American Maritime Officers Union’s Lobbying Disclosure Forms Under Scrutiny

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Steve Carpinelli (202) 481-1225

American Maritime Officers Union’s Lobbying Disclosure Forms Under Scrutiny

WASHINGTON - 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same 16 outdated and, in many cases, dead pieces of legislation.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.

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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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