Federal Lobbyists have Increasingly Terminated Their Registrations

by Amanda Adams*, 11/3/2009

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. This occurred shortly after President Barack Obama issued Executive Order 13490, which created new restrictions on former lobbyists appointed to the executive branch."

However, it is important to note that a direct a correlation to the order is not guaranteed. Lee Mason, Director of Nonprofit Speech Rights said; "While we can't draw a direct link between the president's executive order and the increased pace of terminations during the second quarter of 2009, we can say that they came at a most controversial time." Now, there is also no shortage of lobbyists either, there are still 11,014 federally registered lobbyists as of this quarter.

Interestingly, using the data from the Senate Office of Public Records, the National Journal reported that the number of lobbyists is up from a year ago. The blog also noted that the number of those who deregistered, "is a topic of ongoing speculation in the K Street world because the lobbying records aren't clear on the matter."

The OMB Watch-CRP study also concluded that many lobbyists "who appear to have left their line of work may not have actually done so. At the federal level, many people working in the lobbying industry are not registered lobbyists, instead adopting titles such as 'senior advisor' or other executive monikers, thereby avoiding federal disclosure requirements under the Lobbying Disclosure Act."

A blog post from the American Prospect contacted a lobbyist who stated; "For people wanting to reenter government, or who interact with 'covered officials' not having to register as a lobbyist makes a job more attractive. At our firm we have brought attorneys who are not registered and used them to meet with officials who refuse to see lobbyists […] I'd bet the business of influencing government has actually grown over the last year – registrations not withstanding."

Plus, as a Wall Street Journal opinion piece further remarks; "this administration's treatment of lobbyists has only decreased openness in the policy-making system. Lobbyists are now limiting their activities and deregistering themselves in order to avoid being stigmatized."

"At the same time that the White House has demonized lobbyists, it has allowed itself to be infiltrated by a different army—one made up of campaign contributors. [. . .] Because they aren't formally registered or regulated in the way lobbyists are, they enjoy the benefits and privileges of serving in the heart of the administration."

For more information read the press release and click the following files to download speadsheets on lobbyist registration and termination activity: Deregistration.xls and Active Lobbyists.xls

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