The threat of serving hard time for failing to disclose foreign lobbying work is rattling Washington’s multi-billion dollar influence industry following Monday’s 12-count indictment against Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates.
And although the charges have largely been seen as a blow to the White House, Monday’s actions by special prosecutor Robert Mueller also sent shivers down the spines of Washington’s lobbyists, both Democrats and Repulicans.
“It’s a swampy place, and the swampy stink knows no partisan allegiance,” said one senior Democratic congressional aide.
Manafort and Gates, who allegedly failed to disclose the full extent of their work on behalf of the pro-Russian Ukrainian Party of Regions, are now being charged under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, a 1930s era law aimed at curbing the influence of pro-German propaganda ahead of World War II.
In the last half century, the Justice Department has brought only a handful of enforcement actions against lobbyists for violations of FARA. That lack of prosecution resulted in a proliferation of under-the-radar lobbying. Now Washington’s cottage industry of consultants and public affairs specialists can only wonder if that era has come to an end.