Beware businesses that file lobbying disclosure forms. Roll Call’s Alex Knott writes that many businesses are still making a common mistake when calculating the lobbying expenses disclosed on their forms.  

Line 13 of Form LD-2 requires businesses with in-house lobbyists to disclose their quarterly lobbying expenses.  Some businesses have taken this to mean only their in-house lobbying expenses, and not amounts paid to outside lobbyists.  They have presumed that outside lobbyists are already disclosing their expenses on their own reports.

But, official guidance from the House and Senate rejects this approach.  It says that businesses must disclose “all of their expenses incurred in connection with lobbying activities, including all payments to retained lobby firms or outside entities, without considering whether any particular payee has a separate obligation to register and report under the LDA.”

Knott cites a CQ Moneyline study that concluded that errors have resulted in underreporting of at least $338 million in lobbying expenses over the past 12 years.  In some cases, Knott says, the errors were attributed to accounting not coordinating closely enough with counsel.

Whatever the cause of the errors, businesses should take care not to make them.  Penalties for false disclosure forms can be stiff, with civil fines as high as $200,000 and criminal penalties including up to five years in jail.