Senator Elizabeth Warren today called for an expansion of the definition of lobbying to cover anybody who is paid to influence lawmakers, as part of her plan to root out corruption in Washington.
The Democratic presidential hopeful would close the lobbying loophole, which requires individuals to register only if they spend 20 percent of their time lobbying, according to a blog she posted today on Medium.
“That means law firms, consultancies, and even self-described lobbying firms that hire individuals for the express purpose of influencing government may be able to avoid these registration requirements – allowing powerful interests to influence policy without any public accountability,” she wrote.
The Massachusetts Senator’s proposal would create ”a new designation for corporate lobbyists to identify individuals paid to influence government on behalf of for-profit entities and their front-groups – and subjects these corporate hired guns to additional restrictions."
She renewed her call to ban lobbying for foreign governments, companies and individuals, noting that president Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, sits in prison for his shady lobbying activity for Ukrainian interests.
“What is the justification for allowing foreign governments to use Americans as hired guns who sit in the shadows, quietly attempting to influence our domestic political system?” she wrote. “That’s not how diplomacy should work. Other nations have ambassadors and diplomatic staff in the United States. If those governments want to interact with our political process they can do so through normal, above-board diplomatic channels.”
Warren understands that the Constitution guarantees the American people the right to petition their government with grievances and that lobbying has been around for a long time.
“What’s new is the weaponization of lobbying to coerce our government into doing whatever corporate interests want,” she wrote. “While companies have an important role to play in our democratic conversation, the voices of corporations and powerful interests shouldn’t be the only voices in the room. But that’s exactly what’s happened.”
Warren believes the fundamental promise of our democracy is that every voice matters. “But when lobbyists and big corporations can buy influence from politicians, that promise is broken. The first thing to do to fix it is to end lobbying as we know it,” the Senator wrote.