Some (More) Thoughts on Lobbying Reform

By March 27, 2006General

We’ve written on this topic before, back when it was hot and when it appeared that draconian (and stupid) action was imminent. While the pace has slowed, Congress seems hell-bent on doing something on it, will likely show more motion than progress.

At our Public Affairs meeting last week in Phoenix (see the various “Reports from America“, below), we were treated to a panel on the last day that included Sean Noble, Chief of Staff to Rep. John Shadegg (R-AZ) and Matt Salmon, a former member of Congress from Arizona who narrowly lost the Arizona governor’s race two years ago. They were both every insightful on the topic of grass roots lobbying and had some insights and tips for the public affairs professionals assembled there. However, their more interesting comments came on the topic of lobbying reform. While Noble was sharp and articulate it was Salmon –a former public affairs professional himself — who wowed the crowd.

Leaving Congress, Salmon quipped, he learned that “not all golf balls have logos on them.” But, he added, “At least I get to keep my gifts.” He characterized the current flap over the so-called lobbying scandals as “much ado about nothing”, pointing out that both Jack Abramoff and Rep. Cunningham broke existing laws. In his view, there is no need for new laws, only more transparency. Said Sean Noble in calling for more disclosure, “Sunshine is the best disinfectant.” Salmon’s biggest applause line — unintended as such, but delivered with such apparent conviction — was, “You can’t legislate decency and you can’t legislate integrity….Eigher you have it or you don’t.” Our sentiments exactly.

Salmon went on to note that Congress has so many issues to cover that it wold be impossible for them to be knowledgeable about them all. He said that lobbyists serve a useful function in educating Members of Congress and their staffs. Somebody commented that Congress does two things well: overreact and nothing. In this case, it looks like they’re poised to do the former.

Salmon closed by talking about the value of the various trips that he and his staff took while in Congress. As regular blog readers know, the NAM sponsors several Congressional staff trips a year (approved in advance by the relevant ethics committees) to manufacturing towns, to let them tour the facilities and talk to owners and workers and to learn a little bit about the folks who make the economy go. In almost every instance, it’s the first time they’re ever been in a manufacturing facility.

Said Salmon about the NAM, recalling his days in Congress, “You have a great story to tell.” We intend to keep telling it, and hope that Congress doesn’t decide punish some blatant transgressions of a few by making it harder for good law-abiding citizens to talk to their representatives.