Groups See No Threat in Lobbying Curbs

By Peter West — October 04, 1989 3 min read

Washington--A Congressional measure aimed at curbing perceived abuses by lobbyists seeking federal aid for their clients would be unlikely to significantly hamper precollegiate educators’ efforts to win government grants, according to education representatives here.

The measure, which was cleared by a House-Senate conference committee last week, would bar the use of federal funds to hire lobbyists or consultants to pursue federal contracts, grants, loans, or loan guarantees.

In addition, recipients of federal awards worth more than $100,000 would be required to make a public disclosure of lobbying efforts on their behalf. They would be required to report the names of their hired representatives, along with the amounts paid, the source of the funds, and the activities of the lobbyists.

“We’ve looked at the language of this, and so far we don’t see a problem” for school districts, said Edward R. Kealy, director of federal programs for the National School Boards Association. “We don’t expect it to have a negative effect.”

The reason, Mr. Kealy explained, is that districts typically do not use federal dollars to pay lobbyists or consultants.

“School districts have hired firms, lawyers, and individuals to develop grant proposals,” he said, “but I think it’s routine that they do that with their own, locally generated revenues.”

His view was echoed by Michael Casserly, associate director of the Council of the Great City Schools, which represents the nation’s 45 largest urban districts.

“By and large, schools do use their own funds,” rather than federal money, to pay such consultants, Mr. Casserly said.

The measure would “require some change in how districts report their time and funds,” he added, “but it’s not going to put the lobbyists out of business.”

Similarly, a spokesman for the Council of Chief State School Officers said that while the organization had been tracking the legislation, it seemed unlikely to have an appreciable impact on the activities of state education departments.

And Gerald Sroufe, a spokesman for the American Educational Research Association, said the legislation “would not affect our work.” Education researchers typically use nonfederal money in any activities aimed at securing federal grants, he said.

The new rules would not apply to efforts, such as those by the national teachers’ and administrators’ groups, to influence federal policy or legislation.

The measure is viewed as an ex8pression of Congressional ire over revelations about lobbying activities in two unrelated areas: housing and higher education.

Senator Robert C. Byrd, the powerful West Virginia Democrat who chairs the Appropriations Committee, proposed the restrictions, which were added as an amendment to the Senate version of the Interior Department appropriations bill in July. The House overwhelmingly endorsed the amendment last month.

In introducing the measure, Senator Byrd cited efforts by “well-connected lobbyists,” such as former Secretary of the Interior James G. Watt, to win backing for private clients’ projects from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The senator has also said he objects to the use by some universities of “middle men” to lobby members of the Congress for money for special projects.

Mr. Byrd was particularly critical of an arrangement between West Virginia University and Cassidy and Associates, a Washington public-relations firm. The firm represented the university in its efforts to obtain an $18-million appropriation for a new science center.

Money for the center and for projects at five other universities was included in an appropriations bill approved by the House. But Mr. Byrd blocked the inclusion of the money in the Senate version of the bill.

A version of this article appeared in the October 04, 1989 edition of Education Week as Groups See No Threat in Lobbying Curbs