For years, there have been calls from both inside and outside the Capitol from people asking that more be done to curb the influence of lobbyists and political consultants in Harrisburg. Government, which is supposed to serve the will of the people, can unfortunately be swayed by outside sources.
Pennsylvanians deserve to have faith in their government. They deserve to trust that government officials are acting in their best interests, rather than on behalf of others whose influence is shrouded.
That is why some of my colleagues and I came together to rise to the challenge that Sen. Jake Corman laid out in his first speech as Senate Pro Tempore in January.
Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill of York County, Sen. Lisa Baker of Luzerne County, Sen. Tommy Tomlinson of Bucks County and I introduced a package of bills that would subject lobbyists and political consultants to new transparency and ethical standards that limit their level of influence in state government.
My legislation, Senate Bill 801, would require lobbyists to register any clients seeking state financial assistance or grants. It would also prohibit kickbacks and inducements for referrals or performance bonuses for a successful application for taxpayer-funded grants.
Senate Bill 802, sponsored by Sen. Phillips-Hill, would prohibit any state entity from hiring an outside lobbyist or political consultant to lobby any branch of government. The bill would also prohibit former lobbyists who become employees of the General Assembly from being lobbied by their previous colleagues for one year after separation from employment. This would prevent the revolving door of individuals leaving a lobbying firm to join the legislature and immediately being influenced by their former coworkers.
Senate Bill 803, sponsored by Sen. Baker, would prevent lobbyists from also being registered as political consultants and would prohibit a political consultant from lobbying a state official who was a client for the remainder of the term for which consulting services were provided.
Senate Bill 804, sponsored by Sen. Tomlinson, would require all registered lobbyists to complete mandatory annual ethics training developed by the Department of State.
Legislation passed earlier this summer, Act 70 of 2021, requires lobbyists to disclose any equity they hold in any entity for which they are lobbying. While passage of this bill was a good start to stifle the influence of lobbyists and political consultants in Harrisburg, more work remains to make our government serve its people in more transparent and effective ways.
We will continue to work legislatively to bring openness, transparency and improved ethical standards to the Commonwealth’s lobbying industry so public trust in state government can be restored.