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Lobbyists Rebrand Themselves Consultants, Evade Campaign Finance Laws

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Honest Leadership and Open Government Act is no match for determined lobbyists.

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MINYANVILLE ORIGINAL After taking the day off from fundraising in honor of those who died on September 11, lobbyists will once again resume wining and dining members of Congress.

According to the Sunlight Foundation's Political Party Time database, which details who, what, where, and how much money is being funneled to legislators under the guise of breakfasts, lunches, dinners, fishing trips, and baseball games, Wednesday will see 11 gatherings for both Democrats and Republicans, followed by 13 on Thursday and six on Friday.

However, since lobbyist-sponsored parties are no longer permitted under the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act (HLOGA) of 2007 which, the Sunlight Foundation says, "put many new restrictions on how and whether members of Congress may be feted" by lobbyists, lobbyists no longer throw them. Or do they?

"Much to my surprise, lobbyists have gotten a lot smarter this year," Craig Holman, legislative representative for non-profit government watchdog Public Citizen, tells me. "They set up a couple of political consulting firms that are not Lobbying Disclosure Act participants. Even though these consulting firms were set up by the lobbying firms, they are considered distinct organizations. They have the exact same amount of influence, doing the same exact wining and dining of legislators, but this is how they got around the ethics rules."

While this may not violate the letter of the law, it "certainly violates the spirit of the law," says Holman.

The Rules Bend Just as Easily as They Break

Here's how it's done:



"Boots on the Bay" was just one of the many similar soirees held during the GOP National Convention last month. Attendees could "sponsor" the event at levels ranging from a $5,000 donation (which included "limited billing and signage" and five tickets) to $50,000, which granted donors "top billing and signage" and 55 tickets.

To gain access to members of the Oklahoma Senate and Congressional delegation and staff, all one needed to do was write a check and RSVP to someone named Amy Ford Bradley at what appears to be a personal email address -- just a friendly, down-home gathering of a few like-minded Oklahomans in the Florida sun, right?

Not really.
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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