LET THE SUN SHINE

  • Share
  • Read Later
President Clinton has signed into law a major overhaul of lobbying that TIME's Viveca Novak says will "dramatically improve access to information about who's helping whom in Washington." Under the first major change in lobby regulation in a half-century, lobbyists will be required to register their clients and disclose the issues on which they are working, and roughly how much they are paid. "Lobbyists in the back room, secretly rewriting laws and looking for loopholes, do not have a place in our democracy," said Clinton, who was joined by lawmakers of both parties who had passed the bill overwhelmingly after what had seemed insurmountable gridlock. The law broadens the definition of who is a lobbyist to include nearly 10 times as many people than the 6,500 now registered. One loophole now closed: the contacts with executive branch officials and congressional aides now count. Reformers, though, point to what may emerge as a serious weakness: the law still allows fast-growing grass-roots lobbying, in which practitioners use databases to find thousands of sympathetic citizens to flood Congress with telephone calls and letters.