Beyond Lobbying Regulation

Why we need to research transparency of lobbying in the broader context of decision-making

Laboutková, Vymětal and Šimral

Research on lobbying regulation has been growing in recent years; it delivers comparative studies of regulatory regimes in various countries, discusses theoretical frameworks, and models of lobbying regulations, or deals with unique jurisdictions as case studies.

To date, there exists virtually no comprehensive assessment addressing transparency as one of the dimensions of quality of the lobbying environment in the scope of decision-making; focusing on classification of rules only (Kalninš 2005), measuring the consistency/strictness of lobbying laws (Opheim 1991; Newmark 2005), legal regulation of lobbyists/lobbying (CPI 2003, updated 2014, Chari et al 2010, 2019). Stiglitz (1999, 10) mentioned two traditional arguments for transparency in decision making. First, opacity makes it possible to act in a non-public interest and decision makers hide their own failure. Second, secrecy permits public office holders to favour lobbyists with a more significant influence. We argue that the focus on legal regulation of lobbying is just one criterion for assessing the quality of the lobbying environment.

In this regard, Transparency International’s comparative study on lobbying (2015) sends an important message: the issue is much more complex than the simple introduction of lobbying rules because the existing legal frameworks regulating lobbying are often ineffective in terms of the objectives of transparency – common problems are regulatory loopholes, and weak enforcement. Based on their study, Transparency International recommends the introduction of other measures, complementary ones, that can shed light on the decision-making process. We agree with this view and also follow the appeal of Crepaz and Chari (2018, 27) that measurements of the level of transparency and accountability of lobbying laws “need to constantly adapt to the new elements that define the systemised concept they seek to capture.”

Transparent lobbying exceeds the reach of a single law; legislators need to follow a more innovative approach based on openness, transparency, participation, and disclosure. The regulatory framework should therefore include, on top of lobbying regulations, conflict-of-interest rules, rules on publishing ministerial agendas, post-employment regulation, rules on the legislative process, and legislative footprint as well as other rules related to the decision-making process relevant to lobbying. These rules are usually not directly incorporated into lobbying laws or linked to lobbying as “preventive measures”.

This situation of need for regulatory reform led us to create the Catalogue of Transparent Lobbying Environment in which we have divided lobbying rules and measures into four main categories:

● lobbyists

● targets of lobbying

● rules indirectly related to the monitoring of lobbying activities referred to as sunshine principles

● monitoring and sanctioning rules

We have introduced the first version of the Catalogue in our book Transparent Lobbying and Democracy (2020). Here we develop a global approach to the issue and provide a theoretical and empirical examination of lobbying rules in several countries. The book delivers an essential contribution to the theory of democracy and highlights factors strengthening the institutional quality and institutional reflexivity of democratic regimes in responding to the changing environment and incentives from society (see Beck, Giddens, Lash (eds.) 1995). Moreover, the book contributes significantly to the empirical analysis of lobbying in Central and Eastern European Countries.

Table 1 provides a short summary of the dimensions we identify as key in the definition of a Transparent Lobbying Environment. We invite policymakers, practitioners, and transparency advocates to consider these are fundamental elements behind the driving forces of regulatory reform in the field of transparency and accountability.

Table 1. Catalogue of Transparent Lobbying Environment – short version

Source: based on Laboutková, Šimral, Vymětal (2020).

Instead of concluding, we would rather stimulate debate on rules of lobbying regulation in a more comprehensive approach, particularly:

its benefits for assessment,

sunshine principles improving transparency regardless of existing written lobbying laws, and

institutional setting.


Beck, U., Giddens, A., & Lash, S. (1995). Reflexive modernization: Politics, tradition and aesthetics in the modern social order. Stanford University Press.

Chari, R., Hogan, J., Murphy, G., & Crepaz, M. (2010). Regulating lobbying: a global comparison. Manchester University Press.

Chari, R., Hogan, J., Murphy, G., & Crepaz, M. (2019). Regulating lobbying: a global comparison. 2nd edition. Manchester University Press.

Crepaz, M., & Chari, R. (2018). Assessing the validity and reliability of measurements when evaluating public policy. Journal of Public Policy, 38(3), 275-304.

Kalniņš, V. (2017). Latvia. In Lobbying in Europe (pp. 219-226). Palgrave Macmillan, London.

Newmark, A. J. (2005). Measuring state legislative lobbying regulation, 1990–2003. State Politics & Policy Quarterly, 5(2), 182-191.

Opheim, C. (1991). Explaining the differences in state lobby regulation. Western Political Quarterly, 44(2), 405-421.

Stiglitz, J. E. (1999). On liberty, the right to know, and public discourse: the role of transparency in public life. Globalizing rights: The Oxford amnesty lectures, 149.

Selected bibliography of the authors on lobbying:

Laboutková, Š., Šimral, V., & Vymětal, P. (2020). Transparent Lobbying and Democracy. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham, 266 p. ISBN 978-3-030-36043-6, DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-36044-3_7

Šimral, V. & Laboutková, Š. (2021) Measuring the link between democracy and transparent lobbying, Critical Policy Studies, 15(2), 155-173, DOI: 10.1080/19460171.2020.1726195.

Šimral, V. (2020) Two Problems with Lobbying Regulations in EEA Countries. Studies of Transition States and Societies, 2020, 12(1), pp. 53- 67.

Laboutková, Š., & Vymětal, P. (2019). A new approach in evaluation of transparent lobbying – the case of Visegrad group countries. Administratie si Management Public, (33), pp. 119-132, DOI: 10.24818/amp/2019.33-07

Laboutková, Š. (2018). Open government partnership: unutilized potential in post-communist EU members? (Case of the Czech Republic), Innovation: The European Journal of Social Science Research, 31(3),350-376, DOI: 10.1080/13511610.2017.1415803.

Laboutková, Š., & Vymětal, P. (2018). Key Elements of Transparent Lobbying: Relevance of Wider Approach. Public Policy and Administration, 17(2), DOI:10.13165/VPA-18-17-2-01.

Laboutková, Š., & Vymětal, P. (2017). Transparency in Economic and Political Decision-Making: The Identification of Sunshine Rules for Transparent Lobbying. DANUBE: Law and Economics Review, 8(3), 157–171. DOI: 10.1515/danb-2017-0011.

Laboutková, Š., & Staňková,L. (2016). The Potential Effect of Non-transparent Lobbying on Competitiveness through Economic Freedom in the EU – an Empirical Survey. Scientific Papers of the University of Pardubice, Series D: Faculty of Economics and Administration. 37(2), 71 – 82.

About the authors

Šárka Laboutková primarily focuses on institutional quality, the impact of non-economic factors on decision-making in public policy, especially lobbying and its regulation. She currently lectures at the Technical University of Liberec, and the Prague University of Economics and Business. She continually cooperates with anti-corruption NGOs and professional associations of lobbyists.

Petr Vymětal is a Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of International Relations at the Prague University of Economics and Business, and the Masaryk Institute of Advanced Studies at Czech Technical University in Prague. His main field of research is lobbying and interest representation, political parties’ funding and campaign financing, corruption and the political-economic factors influencing economic policy. He collaborates with anti-corruption civil sector organisations and is a member of the working group at the Ministry of Justice of the Czech Republic.

Vít Šimral is a political scientist currently serving as the City of Prague Councillor responsible for education, sports, business development and innovation. His academic career has mostly focused on the relationship between politics and business; lately, however, his position also allows him to develop his public policy and education research interests.