SENATE SHOULD INSIST ON STRONG LOBBYING BILL, FUMO SAYS
HARRISBURG, July 19, 2006 – The lobbyist disclosure bill approved last year by the state Senate has many provisions that are missing from the House version of the legislation, provisions that are necessary if Pennsylvania is to have a law that adequately regulates lobbying activity, state Senator Vince Fumo (D-Philadelphia) said.
"When the Legislature returns to session in the fall, I and other Senate Democrats plan to work for the same measures we insisted upon in Senate Bill 1 last year," Fumo said. "Those measures are important to make sure that lobbying in the state is clean, ethical and open."
Before the Senate adopted SB 1 in April 2005, Fumo and his fellow Senate Democrats had proposed a list of amendments that were added to the legislation. Among them were a conflict of interest provision, applied to lobbyists, that is similar to the one already in force for lawyers in Pennsylvania. Lobbyists would be prohibited from switching from one client to another who is on the opposite side of the same issue during the same legislative session.
They would also be prohibited from simultaneously working for clients whose interests are adverse to one another. Similar conflict of interest provisions have been adopted in Washington, Idaho and Texas.
Fumo said those clauses are necessary because lobbyists are often privy to proprietary information about their clients.
Senate Democrats also inserted other amendments into SB 1 to bar lobbyists from engaging in certain actions, but none of those were included in House Bill 700. The prohibited actions are:
Instigating the introduction of legislation for
the purpose of being hired to lobby for it.
Knowingly counseling anyone to violate the act,
or any other state or federal law.
Concealing the identity of an active client
from a state official or state employee.
Influencing or attempting to influence a state
official’s or state employee’s actions through coercion, bribery or threat of
Exercising any extortion or unlawful
retaliation against a state official or employee because of his position,
vote, or administrative action.
Influencing legislative action by promising
financial support, or by threatening financial support of an opponent.
Providing loans to a member of the legislature
or a public official to influence legislative or administrative action.
Engaging in or counseling anyone else to engage
in fraudulent acts.
Committing a criminal offense arising from
Engaging in conduct which brings disrepute to the practice of lobbying or the legislative or executive branches of government.
"Some of these may seem like small matters, but taken as a whole, they create the type of strict climate in which lobbying activity should take place," Fumo said. He noted that similar prohibitions have been enacted in the states of Washington, Texas, California, Idaho, Kentucky, Mississippi and West Virginia.
Fumo said he also backs other key provisions of the original SB 1, sponsored by Sen. Robert Jubelirer (R-Blair), that the House wants to omit. Among them are one which would require lobbyists to report most of their overhead expenses as part of their lobbying activity. Another establishes a threshold of $650 annually for lobbyists to publicly report expenditures of trips, meals, events, etc. for lawmakers, instead of $650 per instance, as contained in the House version of the bill.
"We need to enact a lobbying disclosure bill in Pennsylvania to make the process more transparent to the public, but as we do so, we must also insist that the new law will do everything possible to keep the process of lobbying clean and above board," Fumo said.
# # #