Opaque Transparency

Disgraced U.S. lobbyist Jack Abramoff (Source: Village Voice)The Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU), a coalition of over 140 groups in Europe, has taken the European Commission to task over its "European Transparency Initiative" (ETI), which is supposed to provide public information about the role of lobbyists in influencing decision-making by the European Union. The Commission has said it will begin publishing a register showing which organizations are engaged in lobbying. In an open letter, however, ALTER-EU complains that the register will not include the names of individual lobbyists or the dollar amounts spent lobbying. Without that information, the letter warns, journalists would be unable to use the register to identify and expose "Abramoff-style ... lobbying scandals. ... If the new EU lobbing transparency register does not allow the identification of individual lobbyists, it cannot serve as a tool to investigate 'conflicts of interest' and 'revolving doors.' Leaving out lobbyists' names would put the credibility of the European Transparency Initiative at stake. ... If the EU register will not answer simple questions like 'who are the lobbyists?' or 'how much money is spent on lobbying by whom?,' it would be useless."