Posts Tagged ‘Foreign Agents Registration Act’

The Return of Enforcement

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014 by Vbhotla

NO ONE ENJOYS filling out paperwork, but if you’re a lobbyist, failure to do so can be costly. The Washington Post reported last week that Alan Mauk and his firm, Alan Mauk Associates, failed to file required quarterly lobbying reports at least 13 times in the past four years—an indiscretion that carries a hefty price of up to $200,000 per violation. The civil complaint filed against Mauk and his firm is the latest of several lawsuits the government has filed in the past year as a result of negligence.

Back in June, the Blog of the Legal Times reported that the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia slapped Biassi Business Services Inc., a consulting firm based in New York, with a  lawsuit that could cost the firm up to $33 million in fines. Biassi reportedly filed several disclosures for 2012 and 2013 after the lawsuit was filed, and it remains to be seen how much of the fine Biassi will ultimately have to pay.

But lobbyists aren’t merely being fined for domestic lobbying violations. In August, this blogger wrote on how federal prosecutors filed a criminal complaint against two lobbyists for alleged violations of U.S. sanctions and the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) by lobbying on behalf of Zimbabwe and its president, Robert Mugabe. Likewise, in 2011, a lobbyist was charged with FARA violations for failing to disclose lobbying activities for a foreign entity.

So, why are we just recently seeing the Feds come down hard on disclosure violators? As noted before on this blog, between 1995 and 2010 the U.S. Attorney’s Office settled with just three lobbyists, yet since 2010 there have been at least five lawsuits filed related to HLOGA and FARA violations.

One explanation is that we’re entering the enforcement stage of a cycle that begins with complacency (itself a symptom of lax enforcement) and ends in scandal. With the lobbying industry moving underground, it’s only a matter of time before a lobbyist or firm stretches the current rules too far, at which point we may see a successor to HLOGA.  Until then, we’ve yet to experience the kind of enforcement that these laws originally intended.  But it looks as if we’re getting closer.

Feds Enforce Rules on Foreign Lobbying

Thursday, August 15th, 2013 by Vbhotla

THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT is again cracking down on illegal foreign lobbying.  Covington & Burling’s Brian D. Smith writes that federal prosecutors in Chicago have filed a criminal complaint against two lobbyists – Prince Asiel Ben Israel and C. Gregory Turner – who allegedly violated U.S. sanctions by lobbying on behalf of Zimbabwe and President Robert Mugabe.  (See here a fact sheet on U.S.-Zimbabwean relations).

Two Chicago-area Democrats – Reps. Danny K. Davis and Bobby L. Rush – have been C” from California – has yet to be revealed.

This isn’t the first time that the feds have gone after lobbyists for illegal foreign lobbying. Smith writes that in 2009, Robert Cabelly, a former State Department official, violated U.S. sanctions by lobbying on behalf of Sudan. More recently, several lobbyists were charged with violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) by failing to disclose that they were lobbying on behalf of a foreign country while attempting to influence U.S. officials.

The government is sending a clear message: FARA and sanctions violators beware. As Smith notes, these recent cases demonstrate the importance for lobbyists to follow FARA to the letter.  Noncompliance is simply not worth the risk.

Environmental Group calls for Probe into Lobbyist’s Activities

Thursday, September 29th, 2011 by Vbhotla

Friends of the Earth, a national pro-environment group, has asked the Department of Justice to investigate the lobbying activities of TransCanada official Paul Elliott.  The group contends that Elliott, who was once an aide to Hilary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign, failed to register as a lobbyist for over a year while he petitioned the Obama administration (including Clinton’s State Department) to approve a TransCanada pipeline.

Friends of the Earth accuses the State Department of granting “inappropriate favors,” “coaching” responses to probes” and maintaining a “cozy relationship” with Elliott and TransCanada.  The group says that Elliott “sought to exploit his campaign ties to secure high-level meetings,” and violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act by failing to disclose his interests as a foreign agent and subsequently register with the Department of Justice under the Act.