One of the major criticisms of the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA) by the so-called “watchdog” community is that with little enforcement there is little incentive for accurate disclosure. The Justice Department has never brought a court action to enforce the 16-year-old lobbying law and has settled only three matters out of court. But that could finally be changing. At a little noticed conference in Washington, DC last week, Keith Morgan, a top official in the civil division in the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, which has authority to enforce the LDA, suggested there was a new sheriff in town.

As noted in the BNA:

“[Morgan] said his office has made progress in an effort to create a database of potential LDA violators and to identify repeat offenders who appear to be ignoring the requirements of the law. Those identified are being contacted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and could be subject to fines at some point in the future, he indicated. Morgan compared the situation to a grace period in which automatic cameras are installed to identify violators of traffic laws, but the violators initially are warned and not fined.  ‘There will be additional penalties,’ he said.”

Morgan made these comments at a Sept. 9 PLI conference alongside other panelists including Jack Smith, the head of DOJ’s Public Integrity Section; Brian Fitzpatrick, a top anti-corruption agent with the FBI, and Ann Ravel, the recently appointed chairwoman of California’s Fair Political Practices Commission.