STATES INCREASE ENFORCEMENT ON LOBBYISTS
State and local regulators are intensifying their scrutiny and enforcement of undisclosed lobbying activity. In the last year, a number of jurisdictions have opened enforcement actions against persons and entities who may not have been registered as “lobbyists” pursuant to the jurisdiction’s lobby laws.
The Arizona Secretary of State alarmed some lobbyists when late filers were referred to the Attorney General for enforcement action. Following any deadline, the Attorney General’s Office now routinely follows up with lobbyists who fail to file reports in a timely manner.
The Wisconsin Ethics Commission is another regulator taking on the issue of undisclosed lobbying. The Commission recently released an audit, which alleged that about 15 percent of the state’s lobbyists were not properly registered for some of their lobbying activity in 2017. The Commission is in the process of contacting the lobbyists identified in the report to seek an explanation.
The Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission issued its largest fine ever after a protracted investigation into complaints of unauthorized lobbying. A lobbyist was fined $15,100 for failing to register as a lobbyist and failing to file appropriate lobbying expenditure disclosures over a two-year period.
States are not alone in this scrutiny of lobbying activity. At the local level of government, the Chicago Board of Ethics opened over 25 cases into individuals attempting to influence Mayor Rahm Emanuel through private email communications. The controversy erupted after local media reports revealed that Mayor Emanuel was communicating with individuals on city matters using a personal email account. Armed with copies of these communications, the Board took swift action and has already resolved many of the cases, which resulted in significant fines and a flurry of bad press for the individuals involved.
These enforcement actions underscore the importance of a comprehensive lobby compliance program to address federal, state and local interactions with public officials and employees.
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