Government Watchdog Group Weighs In On Unregistered Lobbying

Nov 19, 2014

A local government watchdog group thinks stiffer penalties are needed to discourage the practice of unregulated lobbying.   

Common Cause of Rhode Island director John Marion
Credit Ian Donnis / RIPR

The Associated Press reported this week that former Attorney General Patrick Lynch has lobbied his former office several times without registering as a lobbyist. Lynch told the AP his actions didn’t amount to lobbying.

Common Cause of Rhode Island head John Marion said emails obtained by the AP leave few questions about what Lynch was doing.  “Looking at the definition and comparing to those emails, including one that literally thanked him for his advocacy,” said Marion.  “I don’t see how what he was doing on behalf of his paid clients could be interpreted otherwise. Lobbying is advocacy on behalf of a client.”  Lynch told the AP that he did not consider his actions as lobbying.

Marion thinks tougher penalties are needed to ensure compliance with the law.  “There are states who prevent people, if you’re found in non-compliance you can be prevented from lobbying for a set period as a punishment,” said Marion.  “And if we have professional lobbyists who aren’t complying, maybe that’s a better punishment – to try to restrict them for a period of time until they come into compliance.”

The fine for unregistered lobbying is just a few thousand dollars. That’s far fewer than the hundreds of thousands of dollars earned in a year by some professional lobbyists.

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