Annual Lobbyist Disclosures
VPAP has posted information from the 2012-13 lobbyist disclosure reports filed with the Secretary of the Commonwealth.
The more than 2,000 reports were filed by 830 lobbyists representing one or more of 916 companies and trade associates registered with the Secretary of the Commonwealth. VPAP organizes the reports in a client-centric way.
The disclosures are not terribly enlightening when it comes to informing the public about what lobbyists did in the last year, how much they spent and how they built relationships with legislators and executive officials.
- The forms ask lobbyists to list actions they lobbied "with as much specificity as possible." But only one-fifth of 916 clients were specific enough to list at least one bill they lobbied.
- The disclosure law provides no guidance on how to calculate lobbyist compensation, often the largest expense. Compensation ranges from providing a lobbyist's entire salary; listing a portion of a firm's retainer; and parsing hours to report only time engaged in lobbying based on the narrow legal definition of the word. All are acceptable, but the result is there is no apples-to-apples way to compare or rank spending.
- More than 70 percent of lobbyist entertainment reports do not identify what officials were entertained. The law requires lobbyists to name names only when the average cost per person exceeds $50. It's often unclear why an entertainment report did not identify the official involved -- Was it because the event was a small-dollar meal? Or was it an expensive meal in which costs were divided among different clients, driving the per-person cost below $50? There's often no way to know because the forms do not require lobbyists to provide the most salient number -- the average cost per person.
Aug. 29, 2013