A Brief History Of Lobbying

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Everyone from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons to the American Nazi Party employs lobbyists on Capitol Hill.

1792

William Hull, one of the country’s first lobbyists, is hired by the Virginia veterans of the Continental Army to lobby for additional compensation.

1850s

Gunmaker Samuel Colt, seeking to extend a patent, has lobbyists pass out pistols as gifts to lawmakers and to one member’s 12-year-old son.

1875

Sam Ward, “King of the Lobby,” testifies to Congress after admitting bribery: “I do not say I am proud — but I am not ashamed — of the occupation.”

1946

Congress passes the first comprehensive lobbying disclosure law, the Federal Regulation of Lobbying Act, which requires registration by people who spend half of their time lobbying.

1976

After Watergate, the Senate drafts tighter definitions of lobbyists, but intensive lobbying pressure prevents the measure from passing the House.

1991

A U.S. Government Accountability Office study reveals weaknesses in lobbying laws, finding that about 10,000 of the 13,500 “key influence peddlers” on Capitol Hill are not registered as lobbyists.

1995

The Lobbying Disclosure Act is signed by President Clinton, defining a lobbyist as someone who spends 20 percent of his time lobbying.

2006

Jack Abramoff, former power lobbyist, pleads guilty to felony counts of fraud, corruption, and conspiracy.

2007

Responding to the Abramoff scandal, Congress passes the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act, tightening gift rules and mandating that all lobbyist registration and disclosure forms be publicly available.

2007

Candidate Obama announces he will refuse lobbyists’ donations to his campaign.

2011

Newt Gingrich gets flak on the campaign trail for earning millions from health-care companies and Freddie Mac as a consultant while not having to register as a lobbyist.

2011

Former Senator Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), author of the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, becomes Hollywood’s chief lobbyist as CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America — but he’s not registered.

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