Ellen Miller, co-founder of the Sunlight Foundation, has spent years arguing for rules to force more disclosure of how lobbyists and private interests shape public policy. Until recently, she herself registered as a lobbyist, too, publicly reporting her role in the group’s advocacy of even more reporting. Not anymore.
In light of strict new regulations imposed by Congress over the last two years, Ms. Miller joined a wave of policy advocates who are choosing not to declare themselves as lobbyists. “I have never spent much time on Capitol Hill,” Ms. Miller said, explaining that she only supervises those who press lawmakers directly. “I am not lobbying, so why fill out the forms?”
Her frankness makes Ms. Miller a standout among hundreds of others who are making the same decision. Though Washington’s influence business is by all accounts booming, a growing number of its practitioners are taking a similar course to avoid the spotlight of public disclosure. “All the increasing restrictions on lobbyists are a disincentive to be a lobbyist, and those who think they can deregister are eagerly doing so,” said Jan Baran, a veteran political lawyer who has been fielding questions from clients hoping to escape registration. “It is creating some apparent contradictions.”