August 31, 2009
NYC Letter: The Cellophane Administration, Part III
Day 223 of CHOPE
Back in March Mr. Obama issued a memorandum restricting telephone and in-person pitches by lobbyists for stimulus funds and requiring government officials to quickly, fully, and publicly report any contacts with lobbyists, oral or written.
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.
... (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.
(d) An executive department or agency official may communicate orally with registered lobbyists concerning general Recovery Act policy issues; provided, however, that such oral communications shall not extend to or touch upon particular projects, applications, or applicants for funding, and further that the official must contemporaneously or immediately thereafter document in writing: (i) the date and time of the contact on policy issues; (ii) the names of the registered lobbyists and the official(s) between whom the contact took place; and (iii) a short description of the substance of the communication. This writing must be posted publicly by the executive department or agency on its recovery website within 3 business days of the communication.
Aside from First Amendment issues, the directives were decried as unrealistic and not constructive. In July Mr. Obama relaxed the contact restrictions but left the reporting requirements intact.
July 25, 2009 (The Hill) - In a significant change, the Obama administration will now allow lobbyists to meet and have telephonic discussions with government officials regarding economic recovery projects.
... Now, the just-revised rules will allow government personnel to accept meetings and calls from federally registered lobbyists on the implementation of stimulus projects.
... Agency officials are required to promptly disclose on the Internet all oral and written communications with lobbyists concerning policy or projects funded under the recovery act. They also have to disclose any written communications with lobbyists regarding pending applications for competitive funding.
BUSINESS AS USUAL
Nothing To See.
August 31, 2009 (WaPo/AP) - President Obama ordered federal officials to disclose their contacts with lobbyists trying to influence how the government doles out money to jump-start the economy. Yet few such communications have been reported even though lobbyists say they are busier than ever with the multibillion-dollar stimulus.
Since the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed in February, federal agencies have reported 197 contacts with lobbyists about stimulus grants.
In August, the entire government reported only eight such lobbying contacts. The Pentagon, which controls about $7.4 billion in stimulus spending, reported just one lobbying contact so far this year. The Homeland Security Department, with at least $3 billion to spend, reported none.
... When disclosures are made, the reports vary widely.
The Education Department described 19 encounters, including Secretary Arne Duncan's meetings with the NAACP and other groups, some with detailed descriptions of the discussions. Energy Department reports include barely legible scrawls as well as 159 pages of public comments on a transmission infrastructure program.
The departments of Homeland Security, State and Veterans Affairs, and smaller agencies such as the Smithsonian Institution have made no such reports.
... U.S. officials have to disclose only their contacts with lobbyists, not others interested in the stimulus money like corporate executives or trade groups. But new rules bar conversations with lobbyists and others once an application for money is submitted.
That means before an application for money is in the pipeline, people who are not registered lobbyists can still make their pitches without those meetings being publicly disclosed by government officials. Dave Wenhold, president of the American League of Lobbyists, says that does not promote the transparency Obama promised because registered lobbyists are still the only ones whose contacts are disclosed. Mr. Wenhold:At least if you're having a meeting with a lobbyist it's written down. There's $787 billion out there and you're telling me no one is lobbying for it? It's a whole lot of spin.
Demanding reporting requirements. Near-zero compliance. Ho-hum.Posted by Damian at August 31, 2009 11:45 PM