GAO: One-third of lobbying disclosures failed to include political contributions

One-third of lobbyists' disclosures don’t include political contributions and one-fifth don’t include previous jobs in government, a new U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report finds.

GAO audited compliance with the Lobbying Disclosure Act, which was enacted in 1995 and requires a person to register as a lobbyist if lobbying activities constitute at least 20 percent of their time working for a client.

The watchdog examined lobbying disclosure (LD-2) reports and political contribution (LD-203) reports filed during the third and fourth quarter of 2017 and the first and second quarter of 2018. It also conducted interviews with lobbyists for the study.

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GAO found that 33 percent of the LD-203 political contribution reports didn’t disclose relevant contributions. GAO estimates that figure is a statistically significant increase compared to prior years.

Also, 19 percent of the LD-2 lobbying disclosure forms didn’t disclose all of the lobbyist’s previous jobs in the government, including work for Congress or federal agencies. Such previous government jobs are required to be reported.

The report also found that an estimated 97 percent of lobbyists could provide documentation for income and expenses of lobbying, while an estimated 20 percent of LD-2 reports did not properly round income and expenses to the nearest $10,000.

The report highlighted that GAO finds that “most lobbyists in the sample reported some level of ease in complying with disclosure requirements and in understanding the definitions of terms used in the reporting.”

It also noted that the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia said it has “sufficient resources“ to enforce compliance. The office resolves noncompliance through filing repots, terminating registrations and imposing penalties.