Groups push for lobbying Web site

Watchdog groups want President Barack Obama to take his lobbying disclosure goals a step further by creating a Web-based system to aggregate and track reports of meetings between lobbyists and federal agency executives.

The Obama administration issued a memo March 20 that established rules for lobbyists seeking funding for clients under the economic stimulus law. The memo asks agencies to post all written communications from lobbyists about that law on the Recovery.gov Web site.

The Sunlight Foundation and OMB Watch advocacy groups want the lobbying disclosure forms to be expanded and grouped together on a single, searchable site.

The Sunlight Foundation unveiled a design on April 8 for a Web-based system that would display daily reports on meetings between agency officials and lobbyists. The system would display the name and agency of participants and lobbyists in the meetings, client names, and other details about the topics discussed.

The executive branch would administer the system and aggregate data from all federal agencies. The goal is to provide Web-based reports shortly after the meetings are held. The information would be sortable by lobbyist, official, agency, subject matter, client and date.

“We think the president is headed in the right direction — more real-time, online disclosure of lobbying activity,” said John Wonderlich, the foundation's policy director, in a news release. “To facilitate that, we have modeled what real-time lobbying disclosure actually looks like. Imagine having this sort of information from across the federal government right now — being able to track who's lobbying and what each of those discussions is about.”

OMB Watch posted a blog item April 9 that said Sunlight’s new tool could be used to achieve Obama’s increased transparency goals.

The president’s March 20 memo also stipulated that federal agency executives not engage in telephone or face-to-face communications with lobbyists about specific funding matters under the stimulus law. Lobbying groups have said those provisions violate their right to freedom of speech.



About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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