In the eyes of K Street, President Barack Obama did one thing right in Tuesday’s State of the Union address – not a single mention of the influence industry.
“Silence will speak volumes. Finally ending the stock anti-lobbying verbiage would perhaps reflect the maturity of the administration and the pragmatic acknowledgment that the problems and dysfunction in Washington are not caused by lobbyists,” Nick Allard tells Kevin Bogardus of The Hill.
Allard is a partner for Patton Boggs, an international public-policy law firm based in Washington D.C.
Obama is legendary in K Street for using the high-profile annual speech to knock the influence industry, calling for limits in lobbying and additional disclosures of the relationships between them and Congress.
Lobbyists are aware they are easy targets, and Obama’s attacks seem more an attempt to boost his popularity than to address any real reforms.
“His poll numbers are low, but the public thinks far less of lobbyists. If he’s desperate to score some points with the public, he will use this opportunity to bash lobbyists,” says former Association of Government Relations Professionals president Howard Marlowe.
Industry watchdogs say Obama should focus more on bringing campaign finance reform than bashing lobbyists.
The Supreme Court became a target in the president’s 2012 SOTU speech, where Obama touched upon the controversial Citizens United decision, allowing millions of dollars to flow almost unfettered into political ads. But little in the way of legislation has happened since to make the process more open to scrutiny.
“This nation needs to hear the president commit to greater transparency of money in politics and work toward a campaign finance system based on equality, participation and accountability. That’s what I would like to hear the president talk about — if even in just a few sentences — in the State of the Union address,” Public Citizen government affairs lobbyist Craig Holman tells the Hill.
Democracy 21 president Fred Wertheimer agrees.
“Congress should pass effective transparency legislation now,” Wertheimer said, “to close the gaping disclosure loopholes that resulted in more than $300 million in secret contributions being spent to influence the 2012 elections.”