AGGRESSIVE CRACKDOWNS ON Lobbying Disclosure Act violations are rarely seen, but last week The Hill, in what it called a “bombshell,” reported that at the end of its most recent report, the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) “voted to refer one entity to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia for failure to register under the Lobbying Disclosure Act.”
This is particularly noteworthy because as Covington & Burling’s Robert Kelner notes in the National Law Review, unregistered lobbyists are have rarely, if ever, been pursued by the OCE or the Department of Justice. Kelner attributes the lack of enforcement to illegal lobbying being relatively low on the DOJ’s list of priorities, as well as a lack of media attention to LDA violations.
However, as we wrote in this space back in March, that may be changing. Since 2010, we’ve seen an uptick in enforcement for failure to file quarterly lobbying disclosures and for FARA violations. Between 1995 and 2010, only three lawsuits filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office against lobbyists were settled, but since 2010, at least five suits have been filed related to HLOGA and FARA violations. With the revelations in OCE’s latest report, are we beginning to see the kind of enforcement that these laws originally intended?
With the lobbying industry increasingly operating underground, it seems likely that last week’s bombshell won’t be the last incident of illegal unregistered lobbying, but only time will tell if the OCE has more investigations underway or if this is an isolated incident.