Bob Bauer on Professionalism and Ethics for Lobbyists

Bob Bauer is one of the folks helping fix some major problems in American government by helping articulate and address a major problem. His work is of major importance, reminding us that lobbying often is in the public interest or is just about someone getting a fair shake for their clients.

This is a really big deal.

Paul Blumenthal from the Sunlight Foundation just reported a keynote address from Bob, and what follows is first a few words from Bob, then Paul's commentary. (Both are much smarter than me, so I'll get out of the way now.)

Bob regarding "Raising the Expectation of Professionalism":

[T]he newer rules do seem to have been influenced by the expectation that while lobbyists discharge a constitutionally protected function, there are constraints on their conduct and—going beyond constraints—an affirmative expectation of professionalism that the Court in [Trist v. Child] was expressing. A major change, mentioned earlier, is the decision to hold lobbyists to the same gift rules that Members observe under their Congressional rules, and it shows both the role of constraints and the expectations of professionalism.

On the one hand, those rules are a simple prophylactic measure to tighten up the gift rules. If the Member should not accept the gift, the lobbyist should not offer it. There are limits on the form of lobbying and the rules are meant to further enforcement by addressing the supply side. But on the other hand, Members and lobbyists are collaborating in the making of public policy and the more positive case for the rules is one that takes both lobbyist and Members as acting, though in different ways, in a public capacity, each bearing to different degrees responsibilities to the public.

Paul's commentary:

This — raising the expectation of professionalism — looks to be the direction that further lobbying regulation will take. One area that deserves focus is the transparency of lobbyist operations. Acknowledging the important role that lobbyists play, while requiring full transparency in their operations — as we do, or at least aspire to, from our public servants. Transparency in lobbying contacts, in the unregistered swathes of influencers, and in other areas will help provide meaningful information to a wary and unsettled public in ways that the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 failed to do and also ensure the legitimacy of lobbying as a crucial part of governance. This is one area that raises the professional expectations of lobbyists and bridges the gap between the contradictory views of their profession between themselves and the public.