House bill would likely up enforcement of lobbying law violations

Legislation passed by the House Wednesday would name all lobbying law violators for the first time.

In addition, the bill — sponsored by Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy (D-Ohio) — would set up a Justice Department taskforce to investigate cases referred to it by the House Clerk for potential violations of the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA).

“When Americans on Main Street try to cheat or break the law, there are repercussions; but for years, there was no way to hold lobbyists accountable for games they play with their disclosures,” Kilroy said in a statement Wednesday. “The Lobbying Disclosure Enhancement Act establishes a task force that will go after lobbyists who engage in shoddy reporting practices and hide behind ignorance of the law.”

Under current law, the lobbyists and firms in LDA cases are never disclosed to the public. If Kilroy’s bill becomes law, all of the lobbyists and firms referred to federal investigators would be named. 

Under Kilroy’s bill, the Justice task force would also study the feasibility of collecting funds from lobbyists to help with LDA enforcement. In addition, they task force may propose legislation to lawmakers on how to toughen up the lobbying law. 

Originally, the bill would have charged lobbyists new fees to improve enforcement of the law. Instead, the taskforce has been authorized to receive funding and will have to find it through the normal appropriations process. 

The original fee provision was removed because of concerns by the House Clerk on how the office would administer the new fee system, according to a Kilroy aide. 

The bill passed the House on a unanimous voice vote Wednesday. 

Lobbyists often run afoul of the LDA, filing late forms or simply not understanding the act’s requirements. According to the Senate Secretary, the office has referred 8,729 cases of potential LDA violations to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia.