Obama Seeks More Lobbyist Disclosure

During President Barack Obama's State of the Union address, he said he came to Washington "to end the outsized influence of lobbyists; to do our work openly; to give our people the government they deserve. [. . .] That's why we've excluded lobbyists from policymaking jobs, or seats on federal boards and commissions." However, as a group of nonprofits have recently noted, in the process of attempting to limit the influence of special interests, the administration has successfully "[excluded] the voices of citizen- and community-based organizations."

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Lobbying and Ethics Reforms Need to be Enforced

On September 14, 2007, President Bush signed the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act, a package of lobbying and ethics reforms. However, over two years later, there remains very little enforcement of such rules. According to the Senate's website, there have been a total of 8,281 cases of potential violations of the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA). Meanwhile, there has been no enforcement on any of the potential LDA violations since 2005, except to send out letters to potential violators.

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Food Safety Agenda Suffers without USDA Appointee

President Obama still has not nominated an undersecretary for food safety at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as Congress Daily reports today. Almost a year into his administration, the Food Safety Inspection Service – the federal agency in charge of making sure meat, poultry, and eggs are safe and labeled properly – is still without a leader.

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CRS Report on Lobbying Rules

Last week, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) released a report asserting that the Obama administration's rules covering federally registered lobbyists have "already changed the relationship between lobbyists and covered executive branch officials." The report titled, "Lobbying and the Executive Branch: Current Practices and Options for Change," did not explain how those relationships have changed.

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Many Agree Lobbying Policies May Not Actually Reduce Corruption

The most recent effort to curb lobbyists' influence, excluding registered lobbyists from federal advisory panels, continues to get press coverage since first announced in September. The Washington Post predicts that it, "may turn out to be the most far-reaching lobbying rule change so far from President Obama, who also has sought to restrict the ability of lobbyists to get jobs in his administration and to negotiate over stimulus contracts."

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Lawmakers Use Statements Written by Lobbyists, Is Congress Just Lazy?

The New York Times found that more than a dozen members of Congress used almost indistinguishable talking points on health care reform ghostwritten by lobbyists. Lobbyists representing a biotech firm drafted separate language for Democrats and for Republicans. "The lobbyists, employed by Genentech and by two Washington law firms, were remarkably successful in getting the statements printed in the Congressional Record under the names of different members of Congress."

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FDA May Delay Oyster Rule after Industry Pressure

In response to industry and political pressure, the Food and Drug Administration may be backing away from a regulation that would require oyster sellers to process oysters to kill Vibrio vulnificus, a bacteria that can sicken or kill those it infects. The regulation was supposed to take effect in 2011, but FDA may delay action while it further studies the issue.

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Federal Lobbyists have Increasingly Terminated Their Registrations

OMB Watch and the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP) have found that lobbyists have began terminating their formal registrations at significantly higher rates than usual. The OMB Watch-CRP press release states that there have been "1,418 'deregistrations' of federally registered lobbyists during the second quarter of 2009, a marked increase for any reporting period during all of 2008 and 2009.

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Administration Releases More Visitor Logs

On Friday, the Obama administration released another set of visitor logs.  The list of 110 White House guests was compiled from public requests and includes names such as Brad Pitt, Jesse Jackson, and several business leaders.  This release is a positive step toward building a system of government transparency that is responsive to the public interest but we would still like to see the administration go further with this effort.

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Hearing to Investigate Forged Letters

The House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming held a hearing on the fraudulent letters sent to Congress on clean energy and climate legislation. Chairman Edward Markey (D-MA) wanted to know why congressional offices were not notified until after the vote occurred, even though the existence of the fake letters was discovered beforehand. The letters were sent out by Bonner & Associates, a subcontractor hired by Hawthorn.

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