Lobby register

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A Lobby Registry, also named Lobbyist Registry, Register for Lobby Transparency or Registry of Lobbyists is a public database, in which information about lobbying actors and key data about their actions can be accessed.

Its aim is to gain transparency about possible influences of interest groups on Parliamentarians and their staff. Several studies indicate that lobby transparency lead to a decrease of corruption.[1] Registers exist for political committees of several countries. Their effectiveness is rated differently, strongly depending on their exact regulations. Many non-mandatory registers do not include powerful lobbyists.[1][2][3]

Positions and Considerations[edit]

Register opponents mainly argued in a survey that there would be no need for regulations, since it would be self-regulating and that they would fear a barrier of free exchange of views.[4] Different from the US, West European countries had only weak lobby regulations for a long time. Authors of a study interpreted that the early West-European politic was not focusing the concept of lobby transparency to gain public confidence into political processes, but rather on promoting economic development by enabling undisturbed communication between politics and economy. This setting of priorities is currently changing due to scandals and public pressure.[1]

Regulation details[edit]

Many Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) see means of controlling and sanction to handle missing or wrong entries as a central prerequisite for a working register.[3][5] In many cases there are complains that this has not been put into practice.

Making an entry only mandatory if a certain threshold of money or time is spent on lobbying should prevent an inappropriately high bureaucratic burden for small actors (for example) in the US. Similar mechanisms are popular among supporters of a register.[3]

Implementation as a database is favored over a list format since it allows not only searches but also enables data analysis and graphical representations.[6]

Contained data[edit]

Most registers contain at least the following data:

  • Identity of the lobbyist
  • contracting entity
  • motivations/goals
  • financial means

A survey among lobbyists conducted by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) revealed, that a majority of them would support a mandatory register and publication of the data above (excluding financial information).[5] Some registers, for example the Canadian, require much more data.

Lobby registers in different countries[edit]

USA[edit]

A mandatory, publicly accessible and processable[7] lobby register with enforced financial disclosure and theoretical high punishments exist on federal level,[8] as well as in every state besides Pennsylvania.[4] A register was introduced in the US in 1946 with the Lobbying Act. Loop holes in the regulation lead to the fact that only 4 000 of 13 000 lobbyists were registered, before the rules of disclosure were substituted in 1995 by the stricter Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995. In 2007 this was extended by the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act with more precise definitions and more powerful means of sanction.[2] The data published by this register is relatively informative. But it has been criticized that complaints lead to no action.[9]

Canada[edit]

Canada was putting a Lobbyist Registration Act into operation in 1989. This was extended regularly to comply with higher demands about data given, to extend the applying field of scope and to enable more powerful means of sanction. Maximum punishments are two years in prison and 200 000 Canadian $ (ca. 190 000 US $ or 140 000 EUR).[10] The strong regulations about lobby transparency demand lobbyists to report about their activity on a monthly basis. This includes the information, with which members of parliament or their staff they interacted and about which topics they spoke. The conduct has a law status, is equipped with sanctional power and is controlled by an independent office.

Lobbyists shall not place public office holders in a conflict of interest by proposing or undertaking any action that would constitute an improper influence on a public office holder. -

The Lobbyists' Code of Conduct - Rule 8[11]

Complaints are pursued publicly, violations have been prosecuted legally in practice.[12] In the Canadian provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Quebec and Ontario similar regulations were introduced.[2]

European Union[edit]

Combined for the European Parliament and the EU-Commission a voluntary lobbyist register (‘Transparency register’) is operative since June 2011 which should also encompass financial information.[13] It should be appealing that only registered lobbyists are granted passes that ease access to the parliament. As maximum means of sanction a commented deletion of the entry out of the registry and a withdrawal of the access pass is possible. The transparency gained by this register is seen as minor, since entries are voluntary, were drawn back arbitrarily by lobbyist in the past and incorrect information (which the co-signed code of conduct[14] does officially not allow) is not sanctioned in practice. The register is however in an evaluation phase and there is the perspective of further improvement.[3] The European Parliament is still working to transform it into a mandatory register,[15] while the EU Commission is reluctant. First the reason given for this was that there would be no juristic basis. After a legal study disproved this,[16] the EU-Commission agreed that it was juristically possible, but stated that the current voluntary approach was sufficient.[17]

Legislative footprint[edit]

It has been planned by the EU Parliament in 2011 to publish a ‘legislative footprint’ in the appendices of legislative reports. This should list all lobbyists that were in contact with the members of parliament or influenced them during the creation of the law text.[18] [19]

England[edit]

There is a voluntary register in England since 2011, but most NGOs criticize that it was ineffective.[20]

Germany[edit]

There is no mandatory lobby register in Germany.

Since 1972 associations can voluntarily be included in a list together with contact data, head and representatives, general interests of the association and the number of their members.[21] The list is limited to associations and there is no data about self-employed lobbyist, lawyers, think tanks and NGOs. There are no financial information and the registration is voluntary. A regulation making a registry in the list mandatory for trade associations to be heard in the Parliament was put out of force later.[22] Many NGO rate this list to not improve lobby transparency much.[23] Several initiatives of members of parliament in the opposition (social, left wing and green party) were denied by government (consisting of the conservatives and liberals 2009-2013).[24]

The German states Brandenburg and Rhineland-Palatinate have de-facto voluntary lists for associations that are comparable to the list on federal level.[25] [26]

Austria[edit]

In Austria a mandatory lobby register[27] with duty of disclosure including financial information and means of sanction was put into force.[28] The register is still in the early phase, some deadlines to register end 2014, many lawyers wait for clarification by a court´s decision and did not register.[29][30]

Further countries[edit]

Further registers have been set up in Australia[31] (in the year 2011), Denmark, France (2010), Ireland, Israel (2008), Lithuania (2001), Macedonia (2008), Netherlands[32] (2012), Poland (2005), Slovenia[33] (2010), Taiwan, Hungary (2006-2011).[34] In some cases long-term-experiences do not yet exist, in some cases the need for improvement is already seen today.[1][29]

Literature[edit]

  • Lobbying and transparency: A comparative analysis of regulatory reform; C Holmana and W Luneburg; Interest Groups & Advocacy (2012) 1, 75–104.open access publication - free to read doi:10.1057/iga.2012.4
  • Lobbyists, Governments and Public Trust, Volume 1; Increasing Transparency through Legislation; OECD open access publication - free to read doi:10.1787/9789264073371-en Experiences of Australia, Canada, Hungary, Poland, the United Kingdom and the United States with regulations designed to increase scrutiny for lobbying.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

NGOs and initiatives for lobby transparency[edit]

Lobbying: Regulations and codes of conduct in selected countries; OECD - Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development

Cooperative Wikis[edit]

Wiki lexica and databases managed by NGOs

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Lobbying and transparency: A comparative analysis of regulatory reform; C Holmana and W Luneburg; Interest Groups & Advocacy (2012) 1, 75–104. open access publication - free to read doi:10.1057/iga.2012.4
  2. ^ a b c Regulating Lobbyists: A Comparative Analysis of the USA, Canada, Germany and the European Union; R Chari, G Murphy, J Hogan; (2007) The Political Quarterly,open access publication - free to read creative commons-article; Vol. 78, No. 3, pp. 422-438
  3. ^ a b c d “Rescue the Register! How to make EU lobby transparency credible and reliable” - The ALTER-EU report; 2013
  4. ^ a b Hogan, J.: "Next door they have regulation, but not here …”: Assessing the opinions of actors in the opaque world of unregulated lobbying (2008); Canadian Political Science Review. Vol 2, No 3; open access publication - free to read creative commons article.
  5. ^ a b Transparency and Integrity in Lobbying (2012); OECD - Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development
  6. ^ lobby data analyzed by the NGO ”The Center for Responsive Politics”
  7. ^ analyzed and graphically processed data about lobbyism is provided by the NGO “The Center for Responsive Politics”
  8. ^ Official Register US - Lobbying disclosure House of Representatives
  9. ^ Report for Congress - Lobbying Reform: Background and Legislative Proposals; RE Petersen; Congressional Research Service (2006)
  10. ^ The Lobbying Act; The Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying, independent Agent of Parliament Canada
  11. ^ The Lobbyists' Code of Conduct - Rule 8; The Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying, Independent Agent of Parliament Canada
  12. ^ Court Cases and Complaints About the Canadian Federal Government Ethics Rules and Enforcement System; Democracy Watch NGO
  13. ^ The transparency register of the EU (official site)
  14. ^ Codex of the EU transparency register
  15. ^ resolution of the EU Parliament; 11. May 2011; Point 5
  16. ^ legal study: a mandatory EU Lobby register is possible; Prof. Dr. Markus Krajewski, 2013
  17. ^ ALTER-EU: Legal framework for a mandatory EU lobby register; Friends Of The Earth Europe NGO; 2013
  18. ^ press release ; European parliament; Reference No.: 20110510IPR19128
  19. ^ Rescue the EU Lobby Register; ALTER-EU initiative 2013
  20. ^ Statement on the Register of Lobbyists Bill; 2013; Spinwatch – a public interest investigation NGO
  21. ^ public list of registered trade associations, German Bundestag
  22. ^ association list - Verbändeliste - LobbyPedia article
  23. ^ national integrity system report Germany (short version); 2012; Point 10; Transparency International - Germany NGO
  24. ^ Discussion about the introduction of a new lobby register; German parliament; (available only in German)2011
  25. ^ The new lobby register of Brandenburg; 2013; Newspaper Potsdamer Neueste Nachrichten (available in German only)
  26. ^ Bundesländer: Lobby-Transparenz ungenügend; 2013; LobbyControl
  27. ^ Lobbyingregister; Federal Ministry of Justice Austria; (available in German only)
  28. ^ Lobbying: An Austrian Solution - A new law seeks to curb political corruption, but critics view it as another half-hearted attempt ; The Vienna Review; 2012
  29. ^ a b Lobbying: Regulations and codes of conduct in selected countries; OECD
  30. ^ Lobbying-Register started; 2013; Newspaper Der Standard (available in German only)
  31. ^ Australian Lobby Register
  32. ^ Lobbyist Registry Netherland
  33. ^ Lobby Register Slovenia
  34. ^ world map with facts about lobby registers