Last week, when the American League of Lobbyists announced a new PR offensive to help change the public perception of the profession, including this video, we just couldn't contain ourselves. Their Lobbying-as-American-as-Mom-and-Apple-Pie PR effort deserved a classic Internet video mashup -- one, that in Sunlight-style involves "data jamming" -- telling the real story of how lobbyists work to control the Washington agenda:
In the wake of the Supreme Court's Citizen's United decision, and the failure of Congress to pass legislation requiring disclosure on new unlimited campaign spending, Sunlight is renewing and heightening its call for online, real-time and expanded disclosure of lobbyists' contacts with members of Congress and the Executive Branch. In absence of having a clear picture of who's funding our elections -- and who our politicians will be beholden to when they assume office -- there's a new urgency to follow how lobbyists ply their trade: who they meet with, how much they are paid by those they represent, what they are talking about -- all in real time when it matters. The best analogy we can think of is this (all credit to Mike Klein): current lobby reporting requirements are like looking at a closed-circuit tape of activities inside a bank only once, every quarter. We find out what happened, long after the money has been stolen. But, unlike robbing a bank, lobbying is not illegal.
Our lobbying disclosure laws need to be as powerful as the interests they regulate. We will work to amend the Lobbying Disclosure Act to require that all individuals paid to engage in advocacy disclose contacts with all covered officials online and in real time.
As the American League of Lobbyists itself says at the end of the video mashup -- having more information is never a bad thing.
Sunlight is planning an number of new activities in the coming months to shed more light on the work of lobbyists, including the launching of a "Real Time Lobbyist Registration Tracker," closely monitoring lobbyist meetings at financial regulatory agencies, creating a distributed research project that aims to shed light on outside groups that influenced the 2010 mid-terms using LittleSis.org, Flickr and other social media sites, and turning the cameras around at hearings on Capitol Hill to determine which lobbyists are attending and why.
We hope you'll join us in the fight for real-time, online reporting of lobbyist activities.