Here are explanations of a few terms that may not be familiar to all readers. Note that I said explanations, not definitions – I’ve attempted to include some history where it’s appropriate.
Please leave a comment if there’s a term you’d like explained or defined (or you’d just like some context about where it came from), and I’ll add it to the list.
Beltway (or “The Beltway” or “Inside the Beltway”)
Take a look at Washington D.C. on a map (try this link). You’ll see that the city is encircled by a freeway – Interstate 495. This is called “the beltway,” and it includes both Washington D.C. and portions of both Virginia and Maryland. Almost all of the major institutions of our federal government, including the legislative branch (Congress), executive branch (the President and all the various agencies), and the judicial branch (the Supreme Court and federal court system) have their headquarters inside this area.
So when someone says “inside the Beltway” (or sometimes just “the Beltway”) they’re referring to all of the people and institutions that run the federal government. This is the center of power for the U.S.A.
Earmarks (also called “plus-ups” or just “pork”)
Items in Congressional spending bills which direct specific funds to specific projects and/or organizations. In cases where earmarks are not used, the executive branch has the ability to choose how the funds are used, within the limits of previous legislation, and within the normal federal government acquisition process. Since the normal acquisition process includes rules to ensure fair and open competition, earmarks circumvent the normal competition for government projects and funds.
For a more detailed discussion and officially accepted definitions, see Wikipedia.
K Street is an actual street in Washington D.C., where historically many lobbying firms have had their offices. Though there are lobbyists with offices in other areas, it’s still true that most lobbying firms have offices on or near K Street. Because of this, references to “K Street” refer to lobbying firms and the lobbying industry as a whole.
Lobbying Disclosure Act
, which has been amended mutliple times (the last time in 2007).
A law (officially named the Lobbying Diclosure Act of 1995) and a series of amendments passed by Congress that requires lobbyists to register with the government, and to publicly disclose information about their clients, the issues they are lobbying for their clients, and the amount of money each client spent. The most recent amendment to the law was passed in 2007.
The law currently requires that lobbying firms submit disclosure forms every quarter. Several organizations (including the Center for Responsive Politics) maintain searchable on-line databases of all information submitted in the disclosure forms.
For more information on the Lobbying Disclosure Act (including pointers to the text of the original act and the amendments), see this site.