According to figures reported under the Lobbying Disclosure Act, money spent to influence politicians decreased in 2011 and 2012. So did the total number of registered lobbyists. Does that mean the business is on the decline?
Not at all. An article in Roll Call, a news source for Capitol Hill, says an increasing amount of the work done to influence government is taking place in the shadows, out of the view of public disclosures. “And with a president who has further stigmatized registered lobbyists, K Streeters and some of their clients have made a practice of keeping their work just under the limits of the lobby laws,” Roll Call finds.
In some cases, lobbyists have remained on the job, even with the same firms, but have deregistered, keeping their clients and their work secret. One prominent example is Steve Ricchetti, who stayed with his Ricchetti Inc., although no longer as a registered lobbyist, before joining the Obama administration last year. Lobbyists, of course, can’t work for the executive branch — President Barack Obama banned them — unless granted a waiver.
… More than the economy, more than the partisan gridlock on the Hill, Thurber asserted, it’s the lack of enforcement of lobbying laws and the resulting move to keep more lobbying work out of public view that is depressing the LDA tallies. K Street players don’t trigger the lobby law until they make more than one contact with government officials and spend at least 20 percent of their time on lobbying activities for compensation.