by Taibbi.

    Please, EW, do NOT type “McCain’s Economic Leadership“, or I will collapse in hysterics (!).
    McCain of the lobbyistStrategist Presidential campaign, fueled by the likes of Randy Scheuemann… who is, no doubt, among those crying ‘foul!’ on Pres. Obama today.

    • acquarius74 says:

      I’d like a few more tears of laughter..


      You gotta see this! It will lift your spirits. It’s in NY Times, so hope those C-critters, Obama, and the banksters will see it and get the message.

        • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

          If you click over there, the pic is a hoot, but don’t miss the article on Goldman Sachs BUYING BACK the ’shares’ of 2 of its execs (!). One of them was paid 10% of his ’shares’ and it came to something like $19 million.

          I hope that sonuffabitch’s undies are made of fairy wings and dragon’s scales for that kinda moolah.

  5. MadDog says:

    When are Lobbyists not Lobbyists?

    If they change their underwear; it makes all the difference. Take their word for it; it’s true!

    A pair of clean undies is now all they’ll need to be admitted once more to the holiest of holies; Congressional orifices offices.

  6. cinnamonape says:

    So are these “employees” going to be paid for contacting and wining and dining the legislators? Or are they doing some other job, and doing this stuff on their own dime? It sure seems to me that it could be a criminal act to avoid Registering as a lobbyist when you are, in fact, lobbying.

    As well, I think a very good case could be made that public disclosure of the content of lobbying contacts actually serves a “governmental interest” (e.g. prevention of bribery or unethical behavior). It establishes a formal record for historical purposes, and allows assessment of what parties actually participated in contacts about specific government contracts…thus allowing determination if all key stakeholders participated.

    It also actually prevents the problem of “some speech is more valuable than others” since paid lobbyists obviously have greater access to legislators and Executive branch officials.

    I think this will stand Constitutional muster since it merely restricts “time, place and manner”…not content.

  7. MichaelDG says:

    I like it (though I expect big money is already inventing a new way around registering as lobbyists).

    Really though, this is a hard one for the lobbyists to get around, isn’t it? I mean without the connivance of any congress critter.

    And MadDog, you are cracking me up!

  8. JohnLopresti says:

    Some math profs made a neural networks plot of some of the complex exchanges of donations for congress including donors in the vector nodes. Takes a while to load. When it does, the lettering is legible easily. Obama’s filter should be a refreshing lobbying reform. I think the 1st A issues are arguable, however.

  9. SparklestheIguana says:

    Speaking of gaming the system, did we all see the Chicago Trib article about Rahm earning at least $320k for 14 months of very little work on Freddie Mac’s Board?

    On Emanuel’s watch, the board was told by executives of a plan to use accounting tricks to mislead shareholders about outsize profits the government-chartered firm was then reaping from risky investments. The goal was to push earnings onto the books in future years, ensuring that Freddie Mac would appear profitable on paper for years to come and helping maximize annual bonuses for company brass.

    The accounting scandal wasn’t the only one that brewed during Emanuel’s tenure.

    During his brief time on the board, the company hatched a plan to enhance its political muscle. That scheme, also reviewed by the board, led to a record $3.8 million fine from the Federal Election Commission for illegally using corporate resources to host fundraisers for politicians.


    The Obama administration rejected a Tribune request under the Freedom of Information Act to review Freddie Mac board minutes and correspondence during Emanuel’s time as a director. The documents, obtained by Falcon for his investigation, were “commercial information” exempt from disclosure, according to a lawyer for the Federal Housing Finance Agency.


    Emanuel joined the House in January 2003 and was named to the Financial Services Committee, where he also sat on the subcommittee that directly oversaw Freddie Mac. A few months later, Freddie Mac Chief Executive Officer Leland Brendsel was forced out, and the committee and subcommittee launched hearings to sort out the mess, spanning more than a year. Emanuel skipped every hearing, congressional records indicate.

    Feinberg said Emanuel recused himself “from deliberations related to Freddie Mac to avoid even the appearance of favoritism, impropriety or a conflict of interest.”


  10. flounder says:

    I was wondering if you could ban lobbyists by arguing that if a corporation has wholly owned subsidiaries in somewhere like the Cayman Islands, they are not an American company. Therefore, given that corporations have the same rights as a person, they are actually an alien “person”, and therefore have no Constitutional right to any access, preferential or not.

    • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

      I stand to applaud your logic!!!!

      Because you’re right, IMHO — these lobbyists are basically whining about what’s left in the US that hasn’t already been sucked out through AIG, Goldman, Citigroup, etc via the Caymans, the Jerseys, etc, etc…

  11. FrankProbst says:

    “What disqualifies lobbyists from exercising their First Amendment rights?” said J. Keith Kennedy, a top lobbyist for the Washington firm Baker Donelson.

    Nothing, as far as I can tell. My reading of the memo is that it doesn’t restrict lobbyists’ ability to speak; it restricts the government’s ability to listen. Lobbyists can still say anything they want to. But the government is telling them that it isn’t going to listen unless they put it in writing.

    • cinnamonape says:

      I suppose they could argue that this puts them at a disadvantage to others

      …wait…doesn’t having millions of dollars for ad campaigns and campaign donations give these corporations an advantage far in excess to other citizens?

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