WAMU 88.5 : News

Filed Under:

Power Breakfast: Lobbying And Its Lack Of Transparency

Play associated audio

Daniel Schuman is Policy Counsel at the aptly named Sunlight Foundation.

"We sort of wondered - looking at the entire info ecosystem, what's going on with lobbying?" he explains.

Shuman says those who make a living shedding light on the workings of government start with a straightforward principle: "It's useful to have a good understanding of what's going on."

When it comes to identifying, mapping and tracking influence in Washington, we really don't know what's going on. Schuman is director of the Advisory Committee on Transparency, which is holding a public forum this afternoon on the Hill with a panel of experts from the separate but co-dependent worlds of watch-dogging, journalism and, of course, K Street.

There are some practical reform targets to consider. According to Schuman, one of those is the so-called "20-percent lobbying rule."

"The 20% lobbying rule is basically, for me to have to become a federally regulated lobbyist, I have to make at least two contacts with a covered official and spend at least 20% of my time lobbying," Schuman says.

Lots of people who actively lobby Congress don't meet that definition; so lots of lobbying activity goes on outside the regulatory framework.

Schuman says watchdog and industry groups alike also think disclosure requirements should be increased. Is there any risk of becoming so thoroughly inundated with information and disclosures that the act of influence-peddling can simply 'hide in plain sight'?

"I wish we were somewhere near that end of the problem, Schuman says. "Unfortunately we're all the way at the other side of the problem. For example, you can track lobbying by firm, but you can't track it by individual. I cannot tell who they're meeting with, and it's very difficult to know the issues on which they're reporting with any level of detail."

For all the widespread distrust of Washington, there is only one way to know how justified it is.


'Not Without My Daughter' Subject Grows Up, Tells Her Own Story

"Not Without My Daughter" told the story of an American mother and daughter fleeing Iran. Now that young girl is telling her own story in her memoir, "My Name is Mahtob."

Internet Food Culture Gives Rise To New 'Eatymology'

Internet food culture has brought us new words for nearly every gastronomical condition. The author of "Eatymology," parodist Josh Friedland, discusses "brogurt" with NPR's Rachel Martin.

Proposed Climate Change Rules At Odds With U.S. Opponents

President Obama says the U.S. must lead the charge to reduce burning of fossil fuels. But American lawmakers are divided on limiting carbon emissions and opponents say they'll challenge any new rules.

What Is Li-Fi And When Will You Use It To Download Everything Faster?

Li-Fi is a lot like Wi-Fi, but it uses light to transmit data. NPR's Scott Simon speaks to the man who invented the faster alternative: Harald Haas.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.