Posts Tagged ‘abramoff’

Another Day, Another Hurdle

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014 by Geoffrey Lyons

LOBBYISTS HAVE TAKEN a lot of damage over the years.  Abramoff inflicted a wound that was salted by HLOGA.  Obama campaigned on combating special interests, and landed his first blow by way of executive order.

The obstacles these produce, both real and imagined, make the business of advocacy more challenging than it should be.  Yet lobbyists have reason to enjoy the status quo while it lasts, because things could soon get worse.

According to Karen Hinton, an advocate representing Ecuadorians in a long-standing oil pollution suit against Chevron, lobbyists could soon be vulnerable to racketeering charges by their opposition.  If Chevron wins their case on the grounds that Hinton and others are colluding in a fraudulent lawsuit, then a precedent will be set whereby “hard-hitting press releases and lobbying before Congress and government agencies by (insert you and your client) against (insert your client’s competitors or opponents) about (insert issue that financially benefits your client) could equal extortion and be a violation of the RICO statute.”

RICO stands for Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.  By law, a plaintiff who wins a RICO case “…shall recover threefold the damages he sustains and the cost of the suit.”  Hinton argues that because of this “treble damages” clause, companies and trade associations targeted by RICO cases could go bust.  Pursuing this to its obvious conclusion, advocates with less to spend could be bullied out of lobbying altogether.

That would be bad indeed, and is something for which lobbyists should collectively oppose.

Ethics Unraveling: On Compliance and Complacency

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013 by Vbhotla

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.

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Abramoff associate sentenced

Monday, February 14th, 2011 by Vbhotla

Michael Scanlon is the latest Abramoff associate sentenced for his role in the corruption scheme.  A district judge sentenced the former House aide to 20 months in federal prison.  Scanlon pleaded guilty in 2005 to conspiracy to bribe public officials and honest-services fraud, which his attorney referred to as “extraordinary cooperation,” when he requested a sentence that did not include jail time.  The district attorney requested two years imprisonment, despite Scanlon’s role in aiding the Department of Justice in 20 Abramoff-related investigations. Scanlon said that he is “so sorry, so very remorseful,” at the sentencing.

Fraser Verruscio, another official on the hot seat because of his connection to Abramoff, was also convicted of one count of conspiring to accept an illegal gratuity, one count of making a false statement in failing to report gifts from lobbyists.  His sentencing is scheduled for May 6, and he could be facing up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines for each charge.