This bill — the Justice Against Corruption on K Street (JACK) Act — would require lobbyists to disclose convictions for bribery, extortion, embezzlement, illegal kickbacks, tax evasion, fraud, conflicts of interest, making false statements, perjury, or money laundering.
- Not enactedThe President has not signed this bill
- The senate has not voted
- The house has not voted
House Committee on the JudiciaryIntroducedOctober 30th, 2018
- house Committees
What is it?
In-Depth: Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) introduced this bipartisan legislation to amend the Lobbying Disclosure Act to require lobbyists to disclose past convictions for bribery, extortion, embezzlement, illegal kickbacks, tax evasion, or money laundering:
“This common-sense piece of legislation is another step forward in draining the Washington, D.C. swamp. There is no reason these individuals should be able to hide convictions for serious crimes like bribery, extortion, and embezzlement when lobbying Congress. These remissions foster corruption and the remedy is full transparency.”
Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA), sponsor of the Senate version of this bill, adds that this bill brings corrupt lobbyists into the sunlight and ensures that political and business leaders know who’s influencing public policy:
“This idea is simple: If you have been convicted of a felony like bribery, extortion, embezzlement or tax evasion, you should have to disclose that when registering to become a lobbyist. Corrupt lobbyists need to be brought into the sunlight, even if they’re wearing $6,000 suits. Political leaders and businesses need to know the backgrounds of those who are trying to influence public policy. These corrupt lobbyists are the worst kind of swamp creatures and they need a one-way ticket out of Washington.”
Some skeptics of this bill doubt its constitutionality. Lobbying is essentially the professionalization of activism, which is protected by the First Amendment, so regulating it is tricky. Interviewing Sen. Kennedy about this bill, MSNBC host Chuck Todd asked:
“Why are you confident this will be constitutional? The reason I say this is any American citizen can be a lobbyist, [though] there are certain rules about when you have to register as one. At one point do you think that the Supreme Court might say you’re actually getting in the way of a citizen’s right to lobby their government?”
Of Note: This bill’s title refers to Jack Abramoff, a lobbyist who pled guilty to charges of fraud, tax evasion, and conspiracy to bribe members of Congress in 2006 and sentenced to three years in jail. Abramoff ran an operation called “Gimme Five,” in which he took on Native American tribes as clients, ostensibly to lobby for their interests in casino gambling, while privately describing his clients as “morons” and “troglodytes” as he and his associates grossly overbilled tribes, taking in $85 million in fees while at time covertly working against their clients’ interests.
The Abramoff scandal spurred the passage of new lobbying laws and ethics rules in the mid-2000s. Despite his criminal history, Abramoff was able to re-register as a federal lobbyist in 2017, and didn’t have to include his criminal history on his registration.
In 2017, there were 11,529 lobbyists in the U.S. representing businesses, trade associations, and other groups. Collectively, lobbyists spent $3.37 billion that year to influence the White House, Congress, and government agencies in 2017.
Summary by Lorelei Yang(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / P_Wei)