February 10, 2011
James Browning, (215) 605-6315
Common Cause Study Shows Delaware's Lobbying Law Lags Behind Other States in Promoting Ethics and Transparency
A new study by Common Cause Delaware shows that Delaware's lobbying law requires relatively little disclosure of lobbyists' activities, compared to other states, and that Delawareans are "largely in the dark" when it comes to tracking lobbyists' influence. According to the study, several trends reinforce the need for greater disclosure-the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, which freed many lobbyists' clients to make unlimited political expenditures, the rise in state-level lobbying across the country, and the rise in political spending in Delaware, whose 2010 U.S. Senate race was its most expensive ever.
The study makes four recommendations for strengthening the state's lobbying law:
Require legislators to wait at least a year after leaving office before becoming paid lobbyists
Require lobbyists who are paid $1000 or more by a client in a calendar quarter to report compensation from that client to the Public Integrity Commission
Require organizations spending more than $1000 on lobbying in a calendar quarter to report expenditures on all lobbying-related activities, including publications that urge people to communicate with elected officials
Increase funding for the Public Integrity Commission, and create a fully searchable, sortable database of lobbyist expenditures
"It's ironic that funding for the Public Integrity Commission has been cut at a time when political spending is soaring," said Jeff Raffel, Chair of Common Cause Delaware. "We need a system strong enough that, if a lobbyist pushes for the introduction of a bill in the morning, the public should be able to find all of the money spent by all of that lobbyist's clients by that afternoon."
By comparing Delaware with other states, the study shows that money spent on gifts, meals, travel, entertainments, and recreation-the only types of expenditures which lobbyists are required to report in Delaware-may represent as little as 5%-10% of all lobbying-related expenditures. Open Delaware: The Case for Strengthening Delaware's Lobbying Law is available here.
Common Cause is a nonpartisan grassroots organization dedicated to upholding the core values of American democracy. We work to create open, honest, and accountable government that serves the public interest; promote equal rights, opportunity, and representation for all; and empower all people to make their voices heard in the political process.