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The Source: Tracking The "Unlobbyists"

Flickr user 401(K) 2012

  Washington, D.C., has seen a drop in the number of registered lobbyists and in dollars spent on lobbying since 2008.

But before you break out the champagne to celebrate the end of influence-peddling, hear this: 46 percent of those former lobbyists in 2012 were still employed by the same firms, doing very similar jobs, according to theCenter for Responsive Politics.

The CRP detailed this rise of the "unlobbyist." In studying 1,800 former lobbyists they found efforts to change the job titles and responsibilities just enough to get out of federal lobbying rules. 

Here in Texas one very notable case of an "unlobbyist" hit federal court. The Texas Ethics Commission repeatedly subpoenaed conservative activist Michael Quinn Sullivan to determine if he is a lobbyist.  

Sullivan runs the anti-tax 501(c)3 group, Empower Texans and 501(c)4 group, Texans for Fiscal Responsibility. The commission was rebuffed many times and Sullivan then sued the state to stop the subpoenas.

Why are so many doing so much to avoid the lobbyist label? What has to happen to accurately track the behavior of those seeking to influence lawmakers?


  • Craig McDonald, executive director of Texans for Public Justice
  • Viveca Novak, editorial director at the Center for Responsive Politics

*This is the first segment in the March 31 edition of The Source, which airs at 3 p.m. on KSTX 89.1 FM -- audio from this show will be posted by 5:30 p.m.

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Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org