[OKFN-EN] [open-government] The world needs better lobbyist registers - but the UK's proposed lobbying bill won't help

Julia Keserű jkeseru at sunlightfoundation.com
Tue Sep 10 17:53:18 UTC 2013

Here`s a blog post from Sunlight with a set of draft principles that we
believe form the foundation of any comprehensive lobbying disclosure
regime. Based on the results of our research, we will expand on these
principles and offer detailed guidelines for lobbying disclosure in the
coming weeks.

 Sunlight Joins Effort Across the Pond as Britain Tries to Reign In
Influence Buying<http://sunlightfoundation.com/blog/2013/09/09/sunlight-joins-effort-across-the-pond-as-britain-tries-to-reign-in-influence-buying/>
by Lisa Rosenberg <http://sunlightfoundation.com/people/lrosenberg/>Sept.
9, 2013, 12:05 p.m.

[image: The sign for K Street, NW in DC - the home of lobbying in
heated debate over proposed lobbying legislation is underway in Great
Britain, where lobbying reform legislation has been offered as a result of
a scandal in which Members of the House of Lords apparently offered
assistance to fake solar energy lobbyists in exchange for payment.

Prime Minister David Cameron proposed lobbying reform legislation in 2010,
but it took the scandal <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-22742327> to
muster enough outrage to spawn reform efforts.

Much of the outcry over the bill is focused on provisions that would limit
the amount of money third parties could spend on elections.  But even more
fundamentally, the bill fails to do what it set out to do—that is, shine a
light on the activities of lobbyists. The bill is so poorly and narrowly
crafted that it may result in less transparency than is currently provided
by the UK’s voluntary (and woefully incomplete) lobbyist registry.

As it is currently written, the legislation, known as the Transparency of
Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill, would
require registration only from outside lobbyist consultants—leaving
in-house lobbyists and other paid influencers free from any registration
and reporting requirements and opening up a gaping loophole in which all
lobbying activities could be moved in-house to avoid disclosure.

Sunlight joined a group of global transparency advocates on an open
British Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg,
calling on leaders to redraft the bill to better address the goal of
providing more transparency for lobbying activities.

Sunlight has long advocated greater lobbying transparency in the US and
abroad to inform the public where the levers of influence are and who is
pulling them. Sunlight has developed a set of draft principles that form
the foundation of any comprehensive lobbying disclosure regime.

   - “Lobbying” and “lobbying targets” must be clearly and broadly defined
   - Anyone paid to lobby must to register and report
   - Lobbyists must disclose prior government employment
   - Individual lobbyists must be uniquely identifiable
   - Lobbyists’ clients, compensation, and a description of the issues and
   positions being advocated must be disclosed
   - All significant lobbying contacts with government officials must be
   - Expenditures for public facing lobbying support, such as
   advertisements and polls, must be disclosed
   - Reports must be filed online, in real time, and made available to the
   public in a robust format
   - Disclosure must be enforced by an independent body
   - The names of violators must be disclosed

Sunlight has been investigating lobbying requirements in countries around
the globe and, based on the results of that research, will expand on these
principles and offer detailed guidelines for lobbying disclosure in the
coming weeks. What is currently clear is that as it is drafted, the
Transparency of Lobbying bill fails to address the principles outlined

The UK has the opportunity to demonstrate that timely, robust disclosure of
lobbying activities can lead to greater accountability and a more informed
citizenry.  It should not squander the chance to become a global leader on
lobbying transparency.

On Thu, Sep 5, 2013 at 6:42 PM, Jonathan Gray <jonathan.gray at okfn.org>wrote:

> Fantastic work guys! :-)
> This is a great start towards the kind of overview I was thinking could be
> useful. There's definitely scope for more guidance and succinct analysis
> around this - and imagine this is something you'll also be thinking about.
> Do keep us in the loop and let us know if you need any input!
> All the best,
> Jonathan
> On 5 September 2013 18:38, Greg Brown <gbrown at sunlightfoundation.com>wrote:
>> Hi all,
>> As Julia has just mentioned, Sunlight is collecting information on how
>> other countries regulate lobbying, determining which systems are most
>> effective, and thinking through how we can assist efforts to regulate
>> lobbyists around the world. While we have long been a leading voice on
>> lobbying transparency in the US, we want to expand our reach to the
>> international community.
>> In pursuit of this goal, we’ve started a deep dive looking at countries
>> around the world that regulate lobbying. To see some of our early findings,
>> see this public spreadsheet<https://docs.google.com/a/sunlightfoundation.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0Av_Sh9ghfOyHdDBQd1B4aHdFQmJsQUxpMHlKOXBQbFE#gid=0>.
>> This spreadsheet will continue to be filled out as our research progresses.
>> We also welcome updates from the community.
>> All in all, lobbying regulations exist in shockingly few countries: US,
>> Canada, Israel, Australia, Taiwan, a handful of European countries, and a
>> few others. And even among these countries, a number of the regulatory
>> schemes are entirely toothless, like the voluntary systems of France,
>> Germany, and the EU or the weak laws of Georgia and Macedonia, which fail
>> to properly define what constitutes lobbying activity.
>> Once we have a better understanding of lobbying regulation around the
>> world, we will explore developing a set of globally applicable guidelines,
>> which will draw from both our domestic advocacy work<http://sunlightfoundation.com/policy/one-pagers/ldea/>and our international
>> research<https://docs.google.com/a/sunlightfoundation.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0Av_Sh9ghfOyHdDBQd1B4aHdFQmJsQUxpMHlKOXBQbFE#gid=0>.
>> The goal is to empower advocates working towards greater transparency in
>> lobbying and to push governments to adopt effective new measures to
>> regulate the influence of lobbyists. Please keep an eye out for more on
>> this in the coming months.
>> In this effort, we hope to assist those who are working towards a more
>> transparent democratic system that is beholden to all citizens, not just
>> lobbyists and influence peddlers.
>> Thanks,
>> Greg
>> On Thu, Sep 5, 2013 at 9:24 AM, Julia Keserű <
>> jkeseru at sunlightfoundation.com> wrote:
>>> Jonathan, Sunlight has just started a deep dive in country level
>>> lobbying regulations. I'm on vacation right now but my colleagues, Greg and
>>> Lisa will fill you in with more details very soon.
>>> In the meanwhile though, here's a great resource on lobbying laws:
>>> http://www.regulatelobbying.com/
>>> Best, Julia
>>> ---------- Továbbított üzenet ----------
>>> Feladó: "Jonathan Gray" <jonathan.gray at okfn.org>
>>> Dátum: 2013.09.05. 11:35
>>> Tárgy: [open-government] The world needs better lobbyist registers - but
>>> the UK's proposed lobbying bill won't help
>>> Címzett: "open-government at lists.okfn.org" <
>>> open-government at lists.okfn.org>, <okfn-en at lists.okfn.org>
>>> Hi all,
>>> I thought some of you might be interested in the following post on the
>>> Open Knowledge Foundation blog on the importance of lobbyist registers and
>>> how the UK's currently proposed lobbying bill won't result in a decent one
>>> without some important changes.
>>> I've been thinking that it might be useful to have a list of lobby
>>> registers and related legislation from different countries around the world
>>> - highlighting their strengths and weaknesses from a transparency
>>> perspective. Does anyone know of anything like this? If not, might anyone
>>> be interested in contributing to such a resource?
>>> As I allude to in the post, we'd like to see every country in the world
>>> with a decent register of lobbyists, and perhaps this kind of comparative
>>> roundup could be valuable for people working on policy or advocacy in this
>>> area.
>>> All the best,
>>> Jonathan
>>> September 4, 2013 in Featured <http://blog.okfn.org/category/featured/>
>>> , Open Data <http://blog.okfn.org/category/open-data/>, Open Government
>>> Data <http://blog.okfn.org/category/open-government-data/>, Policy<http://blog.okfn.org/category/policy/>
>>> Lobbyist registers are supposed to enable citizens to find out who is
>>> lobbying whom for what, and how much they are spending in the process.
>>> They are supposed to help to safeguard against big money having an
>>> unfair influence in politics – ultimately to ensure that political
>>> decisions are based on argument, evidence and democratic deliberation, and
>>> not bought with cash from the highest bidder.
>>> We think lobbyist registers are an essential part of government
>>> transparency, and that every country in the world ought to have one.
>>> Furthermore we think it is essential that lobbyist registers are published
>>> as open data <http://okfn.org/opendata> so that their contents can be
>>> easily analysed, queried, and connected with other information sources.
>>> As we’re increasingly seeing corporations and special interest groups
>>> lobbying across borders, we’d like to track how big money is shaping
>>> discussion and decisions about issues that matter – from energy and the
>>> environment to tax and trade – in countries around the world.
>>> We think that this kind of inquiry is essential for democracies to
>>> function.
>>> Map showing how much firms spend lobbying the EU<http://api.lobbyfacts.eu/map> created
>>> at Open Interests Europe Hackathon<http://okfnlabs.org/events/hackdays/lobbying.html> organised
>>> by OKFN Labs <http://okfnlabs.org/>
>>> While the UK is a world leader in opening up its public data,
>>> unfortunately the proposedLobbying Bill<http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2013-14/transparencyoflobbyingnonpartycampaigningandtradeunionadministration.html> in
>>> its current form will not deliver the lobbyist register that the UK needs.
>>> Aside from widespread concerns that it will have a “chilling effect on
>>> civil society and its freedom of expression”<http://www.civilsociety.co.uk/governance/news/content/15918/charity_lawyer_warns_new_lobbying_bill_poses_existential_threat_to_charity_campaigning>,
>>> the bill contains major loopholes and omissions which means that it will
>>> not deliver real or meaningful transparency around lobbying in the UK.
>>> Firstly, the bill would only apply to a fraction of the UK’s £2 billion
>>> lobbying industry. It would only require disclosures from those *whose
>>> main business is lobbying*. Hence it would not cover companies who have
>>> in-house lobbyists, big lobbying consultancies who offer a range of
>>> services, and other entities which offer lobbying services such as think
>>> tanks, law firms or management consultancies. And for those whose main
>>> business is lobbying it only covers those who lobby the highest echelons of
>>> government – not special advisers or mid-level civil servants.
>>> Secondly, the bill would require lobbyists to disclose very little
>>> information about their activities. Essentially it asks lobbyists for a
>>> list of their clients and nothing at all about which issues they lobby on,
>>> which departments they target, or how much they are paid.
>>> We at the Open Knowledge Foundation sincerely hope that the proposed
>>> bill will be revised to address these and other limitations.
>>> If the bill goes ahead as it is, then it will be a significant missed
>>> opportunity for government openness in the UK, and a major blow to the
>>> government’s aspiration to be – in the words of the Prime Minister – “the
>>> most open and transparent government in the world”.
>>> *If you’d like to read more you can take a look at SpinWatch’s analysis<http://www.lobbyingtransparency.org/images/spinwatchpcrcevidence.pdf>.
>>> While MPs voted for a second reading last night<http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmhansrd/cm130903/debtext/130903-0001.htm#13090336000002>,
>>> there’s still time to ask them to reconsider the bill. If you’re based in
>>> the UK you can write to your MP either via SpinWatch’s form<http://www.spinwatch.org/index.php/campaigns/lobbying-register> or
>>> with your own message atWriteToThem <http://www.writetothem.com/>.*
>>> --
>>> Jonathan Gray
>>> Director of Policy and Ideas  | @jwyg <https://twitter.com/jwyg>
>>> The Open Knowledge Foundation <http://okfn.org/>
>>> Empowering through Open Knowledge
>>> okfn.org  |  @okfn <http://twitter.com/OKFN>  |  OKF on Facebook<https://www.facebook.com/OKFNetwork> |
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>> --
>> Greg Brown
>> Policy Fellow | Sunlight Foundation <http://sunlightfoundation.com/>
>> (630) 379-3809 | @GregBrownm
>> OpeningParliament.org
> --
> Jonathan Gray
> Director of Policy and Ideas  | @jwyg <https://twitter.com/jwyg>
> The Open Knowledge Foundation <http://okfn.org/>
> Empowering through Open Knowledge
> okfn.org  |  @okfn <http://twitter.com/OKFN>  |  OKF on Facebook<https://www.facebook.com/OKFNetwork> |
> Blog <http://blog.okfn.org/>  |  Newsletter<http://okfn.org/about/newsletter>

Júlia Keserű
International Program Coordinator

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