Capital Eye follows the lobbying firm of Ickes & Enright and finds that it’s very difficult to ascertain exactly what they do for the money.  From Empty Disclosure,

Take this client: the Coalition for Cable Diversity, a group with a vague name and no website revealing who bankrolled it. In 2008 the firm of Ickes & Enright filed lobbying reports with Congress disclosing payments of at least $30,000 from this coalition. But, unlike most lobbying disclosures, you won’t find anywhere in the spending reports what issues the Ickes firm lobbied on for their client, which government agencies they contacted and who was on the lobbying team.

…The three lobbying firms’ 2007 registration forms to represent the Coalition for Cable Diversity all stated their work would be focused on “mandating cable operators to carry low-power stations in minority communities.” How they went about that is a mystery.

Opacity guaranteed:

Here’s how lobbyists are able to collect tens of thousands of dollars from their clients and still file one-page disclosure reports: After a lobbying firm is hired by a client and registers with Congress, it must file quarterly reports disclosing the amount the client paid, the issues the firm lobbied on and the lobbyists who worked on those issues. However, when lobbying firms don’t have any direct contact with lawmakers on behalf of their clients–that’s the technical definition of “lobbying”–even if their clients are paying them hefty fees or retainers, they simply check a box on the form that indicates “no lobbying issue activity.” Doing so allows firms to legally forgo reporting any information other than what their client has paid them, making it exceedingly difficult in these cases for members of the public, journalists and watchdog groups to determine how, and to what extent, corporations, industry associations, labor unions and other groups are trying to shape government policy.

President Clinton signed the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995.  At the time, he said,

“Ordinary Americans also understand that organized interests too often can hold too much sway in the halls of power,” Clinton said immediately before signing the bill into law. “They know that in Washington an influence industry too often operates in secret and gets special privileges not available to most Americans. Lobbyists in the back room secretly re-writing laws and looking for loopholes do not have a place in our democracy. All the people should know what is done by people who affect public decisions.

It doesn’t look like the law accomplished that.

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