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A Brief History of Lobbying


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.

Dwoskin is a staff writer for Bloomberg Businessweek in Washington. Follow her on Twitter: @lizzadwoskin.

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