The U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia recently filed a civil complaint against a lobbyist and a lobbying firm alleging violations of the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA) that could result in a fine of over $5 million. This case appears to be similar to other recent LDA enforcement actions in that the LDA registrant appears to have ignored multiple communications from Congress and the U.S. Attorney's Office.

This case is the latest example of stepped up civil enforcement of the LDA. In December of 2013, the U.S. Attorney's Office secured a default judgment of $200,000 for LDA violations. Prior to securing this judgment, the U.S. Attorney's Office entered into negotiated settlements three times — once in 2011 for $45,000 and twice in 2012 for $50,000 and $30,000. The next step in LDA enforcement may be a criminal case, and, according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) LDA report issued in April 2013, the U.S. Attorney's Office is considering pursuing criminal penalties for LDA violations for the first time. The Secretary of the Senate has referred a total of 12,654 potential LDA violations to the U.S. Attorney's Office since 1995 and the GAO has audited over a thousand LDA filings since 2007.

The bottom line is that the U.S. Attorney's Office is finally taking the LDA seriously and that means all LDA registrants (and those that should be LDA registrants), must take it seriously too.