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May 10, 2010
2:33 PM

CONTACT: Center for Public Integrity (CPI)

Steve Carpinelli (202) 481-1225

American Maritime Officers Union’s Lobbying Disclosure Forms Under Scrutiny

WASHINGTON - May 10 - A Center for Public Integrity examination of lobbying records filed by the American Maritime Officers (AMO) union has revealed a stunning long-term pattern of Lobbying Disclosure Act violations by the union, and a lack of oversight by congressional offices tasked with ensuring the accuracy of such reports.

The AMO, the nation's largest union of merchant marine officers, represents about 4,000 members nationwide and is headquartered in Dania Beach, Fla. The Senate Office of Public Records makes available lobbying reports on its website dating back to 1999. Listed on the AMO's 2000 midyear disclosure form are more than a dozen legislative proposals on which the group lobbied during that time period. But the union's list of legislative lobbying targets didn't change for nine years. Though each Congress seated every two years starts fresh with a new slate of legislation, the union's 2001 midyear and end-of-year forms suggested that the AMO continued to lobby on the same 16 outdated and, in many cases, dead pieces of legislation. The same items were listed on each form through 2009. Late last month the union finally moved to address some of the problems.

In the most recent election cycle (2007-2008), AMO's PAC gave a total of about $680,000 to political candidates - about 55 percent to Democrats and about 45 percent to Republicans - and has been one of the top lifetime contributors to House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio, with at least $150,500 in contributions over his 20-year congressional career.

The Lobbying Disclosure Act mandates that the form include for each quarterly period "a list of the specific issues upon which a lobbyist employed by the registrant engaged in lobbying activities, including, to the maximum extent practicable, a list of bill numbers and references to specific executive branch actions." Although the lobbying disclosure law designates the Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the House of Representatives to "review, and, where necessary, verify and inquire to ensure the accuracy, completeness, and timeliness" of reports, apparently neither office caught the dozens of faulty reports filed by the AMO from 2001 to 2009.

Lobbyists who knowingly fail to comply can be punished with a civil fine of up to $200,000 and if the failure is deemed "corrupt" in a court of law, can also mean up to five years in prison.

Only after an inquiry from the Center did the Secretary of the Senate's office confirm that it will send a letter to AMO notifying the union that it may have violated the disclosure law. If the AMO fails to appropriately respond within 60 days, the Secretary of the Senate is required to refer the matter to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia for possible legal action.

The Center for Public Integrity is a nonprofit organization dedicated to producing original, responsible investigative journalism on issues of public concern. The Center is non-partisan and non-advocacy. We are committed to transparent and comprehensive reporting both in the United States and around the world.


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