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New Law Library Report on Lobbying Disclosure Laws

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Working and living in Washington, DC, lobbyists are no uncommon sight. K Street, where numerous lobbying firms are traditionally located, has become a metonym for the lobbying industry in general.

A “lobbyist” is defined under federal law as

any individual who is employed or retained by a client for financial or other compensation for services that include more than one lobbying contact, other than an individual whose lobbying activities constitute less than 20 percent of the time engaged in the services provided by such individual to that client over a 3-month period. (2 U.S.C. § 1602).

In the United States, the Lobbying Disclosure Act mandates registration of all such individuals with the Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the House of Representatives. Likewise, the Foreign Agents Registration Act requires persons acting as agents of “foreign principals” (mostly foreign governments and foreign political parties) to register with the Department of Justice.

“Our congressman” – past and present. F. Opper, Frederick Burr. 1882. Caricature showing congressman making patriotic speech in Congress in the past, and in the present as being bogged down with people lobbying for many different things. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

A recently published Law Library report on “Lobbying Disclosure Laws” looks at the laws governing the registration of lobbyists and foreign agents in France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. In all three countries, mandatory registration of lobbyists is either a recent occurrence (UK, France) or is still being debated (Germany).

The first of the three surveyed countries to enact a lobbying registration law was the United Kingdom in 2014. The law requires lobbyists whose annual lobbying business reaches a certain threshold to disclose specified information, in particular the identity of lobbyists’ clients. France recently adopted a mandatory registration scheme for lobbyists that will go into effect on July 1, 2017. Lobbyists will have to disclose, among other things, the identity of organizations with interests related to the registrant’s representation. The German parliament keeps a voluntary register for associations that lobby the German parliament and the federal government. There are several ongoing initiatives supporting a mandatory register, as well as draft legislation submitted by the Social Democratic Party to establish one.

We invite you to review this report along with the many other multinational and single country reports, including several on Elections and Campaign Finance, available on the Law Library’s website. To receive alerts when a new report is published, you can subscribe to email updates and the RSS feed for our Law Library Reports (click the “subscribe” button on the Law Library’s website).

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