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New Rule Trips Up Lobbyist-Tied PACs

“SAIC was and is fully aware of the requirement under the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007 to file the amended FEC Form 1 by March 29 of this year,” SAIC spokeswoman Melissa Koskovich said in a written statement. “When we learned ... there was no record of this form, we worked immediately to refile.”

SAIC, the Air Transportation Association of America, the National Community Pharmacists Association and several other organizations filed new registration forms to bring their PACs into compliance after being contacted for this story.

SAIC, whose PAC donated $702,000 during the 2008 election cycle, used a computer-filing software service called Vocus to submit its documents to the FEC.

The National Mining Association, which has spent $35.2 million on lobbying in the past decade, also had a problem with Vocus, according to organization spokeswoman Carol Raulston.

“Apparently, Vocus got an error message saying that the material had been submitted but had not been filed,” she said. “But that error message was not seen or not communicated to us ... so we have refiled.”

But Frank Strong, director of public relations for Vocus, said his firm has not heard any such complaints.

“To the best of our knowledge, we have no record of any customer, including the two you mentioned, reporting an issue,” Strong said. “If you don’t push the send button, it doesn’t go through,” he added.

Other groups that missed the filing deadline by more than seven months have donated a significant amount of money so far this year to lawmakers, campaigns and other PACs. For instance, the National Community Pharmacists Association’s PAC has contributed $959,000, and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange Group’s PAC contributed $426,000 this cycle.

David Wenhold, president of the American League of Lobbyists, said the large number of missing FEC disclosure forms indicates a “systemic problem” in understanding the law by PACs.

“I don’t think there is anything nefarious going on out there,” said Wenhold, whose organization has spent much of the past two years educating lobbyists about the new filing requirements. “There will be an adjustment period, and once people understand what they need to do, all of the lobbyists will comply.”

Of course, some lobbying organizations did comply. Those that did acknowledge their lobbying ties donated more than $115 million — or 65 percent of all PAC money contributed — during the 2010 election cycle, according to a CQ MoneyLine analysis. That makes it clear, even with the 800 missing forms, that the majority of PAC money comes from groups that retain lobbyists to influence legislation and policy.

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