Former Congressman May Have Violated Revolving Door Ban as a Foreign Lobbyist

U.S. Congressman Jeff Miller (center) introduces former Senator and Republican party presidential candidate Fred Thompson (right) at a Florida rally in 2007.
U.S. Congressman Jeff Miller (center) introduces former Senator and Republican party presidential candidate Fred Thompson (right) at a Florida rally in 2007. Photo by freddthompson via Creative Commons.

Campaign Legal Center (CLC) has asked the Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate whether former U.S. Representative Jeff Miller violated federal law’s revolving door ban by registering as a foreign agent of Qatar just months after leaving Congress.

It is bad enough when former politicians leverage their public service for foreign lobbying clients. But it is even worse when a politician ignores the law’s minimal protections against influence-peddling and begins working on a foreign government’s behalf shortly after leaving office.

Rep. Miller, who represented Florida’s 1st District for sixteen years, left Congress on January 3, 2017. He started working at the lobbying firm McDermott, Will & Emery three months later.

As an early supporter of President Trump and the former chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, he has close ties to Congress and the Executive Branch—immensely valuable contacts coveted by special interests who want something from the U.S. government.

In July 2017—just seven months after leaving office—Miller agreed to trade in those contacts for a big check from Qatar. Miller registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) on July 27, 2017, and in his registration statement declared his plans “to advise the state of Qatar” and to “advocate on behalf of . . .Qatar” regarding that country’s interests before the executive and legislative branches.

If Miller performed the activities that he described in his signed registration statement, he violated federal law’s ban on a member of Congress helping foreign governments influence U.S. officials within one year after leaving office.

The one-year foreign advocacy ban is broad. It not only prohibits a former member from lobbying on a foreign entity’s behalf, but also from knowingly “aid[ing] or advis[ing]” or “represent[ing]” a foreign entity in its influence efforts.

And in contrast with the loophole-ridden Congressional lobbying ban—where a former lawmaker can provide behind the scenes support to a client’s lobbying efforts, despite being barred for one year from directly lobbying his or her old colleagues—the foreign advocacy ban prohibits any “behind-the-scenes” aid and advice in support of a foreign government’s lobbying or other influence efforts.

After the one-year anniversary of Miller’s final day in Congress, he was legally permitted to advocate or advise on Qatar’s behalf. But if he failed to wait, he may have violated the law.

Brendan directs CLC’s work before federal regulatory agencies, such as the Federal Election Commission (FEC).
Delaney is a Senior Legal Counsel on CLC's Ethics team.