The optimistically named Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007 was supposed to prevent lobbyists from securing undue influence by taking members of Congress to intimate dinners at fancy restaurants.
But former Senator John B. Breaux, Democrat of Louisiana, said lobbyists had already come up with a way around the new law. They can make a political contribution to a member of Congress, and then have the member pay for the meal.
"If we call it a campaign contribution, that makes it legal," Mr. Breaux said. "I can't buy a $20 breakfast for a senator whom I've known for years, but I can give him a $1,000 campaign contribution."
Starting Monday, Washington lobbyists must file detailed quarterly reports of their activities. In recent weeks, they have been hiring lawyers and going to seminars to decipher the law, passed in response to scandals involving the lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
But even as they try to figure out what the law requires, lobbyists are working to preserve the access and influence they have in Congress and at federal agencies.