Disclosure Priorities

June 12, 2013
posted by Bob Bauer
DOJ is taking an exceptional action in suing for large fines against an "habitual" violator of the federal lobbying disclosure laws. United States of America v. Biassi Business Services, Inc., No. 13-0853 (D.D.C., filed June 7, 2013). The delinquencies alleged in the Complaint, for late or unfiled reports, are sobering: 28 quarterly reports and 98 semi-annual reports since 2009. Even the remedial actions taken, the Complaint alleges, lagged behind the statutory requirement, indifferent to the 60 day deadlines for correcting problems once the filer is officially notified of them. The U.S. Attorney’s arrival on the scene to issue additional warnings apparently had little effect: the defendant “ignored or failed to respond to numerous letters sent by the U.S. Attorney’s Office…” Id at 11. Assuming the facts as alleged, this first enforcement action hardly qualifies as an overreaction or a trial run of an innovative enforcement theory. And yet it is a “first.” So it is an occasion for considering the relative weights assigned as a matter of federal law and policy to the two disclosure regimes of campaign finance and lobbying.