DOJ Secures Record $200,000 Lobbying Disclosure Act Penalty
After passage of the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act (HLOGA) in 2007, many expected the Department of Justice to finally take enforcement of the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 (LDA) more seriously. From 1995 to 2007, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia settled three LDA enforcement cases for undisclosed amounts. Since 2007, when HLOGA increased civil penalties and provided criminal sanctions for LDA violations, the U.S. Attorney's Office has entered into negotiated settlements three times — once in 2011 for $45,000 and twice in 2012 for $50,000 and $30,000 - and now has secured a default judgment of $200,000 against a consulting firm (see this Holland & Knight Political Law Alert.) This recent case marks the first time an LDA enforcement matter has resulted in a judgment.
To date, the Secretary of the Senate has referred a total of 12,229 potential LDA violations to the U.S. Attorney's Office since 1995. And, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the U.S. Attorney's Office is pursuing at least one additional LDA scofflaw and is considering pursuing criminal penalties. A criminal LDA case or an enforcement action involving a "stealth lobbyist" — an individual not registered under the LDA but engaged in lobbying — are logical next steps for DOJ and would undoubtedly capture the attention of the regulated community.