Washington lobbying firm Carmen Group will pay a $125,000 fine to settle civil allegations that it repeatedly violated the Lobbying Disclosure Act by failing to disclose some of its lobbying activities and political contributions, prosecutors said.
The settlement was the second this year involving the lobbying act and the largest civil penalty obtained by federal prosecutors in Washington, whom Congress tasked with enforcing the 1995 law.
“The American public has a right to know about the efforts of paid lobbyists to influence legislative and executive decision-making,” Acting U.S. Attorney of the District Vincent H. Cohen, Jr. said in a statement Friday. “This settlement reflects our determination to seek significant penalties from repeat offenders who fail to meet their reporting obligations.”
Carmen Group, founded in 1985, denied knowingly violating the law and has now complied fully, prosecutors said.
Richard Masterson, a spokesman for the Carmen Group, said the settlement concerned filings “made by a former employee.”
“Management had no knowledge that administrative lapses had occurred and the company at no time violated the Lobbying Disclosure Act,” he said in a statement. “The settlement amicably resolves the matter as the most efficient way to minimize cost.”
Last August, the Center for Public Integrity cited vague disclosure by the Carmen Group of its work securing $45 million in Hurricane Katrina relief loan forgiveness for client Xavier University of Louisiana as a leading example of toothless federal lobbying laws in need of reform. The settlement did not specifically mention the Xavier case.
Of 3,042 referrals to prosecutors from 2009 to 2012, almost all resulted in no penalties, the center reported, citing a U.S. Government Accountability Office report.
The Carmen Group, which reported $5.8 million in lobbying activities in 2014, ranks 16th among all lobbying firms since 1998 with $137 million disclosed, according to the Center for Responsive Politics’ OpenSecrets.org internet site.
Both the House and Senate referred the firm to prosecutors after it was accused of failing to file some quarterly reports, and some individual lobbyists registered to work on behalf of its clients were accused of failing to file some semi-annual reports of political contributions.