Lobbyists call bluff on 'Daschle exemption'

By CHRIS FRATES, Politico

Tom Daschle has earned millions of dollars telling the nation’s biggest companies how to get what they want from official Washington.

He’s not a lawyer, but he works for a law firm — one that’s regularly cited as one of the highest-grossing lobbying shops in town. One of Daschle’s most trusted aides is a lobbyist, well known on the Hill as the former Senate Democratic leader’s emissary.

In short, Daschle, working with his firm’s lobbyists, uses his decades of congressional experience to tell clients how to favorably influence policy.

But Daschle insists, “I do not lobby.”

“I provide my clients with analysis, not access. I offer them strategic advice on public policy matters, including analysis of the substance, procedure and politics associated with different policy initiatives, whether they be legislative, regulatory or otherwise,” Daschle wrote in an e-mail to POLITICO.

Daschle, a senior policy adviser at DLA Piper, is part of a new and seemingly growing class of individuals who take an active role in Washington’s advocacy trade — but don’t register as lobbyists.

It’s not just a matter of skipping some paperwork. By not registering, these individuals don’t have to disclose specific clients they advise, issues they’re working on or how much their firms make from their advice — routine information disclosed by registered lobbyists under laws designed to shine a light on who is seeking to influence policy and why.

“You don’t know what they’re doing, and they have an incredible amount of power and access that no average American would ever have and that no average American can find out about either. It’s a double whammy,” said Dave Levinthal of the Center for Responsive Politics, a political money watchdog.

But now, one group is standing up to say, “Enough” — lobbyists.

The American League of Lobbyists has teamed with the Sunlight Foundation in hopes of changing the law to require more of Washington’s influence class to register.

“I don’t care if you call it a rainmaker or a strategic adviser, if you’re talking to a lawmaker about any issue or anything you’re lobbying,” said Dave Wenhold, president of the league, which represents 1,100 lobbyists.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0710/40207.html#ixzz0un4MRVw4

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