Where Does Your State Fall on Lobbying Disclosure Requirements?

Oklahoma's gift-giving law is broad and open to lobbyist abuse.

Oklahoma's gift-giving law is broad and open to lobbyist abuse. Ffooter / Shutterstock.com

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

The Sunlight Foundation takes a look, and the results vary.

Florida, Nevada, Oregon and West Virginia received failing marks on a scorecard the Sunlight Foundation released on Wednesday, which ranks states' lobbying disclosure requirements and practices.

The scorecard provides an update on prior work from the group. It ranks states based on a variety of criteria, such as disclosure requirements for lobbying activities and expenditures, whether lobbyists must provide information about how much money they're receiving from clients and how easy it is for the public to access documents and forms the professional persuaders have to file.

Among the states receiving A grades were California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Wisconsin.

Source: Sunlight Foundation

Sunlight points to areas where improvements might be made, highlighting for instance that "in 33 states, lobbyists are not mandated to disclose all of their expenditures in a specific, individual and itemized fashion."

A couple places get called out by name for subpar practices, including the Sooner State. Sunlight notes: "Oklahoma's gift giving law is ripe for abuse. Lobbyists cannot give politicians gifts except for instances of 'infrequently occurring occasions of personal significance,' where a gift up to $200 is permitted. However, no definition of 'personal significance' is given."

The scorecard spreadsheet is below, and Sunlight's full findings, along with an explanation of their methodology and scoring criteria, can be found on their website. A nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, the Sunlight Foundation advocates for greater transparency and accountability in government. 

Source: Sunlight Foundation

* Indicates that expenses are itemized above expenditure threshold.
** Indicates that lobbyists report their compensation within a large range of values, e.g. $25,000-$49,999.
*** Indicates that the state asks for the client to report the payment to its lobbyists, which can impede learning how much each lobbyist receives if, as is the case in Montana, multiple lobbyists work for a client and the client only has to reveal the total amount spent.
^ Indicates that the registration form is not available online.
^^ Indicates that lobbyists do not report any expenditures, but employers do report lobbyist-related expenses within a large range of values.

Bill Lucia is a Reporter for Government Executive’s Route Fifty.

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