A look at how the Trump administration has changed the game for the pros in the lobbying business
By Andrew Burnes and Alex Dobuzinskis—CNNMoneyThe Trump administration is poised to loosen regulations on lobbying, but many of the rules it will put in place may not be as helpful to the industry as many are making out.
The White House is expected to announce Wednesday that the Federal Election Commission will be able to exempt from campaign finance regulations lobbying groups that are primarily devoted to a specific candidate’s reelection bid, as long as the groups are organized to influence elections, not the president or other federal officials.
The move will be welcomed by lobbyists who say it will give them a boost in their efforts to influence election outcomes.
But others worry the change will undermine the credibility of groups that work for the public good.
The Trump team has long sought to make lobbying a political activity, but the Obama administration has struggled to make it a nonpartisan one.
That has led to a sharp divergence in the interests of the business community and the political parties.
Some lobbyists worry that the new regulations will undermine a crucial element of their industry: political accountability.
“It’s a pretty big deal,” said one lobbyist, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to discuss internal deliberations.
“They’re going to allow groups to raise money without the political party having to know who’s supporting them.
It’s not as if the parties are doing their homework.
They’re trying to influence campaigns without knowing anything about who’s backing them.
That’s the risk with a lot of the new things.”
The Obama administration allowed some political action committees to raise unlimited amounts of money from individuals and corporate entities, but those groups could not spend it to influence candidates.
That distinction was important to Republicans in the House and Senate, who often use it to try to get around campaign finance laws.
But in the past year, the Trump White House has begun to loosen those restrictions.
The White House will also allow groups that raise money from non-candidate sources to report their spending to the FEC, where they will be subject to tighter rules on how much money they can raise and spend on behalf of a candidate.
The new regulations are a big boost for lobbyists.
Lobbyists say the move will give the business world a boost.
The new rules will allow them to raise funds that would otherwise have been considered non-political activity, such as through the political action committee they belong to, the lobbyist said.
They will also help them do their jobs.
“It will make it much more difficult for the business lobby to raise these kinds of funds,” said the lobbyist.
“This will make their job much more challenging.
And it will also make it easier for them to influence the policies of the president of the United States.”
But some say the administration’s moves will also undermine the industry.
“We’re going back to where we were in the Obama era,” said Joe Sienkiewicz, a former top lobbyist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
“You can’t run a lobbying shop that relies on campaign contributions to be competitive in the market, but this is a huge blow to the business sector.”
“I think it’s an example of how it’s going to take the business lobbying industry to get their act together,” said Jonathan McIntosh, a veteran lobbyist and former White House aide who now runs the firm Global Strategy Group.
“I think they’re going into the 2018 elections with a bunch of new rules that will hurt them even more than they already are.
And that’s going a long way toward making the industry less competitive.”
But the industry says it will fight the administration and its moves.
“Lobbying reform is not just about reducing lobbying’s tax exemption, it’s also about increasing the transparency and accountability of political campaigns,” said Mark Caputo, president of Democracy 21, a national nonprofit that advocates for campaign finance reform.
“The Obama White House was a strong advocate for political reform, but they missed an opportunity to do it during this administration.”
“They’ve made a decision to put the interests and the financial interests ahead of the public interest and public accountability, which is why we’re taking the fight to the courts and to the White House,” he added.