Government’s analysis, assessment and research activities
International examples of registers of lobbyists - relevance depends on the information to be recorded
A report by researchers of the University of Eastern Finland studies the register of lobbyists as a form of regulating lobbying activities, as well as practices relating to such registers in the EU, Ireland, Great Britain, Austria and the United States. The purpose of a register of lobbyist is to collect and publish information on who does lobbying and who is the target, what are the matters concerned, how lobbying has been practised, and how it is funded. The registers often involve the code of conduct.
The aim of the register of lobbyists is to improve the transparency of decision-making and, through this, prevent inappropriate influence and reinforce public confidence. The register also supports the decision-makers, enabling them to consult the register to identify lobbyists who are committed to the jointly agreed code of conduct.
The definition of lobbying in the law depends on the perspective on how broadly the representation of interests should be regulated. It varies from the very narrow definition applied in Great Britain which only covers the so-called consultant lobbyists, i.e. third parties who target their activities to ministries, to the broader definition adopted in Ireland which covers all contacts to most decision-makers.
What is common to all registers studied for the report is that they are maintained by a public authority and cover lobbying targeted to both legislative and executive powers. Except for the EU’s Transparency Register, the registers are mandatory.
The relevance of the register depends on the information recorded in it. According to the OECD and EU recommendations, information included in the register should enable to make public the interest representatives who have tried to influence each legislative initiative or decision (‘legislative footprint’). Ireland has the most comprehensive practices for reporting information on lobbying. The regulations in different countries also vary in terms of the processes that led to the regulation.
Hasty preparation of the registers may lead to poor results, while a thorough preparation process where the views and various stakeholders are taken into account ensures that the lobbying environment and practices are known well enough, and secures the commitment of the players to the regulation. In almost all of the systems studied there were concerns as to the quality of the information included in the registers and sufficiency of the competence and resources of the authority responsible for maintaining the register.
There is no solution or model for regulating lobbying that would fit all context, but the register of lobbyists must always be adjusted to the socio-political and administrative environment where the activities to influence decision-making are to be regulated. Transparency and the opportunities of the public to follow and supervise the decision-making processes must be promoted in various ways, and the register of lobbyists is one of these.
This publication is part of implementing the Government’s plan for analysis, assessment and research in 2018 (www.tietokayttoon.fi). The report was drawn up by Associate Professor Emilia Korkea-aho and Researcher Paul Tiensuu.
International models of the register of lobbyists (in Finnish)
Inquiries: Emilia Korkea-aho, Associate Professor, University of Eastern Finland, tel. +359 50 571 9980, [email protected].