LAST WEEK, this blogger wrote on how the government is cracking down on illegal foreign lobbying. In July, the feds came down on Biassi Business Services, Inc. for failing to disclose domestic lobbying activities. Such cases are usually settled, and in the fifteen years between 1995 and 2010, the U.S. attorney’s office settled with just three lobbyists. In the past three years alone, however, the attorney’s office settled three more cases.
At LobbyBlog, we’ve noticed a general cycle that forms around lobbying violations and the inevitable government crackdown. The cycle kicks off when a scandal erupts, then perpetrators are punished and the government enacts beefier regulations. This happened in 2007 following the Abramoff scandal with the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act (HLOGA).
For a while, lobbyists are on their best behavior (reports from the GAO show that filings increased significantly following HLOGA), but within a few years they start to get complacent, resulting in increased violations, as has been the case since 2010 and particularly as of late. After complacency comes scandal, and then another crackdown.
We are currently in the middle of the complacency stage, and the federal government is taking notice. If the cycle holds true, a scandal may erupt at any moment.
Despite the recent decline in lobbying, there are more than enough lobbyists who will continue to skirt the law until, once again, the federal government steps in and the cycle begins anew. The shrewd veteran lobbyist will know when it’s unwise to misbehave.