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More Lobbying, Less Registration: Influence-Peddling Goes Underground

This is one of our editors' picks from our ongoing roundup of Investigations Elsewhere.

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On Sunday, The New York Times reported that even as influence-peddling in Washington is booming, practitioners are increasingly shying away from registering as lobbyists, moving their work out of public view.

According to the Times, ethics reforms passed by Congress in 2007 account for some of the changes in lobbyist behavior. While the legislation tightened reporting requirements and upped penalties, it also "left the definition of a lobbyist fairly elastic."

The new lobbying restrictions imposed by the Obama administration are also having an effect. While some lobbyists have criticized the rules as being too tough, open-government groups have pointed out that the administration has granted waivers for more than a dozen former lobbyists to get top jobs in the government. In an attempt to get around a more recent set of administration rules, some corporate lobbyists told the Times they were "revising job descriptions in light of the administration’s decision to bar registered lobbyists from sitting on industry advisory panels."

The article comes on the heels of a November 2009 study from the nonpartisan groups OMB Watch and the Center for Responsive Politics that found a spike in the number of lobbyists who were "deregistering" in recent years while noting that "thousands of lobbyists who appear to have left their line of work may not have actually done so."

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