HARRISBURG – Lobbyists would be subject to new openness, transparency and ethical conduct requirements and would have less influence in state government under a legislative proposal unveiled today by Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman (R-Bellefonte) and Speaker of House Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster).
The lobbying reform package would deliver on an important promise that both legislative leaders made when they were elected to their posts by their colleagues in January. The bills would build on the state’s Lobbyist Disclosure Act and close existing loopholes that have been exploited by lobbying and campaign consulting firms since the last significant update to the law in 2006.
“There is a tangled web of money and influence between the people who lobby the General Assembly and the people who run political campaigns,” Corman said. “This package of bills would help untangle that web and sever the ties between those two entities, while ensuring the public has more access to information about the individuals and organizations who are seeking to influence public policy.”
“Every Pennsylvanian, whether they realize it or not, has a lobbyist working for them inside the Capitol,” Cutler said. “The voters elected us to carry their voices and their interests, we are their lobbyists. The voices of the people we represent cannot be shouted down by those with power and influence, and these reforms will help ensure all voices are on an equal playing field in Harrisburg.”
In order to promote greater openness and transparency, the package would include measures to require lobbyists to disclose more information, including any client conflicts and equity they may hold in any entity they are representing. In addition, campaign consultants would also be required to register with the Department of State.
The package also includes measures to limit the influence of lobbyists by prohibiting campaign consultants from being registered lobbyists or engaging in lobbying elected officials for two years. The bills would also prohibit lobbyists from receiving or paying referral payments to another individual, lobbying firm or campaign consultant – essentially preventing kick-backs from one firm or individual to another.
Lobbyists and campaign consultants would also be prohibited from being hired or employed by a state entity for the purpose of influencing any branch of government.
New ethical conduct standards for lobbyists are also included in the package, such as mandatory annual ethics training, new registration requirements for lobbyists whose clients are seeking financial assistance or grants, and prohibitions on collecting an inducement or performance bonus through a third-party affiliate when securing taxpayer-funded grants.
The bills are expected to be introduced in the General Assembly in the weeks ahead.