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September 3, 2014

GAO Report on Lobbying: All Lobbyists Above Average

A new government report is out on how the choir of lobbyists and lobbying firms comply with the disclosure requirements of federal lobbying law, but fails to show anything about those who never registered to lobby or report in the first place.

The Government Accountability Office has released its new report2013 Lobbying Disclosure: Observations on Lobbyists’ Compliance with Disclosure Requirements. The GAO report is required by the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995, as amended. The GAO audits the extent to which lobbyists can demonstrate compliance with disclosure requirements, identifies challenges to compliance that lobbyists report, and describes resources available and improvements on enforcement.

The report, in general, states those who do file do a pretty good job. The report did find improvements could be made in properly disclosing the names of lobbyists who were in previous covered positions in the government, and in properly reporting those lobbyists that terminated activity.

While the audit is a helpful way to monitor activity of lobbyists who do file, it should not be read as a true measure of overall compliance. The GAO report states, “The mandate does not require us to identify lobbyists organizations that failed to register and report in accordance with LDA requirements. The mandate also does not require us to determine whether reported lobbying activity or political contributions represented the full extent of lobbying activities that took place.” 

So there is no observation or estimate of what percentage of those required to file, actually did. There is no observation or estimate of what percentage of lobbying expenditures or activity required to be reported, was actually reported.

But, it is comforting to think that if Garrison Keillor read this report, he might say the compliance of all the lobbyists, lobbying firms and clients who filed, was above average.

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