On Wednesday, the House of Representatives passed the “Lobbying Disclosure Enhancement Act,” introduced by Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy, which is notable for what it does and does not do — and that is shows an enhanced sensitivity to the importance of lobbying disclosure and enforcement.
Contrary to this news report, the legislation passed by the House does not impose fines on lobbyists for late filings or institute annual filing fees, although the originally-introduced version did. (I wrote about the introduced version of the legislation, with a number of suggestions for improvement, here.)
What the House-passed legislation would do, if the Senate concurs and the legislation is signed by the President, is shift responsibility for prosecuting when lobbyists failure to file their activities from the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia to the U.S. Attorney General. Specifically, the bill would:
- Require the Attorney General to establish a Lobbying Disclosure Act Enforcement Task Force that would be primarily responsible for investigating and prosecuting instances where lobbyists fail to file, upon referral to DOJ by the House and Senate
- Collect and disseminate information regarding the DOJ’s enforcement of the Lobbying Disclosure Act
- Empower the AG to make recommendations to congress about improving the LDA
It is a tricky matter to balance encouraging the DOJ to prosecute lobbyists for failing to register with the House and Senate and interfering with the Justice Department’s prosecutorial discretion. Raising the matter to a higher authority — the Attorney General — may spur action (and foster accountability) where there has been far too little.
The idea of imposing fines for late filing and the establishment of a dedicated source for funding enforcement and disclosure of lobbying reporting, dropped from the final version of the House bill and explored in my earlier blogpost, is a good idea and is worthy of further exploration.
* Disclosure: one of my former coworkers is now Communications Director for Rep. Kilroy’s campaign and congressional office.