Posts Tagged ‘Biassi Business Services’

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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Why Comply?

Thursday, June 20th, 2013 by Geoffrey Lyons

EVERY YEAR THE Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports that most lobbyists are doing what they’re legally bound to do: register and disclose. Despite some shortcomings – such as failing to round expenses to the nearest $10,000 and neglecting to report formerly held covered positions – lobbyists are a law abiding and diligent bunch. (Registered lobbyists, of course. Many lobbyists are in fact operating beyond the current legal framework).

But this rosy picture does little to deter those tempted to quit compliance all together. Some are asking: why comply? Nobody is getting more than a slap on the wrist for their negligence, so why bother?

An identical question was posed to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in D.C. against Biassi Business Services Inc., which failed to submit 124 compliance forms and now faces up to $33 million in fines. The oft-repeated criticism that the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA) and the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act (HLOGA) “lack teeth” was met brusquely by Davidson: “Does a $33 million penalty count as teeth?”

Some may still think not. $33 million is a hefty fine, yes, but 124 repeated offences exceeds negligence and borders on willful disobedience.  In fact, this latest case may do very little by way of a warning to lobbyists.  If it’s only the “chronic offenders” facing costs for noncompliance, then skipping a disclosure deadline or two will still maintain its appeal.  Though compliance is the safest route, people make a good point just by asking “why comply?”