GAO Report Looks at Lobbyists’ Compliance
A Government Accountability Office report found most lobbyists are in compliance with the 1995 Lobbying Disclosure Act, but there still exists some confusion around the forms and issues with people failing to file the forms at all.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently released a report finding that while most lobbyists are in compliance with the Lobbying Disclosure Act, there continues to be confusion around certain disclosures as well as some “chronic offenders” who habitually fail to file LDA reports.
The LDA ensures accountability among lobbyists by requiring them to file lobbying disclosure reports throughout the year. The GAO report, released March 24, reviews the results of an annual audit of a sample of quarterly LD-2 reports, which disclose how much money an organization spends on lobbying as well as the specific issues or bills they worked on, and a sample of semiannual LD-203 reports, which disclose contributions from lobbyists to candidates for office.
Based on the audit, GAO estimated that 88 percent of lobbyists filed initial LD-2 reports as required for new lobbying registrations, and 93 percent could provide documentation for income and expenses. However, 31 percent of filers did not correctly follow LDA guidance to round to the nearest $10,000 on their reports. The GAO also found that 85 percent of lobbyists filed year-end LD-203 reports in 2014 as required.
According to GAO, some lobbyists are still unclear on the requirement that they disclose “covered positions” in their LDA reports. The reports require filers to disclose whether a lobbyist previously held a government position, and GAO estimated that 21 percent of all LD-2 reports may not have properly disclosed one or more previously held covered positions, such as paid congressional internships or certain executive agency positions.
Although House and Senate officials in charge of administering the LDA have referred thousands of possible violations to the Department of Justice, more than half of those referrals are pending because the U.S. Attorney’s Office can’t locate the lobbyists and haven’t received a response to their initial inquiry.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia is working to bring lobbyists into compliance by issuing civil penalties to lobbyists who fail to file the necessary forms. In August last year, the office finalized a $125,000 settlement with a lobbying firm, which is the largest civil penalty settlement for noncompliance with the LDA.