Large Bipartisan Majority Favors Increasing Lobbying Restrictions on Former Members of Congress and Other Government Officials

As 66 soon-to-be former Members of Congress and their staffs move out of their congressional offices, very large bipartisan majorities support proposals in current legislation extending the period that former government officials must wait before they can lobby the government. They also favor prohibiting former executive branch officials from ever lobbying on behalf of foreign governments.

The public consultation survey of 2,606 registered voters was conducted by the Program for Public Consultation at the University of Maryland (PPC). Bipartisan support for these proposals has remained steady since PPC’s first public consultation survey on lobbying policies in 2017.

To ensure that respondents understood the issue, they were given a short briefing on the proposal and asked to evaluate arguments for and against. The content was reviewed by Congressional proponents and opponents of the legislation to ensure that the briefing was accurate and balanced and that the arguments presented were the strongest ones being made.

Currently, former Members of Congress are prohibited from lobbying Congress for two years after leaving office. Sixty-five percent of respondents (Republicans 65%, Democrats 67%) favored a proposal in current legislation that calls for extending this period to five years: Public Service Integrity Act (H.R. 414) by Rep. Posey (R) and the Cleaning up Washington Act (S. 751) by Sen. Tester (D).  32% favored going further and prohibiting Members from lobbying for life (BLAST Act, H.R. 1412 and S. 546).

Extending the waiting period for senior Congressional staffers from the current one year to two years—as called for in H.R. 414 by Rep. Posey (R) – was favored by 74%, including three quarters of both Republicans and Democrats.

Currently, senior executive branch officials are prohibited from lobbying their former agency for 1-2 years depending on how senior they were. Seventy-one percent (72% of both Republicans and Democrats) favored extending this period to five years as called for in the Cleaning up Washington Act (S. 751) sponsored by Sen. Jon Tester (D).

“Americans are clearly put off by the idea of Federal government officials leaving office and leveraging their connections as lobbyists,” commented Steven Kull, director of PPC.

Currently, Americans can act as lobbyists for foreign governments, provided they register and report their activities to the US government. Senior executive branch officials are limited by the 1-2 year restriction for lobbying their former agency.  A large 71%, including 71% of Republicans and 74% of Democrats support prohibiting former senior executive branch officials from any lobbying on behalf of a foreign government for the rest of their life as called for in the PURE Executive Act (H.R. 1830) by Rep Hinson (R).

The sample is large enough to enable analysis of attitudes in very Republican and very Democratic districts (based on Cook PVI ratings of the district the respondents live in). In all cases, large majorities in very red and very blue districts favored the increased lobbying restrictions.

The survey was fielded June 13 – 29, 2022 online with a probability-based national sample of 2,606 registered voters provided by Nielsen Scarborough from its larger sample, which is recruited by telephone and mail from a random sample of households. There is a margin of error of +/- 1.9%.

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What are Public Consultation Surveys? Public consultations seek to improve democratic governance by consulting citizens on key public policy issues. Conducted online with representative samples, citizens are taken through a policymaking simulation that puts them in the shoes of a policymaker. They are presented a briefing, evaluate pro and con arguments and then are asked to make their policy recommendations. Policymaking simulations are reviewed for accuracy and balance by experts on different sides of the issue.

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