ABA calls for stricter lobbying rules

August 14, 2011

The American Bar Association is urging Congress to broaden the definition of “lobbyist,” and create tougher campaign fundraising rules for lobbyists.

The resolution passed last week in the association’s House of Delegates. It pushes to amend the federal Lobbying Disclosure Act — which currently requires lobbyists to file quarterly reports detailing client names, fees and issues only if they spend at least 20 percent of their time for a client engaging lawmakers — to require reporting for anyone whose lobbying activities constitute an unspecified but “reasonable” amount of time. Under the ABA’s measure, anyone who engages in “lobbying support activities” such as polling, coalition building and public relations would also be required to register as a lobbyist.

The ABA is also calling for changes that would ban lobbyists from fundraising for a lawmaker’s campaign if they have lobbied them in the last two years, and prohibit lobbyists from lobbying a lawmaker if they have fundraised for them in the last two years.

The American League of Lobbyists, the national organization representing professional lobbyists, said it agreed with most of the resolution but called the proposed changes to campaign finance rules “inadequate and not workable.”

Trevor Potter, co-chairman of the ABA’s task force on lobbying reform and a partner at Caplin & Drysdale, said lawmakers shouldn’t be so dependent on lobbyists.

“We’re not saying lobbyists can’t fundraise, we’re just saying they can’t fundraise for people they lobby,” Potter said.

The ABA will work on turning the resolution into draft legislation in the coming months.

Judge dismisses Patton Boggs suit against Chevron

A federal district judge has tossed a lawsuit brought by Patton Boggs against Chevron that accused the oil giant and its lawyers at Gibson Dunn & Crutcher of deterring Patton Boggs from representing plaintiffs in an environmental torts suit against Chevron.

The decision by Judge Henry H. Kennedy Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia last week is the latest in an unusual legal battle between two prominent law firms. Patton Boggs, which represents Ecuadorian nationals in a multi-billion dollar environmental damages suit against Chevron, accused Gibson Dunn lawyers of trying to disqualify them from representing the plaintiffs because a lobbying firm Patton Boggs acquired last year — Breaux-Lott Leadership Group — once performed lobbying services for Chevron.

Judge Kennedy found that Patton Boggs did not show “the exact manner and facts” by which Gibson Dunn and Chevron tried to deter the firm from representing the plaintiffs.

Patton Boggs previously filed a similar complaint asking the court to absolve the firm of any ethical conflicts. That complaint was dismissed in April.

Fox affiliates hire Dow Lohnes in Washington

Fox Affiliate Association, the trade group representing 150 independently owned local television station affiliates, has hired the District’s Dow Lohnes to advise the association on legal, regulatory and policy issues, including navigating the affiiliates’ relationship with Fox Broadcasting.

The affiliates are owned by third-party broadcasters that contract with Fox to air the network’s programming. Fox recently began demanding that affiliate stations pay a portion of retransmission fees, a controversial move that has led to the network parting ways with at least two affiliates.

Catherine Ho covers law and lobbying for Capital Business, which she joined in 2011. She was previously a reporter at the Daily Journal in Los Angeles, covering LA civil courts and labor and employment law.
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