Under the current law, you can be hired to advise corporations on how to win favors from Washington without ever registering as a lobbyists. In other words, you can be involved in “lobbying activities” that do not involve “lobbying contacts” and never wear a scarlet “L” on your Brooks Brothers suit. Lots of people have done this, including Barack Obama’s top health policy nominee Tom Daschle, who worked for a lobbying firm with lobbying clients but was never a lobbyist.
I have a new story up on Time.com about this. One interesting irony to note: Back in 2007, then-Sen. Obama was concerned about this loophole, and teamed up with public interest groups to amend the law to ban non-lobbying lobbyist coordination by former members of Congress for two years after they leave office. It was shot down by Obama’s Democratic peers, who did not want to undermine their post-public service paychecks.
“Obama was the one who really became excited about the whole idea,” says Craig Holman, a lobbyist for Public Citizen, a group that helped write the bill. “We lost that on the House side, initially. It was largely the committee chairmen who didn’t want that in there.”