Lobbying Reporting: Nice Web Site, System Not So Nice
Monday, May 03, 2010
Independent assessments of Rhode Island's lobbyist compensation and activity regulations and public information access get mixed grades.
First the good news. Good Jobs First, a national, non-profit policy resource center based in Washington, DC, which promotes corporate and government accountability in economic development for grassroots groups and public officials, assessed the Rhode Island Secretary of State's database with a very high 94% score (since this ranking, the software system has been updated in December 2009).
The intuitiveness of the Web site, and several key search options, earned the site its high ranking, as shown here.
The not-so-good news: It's not all about the Web site. According to The Center for Public Integrity’s 2003 state ranking on lobby disclosure, Rhode Island came in at number 27, with a failing score of 58. For details of CPI's assessment of Rhode Island and the other 49 states, go here.
Undoubtedly the 2003 figures have improved, according to Operation Clean Government, with the enactment of a law requiring both lobbyists and elected officials to report any campaign finance donations over $100 for the lobbying year, and with the inclusion of executive lobbyists. Be that as it may, Rhode Island still struggles with certain important aspects of disclosure. The National Conference of State Legislatures reports as of 2007 that of the fifty states, Rhode Island is 1 of 13 states with no provisions in the general laws that prohibit false testimony, reporting or disclosure by lobbyists. Also, we were 1 of 9 states in which state lobbying totals were either completely unavailable or partially unavailable for the 2004-2006 Center for Public Integrity data set.