Bob Bauer is one of the folks helping fix some major problems in American government by helping articulate and fixing a major problem. His work is of major importance, reminding us that lobbying often is in the public interest or is just about someone getting a fair shake for their clients.
This is a really big deal.
Paul Blumenthal from Sunlight Foundation just reported a keynote address from Bob, and what follows is first a few words from Bob, then Paul's commentary. (Both are much smarter than me, so I'll get out of the way now.)
Bob regarding "Raising the Expectation of Professionalism":
[T]he newer rules do seem to have been influenced by the
expectation that while lobbyists discharge a constitutionally protected
function, there are constraints on their conduct and—going beyond
constraints—an affirmative expectation of professionalism that the
Court in [Trist v. Child] was expressing. A major change, mentioned
earlier, is the decision to hold lobbyists to the same gift rules that
Members observe under their Congressional rules, and it shows both the
role of constraints and the expectations of professionalism.
On the one hand, those rules are a simple prophylactic measure to
tighten up the gift rules. If the Member should not accept the gift,
the lobbyist should not offer it. There are limits on the form of
lobbying and the rules are meant to further enforcement by addressing
the supply side. But on the other hand, Members and lobbyists are
collaborating in the making of public policy and the more positive case
for the rules is one that takes both lobbyist and Members as acting,
though in different ways, in a public capacity, each bearing to
different degrees responsibilities to the public.
This — raising the expectation of professionalism — looks to be the
direction that further lobbying regulation will take. One area that
deserves focus is the transparency of lobbyist operations.
Acknowledging the important role that lobbyists play, while requiring
full transparency in their operations — as we do, or at least aspire
to, from our public servants. Transparency in lobbying contacts, in the
unregistered swathes of influencers, and in other areas will help
provide meaningful information to a wary and unsettled public in ways
that the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 failed to do and also ensure
the legitimacy of lobbying as a crucial part of governance. This is one
area that raises the professional expectations of lobbyists and bridges
the gap between the contradictory views of their profession between
themselves and the public.