Washington Sate lobbyists could be charged a fee that would be used to make it easier for the public to find out who is taking lawmakers to dinner or funneling cash into political campaigns.
Fees would be charged in August, raising funds to develop a new software system that makes the collected data more useful to the public. The searchable database would allow people to check who was getting wined and dined, and by whom, without undertaking the difficult and lengthy searches now required when mining the data on PDC forms.
The proposal for a one-time fee is sponsored by Democratic Rep. Jim Moeller of Vancouver, Wash., and it got a hearing last week in the House State Government and Tribal Affairs Committee. Even some lobbyists spoke in favor of the idea, saying that disclosing lobbying expenses improves the public trust. Lobbying expenses totaled nearly $55 million last year, including salaries and entertainment costs.
But others had doubts, questioning whether lobbyists who help low-funded community groups could pass on the costs to their clients. And one, Bob Cooper, said it could be seen as "a tax on my ability to petition my government."
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