Grassroots Lobbying Flies Under Public Radar

Last month, K Street Cafe examined some explanations for the declining number of registered lobbyists in Washington. In her piece, “Unregistered Lobbyists Keep Business Running,” Roll Call‘s Kate Ackley pointed to the lax enforcement of lobbying laws, which, to a certain degree, have enabled ‘shadow advocacy.’

This week, Ackley has uncovered yet another piece of the puzzle: though they work closely with their politically-minded clients, paid grassroots groups can evade public scrutiny because they are not obligated to report their clients or their fees. According to her latest article on the subject, grassroots groups can adopt many of the activities taken on by lobbyists so long as they avoid violating the Lobbying Disclosure Act.

“Grass-roots firms can help identify and mobilize constituents to contact their members of Congress. They work to secure meetings with lawmakers and their aides and coach activists on what to say and how best to present their case. They often do not attend the meetings with lawmakers, but grass-roots professionals do engage in media outreach, placing op-eds in publications and using advertising, social media and online tools to gin up voters on specific issues.”

Some lawmakers have attempted to revise the Lobbying Disclosure Act, including adding a measure that would require grassroots work to be declared in public filings. At present, no action has been taken on these efforts.

Click here to read more in Roll Call.

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