American Bar Association Urges Strengthening of Lobbying Laws


The American Bar Association’s (ABA) House of Delegates yesterday passed a resolution urging the Congress to amend and strengthen the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA).  The resolution, which passed without opposition, urges a narrowing of the reporting threshold (currently 20%), requiring disclosure of “lobbying support” activities by strategists, pollsters, and “grass tops” firms paid as part of  lobbying campaigns, prohibiting fundraising by lobbyists for Members of Congress they lobby, and transferring  authority to enforce the LDA to a suitable administrative authority.

“This resolution urges Congress to bring the Lobbying Disclosure Act into line with the sort of lobbying that occurs today,” said Legal Center President Trevor Potter, who was also a co-chair of the ABA Task Force on Lobbying Regulation.   “These are common sense solutions to restore the faith of citizens in their elected officials by bringing the business of government out into the sunlight.  It is important to emphasize that these recommendations were initially proposed by a Task Force of lawyers, academics, lobbyists, and public interest representatives with a wide range of experiences and perspectives.”  

The Task Force on Lobbying Disclosure Reform was appointed by the ABA’s Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice Section to study the issue in 2010.  The Task force was co-chaired by Campaign Legal Center President Trevor Potter (a former Chair of the FEC and General Counsel to the McCain Presidential campaign) ; Harvard Law Professor Charles Fried (who was Solicitor General of the United States under President Reagan); Rebecca Gordon of the law firm of Perkins Coie; and Joseph Sandler of the Sandler, Reiff and Young law firm (and former General Counsel of the DNC),  and included a broad spectrum of academics and practitioners, including Legal Center Policy Director Meredith McGehee.   

The Task Force Report, “Lobbying Law in the Spotlight: Challenges and Proposed Improvements,” the product of strong consensus among the diverse group, was presented to the ABA’s Administrative Law Section in August 2011. The Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice Section then proposed its Lobbying Resolution to the ABA House of Delegates, which adopted it this week after incorporating proposals to clarify it from the ABA Tax Section and Individual Rights and Responsibilities Section.  The effect of ABA approval is that the organization can now push Congress to adopt these reforms.

To read the full ABA Resolution, click here

To read the Task Force Report from January 2011, click here.