Posts Tagged ‘lobbying disclosure act’

Regulating PI

Monday, June 24th, 2013 by Geoffrey Lyons

AN EARLIER POST to this blog referenced a “preliminary probe” by the SEC that has renewed debate about the role of the “political intelligence” industry. Yesterday, the Washington Post wrote about how the probe is shaping ongoing efforts by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) to cast light on the industry by developing a regulatory apparatus through which it can be monitored.

The second most interesting aspect of this story – behind the fact that Sen. Grassley is the former boss of Mark Hayes, the lobbyist at the center of the SEC probe – is that the model for this regulatory apparatus is the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA):

Grassley’s amendment proposed subjecting political intelligence consultants to the same disclosure rules as lobbyists, who under the Lobbying Disclosure Act must register if they come in contact with a government official and spent teen pokies at least 20 percent of their time advocating on behalf of lobbying clients in a three-month period.

Yet when Grassley and Slaughter first proposed this idea as an amendment to the STOCK Act, the House Finance Committee struck it down.  Why?  Because the definition of “political intelligence activities” was too broad.  Now a standalone bill is being drafted by the two legislators for a second try.  One would think that any controversial definitions would be altered, or at least give the appearance of being altered, in order to bolster the bill’s prospects.  One would be mistaken:

A spokesman for Slaughter said the upcoming bill is still being drafted, but the definition of political intelligence will be the same as that in the Grassley amendment, which was identical to what Slaughter proposed for inclusion in the original version of the STOCK Act.


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?”

Amendment To LDA Passes

Monday, July 12th, 2010 by Vbhotla

The House passed an amendment to the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 (as amended by 2007’s Honest Leadership &Open Government Act) on June 28.  Originally the bill sought to amend the Federal Election Campaign Act, but as passed, it now amends the Lobbying Disclosure Act to “prohibit any registered lobbyist whose clients include foreign governments which are found to be sponsors of international terrorism or include other foreign nationals from making contributions and other campaign-related disbursements in elections for public office.”

The Bill passed 408-4, and received very little attention. And while this is a minor change, it could potentially limit some lobbyists from contributing politically, exercising their political speech rights in U.S. elections. According to the Department of State, there are four currently-recognized state sponsors of terrorism: Cuba, Iran, Syria, and Sudan.  Updated: compliance expert Mark Ward points out below in the comments that: “Lobbyists of foreign governments and foreign political parties do not register under the LDA; they must register under FARA; The laws allows agents of foreign corporations to register under the LDA in lieu of FARA, but must do so even if LDA thresholds are not met.” This was not clear in the original post. Thank you to Mark for bringing it to our attention.

The bill text is now available from the GPO here (H.R. 5609). The Library of Congress’s THOMAS profile of the bill is now available here.