Study: Alabama earns a “D” in lobbying transparency

Alabama State Capitol

According to a new national survey, Alabama ranks near the bottom of the pack among states when it comes to lobbying transparency and disclosure practices.

The Sunlight Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based public interest watchdog group, gave Alabama a D in a new study.

State lobbying ethics laws were scrutinized via five different rubrics — Alabama’s were docked points in two, scored a “0” in one and was appraised positively in just one.

The state was dinged in the report for lobbyist compensation and expenditure reporting laws, while the foundation gave the state neutral scores for disclosure of what issues lobbyists actively work on and accessibility of documents via the state’s online “ALISON” system.

Alabama was specifically cited three times throughout the report, including negative remarks on thresholds for disclosure (as opposed to all activities being reported) and access to records, and a positive comment about disclosure of conflicts of interest.

“Disappointingly, few states force lobbyists to explicitly name the bills, politicians or executive agencies that they are hoping to influence or how they want the legislator to vote,” reads the study. “This winds up being fairly opaque in states like Alabama, where a politician must receive over $500 in a quarter from a lobbyist to be revealed.”

“It’s nice to see states actively disclose potential conflicts of interest,” the report goes on. “Alabama … has a similar requirement.”

Finally, the Sunlight Foundation uncorked this one regarding the code of Alabama.

“Alabama can work to improve the public’s access to lobbying data. Currently, if you are interested in learning about lobbying in the state, you must file a request online for the expenditure reports of specific lobbyist or lobbyists. The request must ask for information exactly as it is provided on the website. After the files are delivered to you, they expire after 72 hours, regardless of whether you have opened them or not.”

Alabama was joined in receiving its “gentleman’s D,” as it were, by 11 other states including fellow southern states Tennessee and Arkansas.

The Yellowhammer state beat out West Virginia and Florida, which both received failing grades. Massachusetts took top honors.


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