Former Judiciary Chairman Now Lobbying for FISA Law Changes

Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican who was House Judiciary Committee chairman before retiring in 2019, is now lobbying for a group pushing changes to government surveillance programs.

The Project for Privacy and Surveillance Accountability was set up to lobby for “guidelines and audits to hold these secret programs accountable to constitutional and statutory protections.” It became active last year and is run by lawyer Erik Jaffe, who is registered as a lobbyist through his firm Schaerr Jaffe. The group first registered to lobby in July and spent $250,000 on lobbying in the last six months of the year, according to filings with Congress.

(Photo by Yuri Gripas/Bloomberg)
Former Rep. Bob Goodlatte

U.S. surveillance programs are authorized through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), with three provisions of the law. That includes the government’s mass records-collection program set to expire in March unless Congress renews them. When he was Judiciary chairman, Goodlatte pushed for changes to the FISA law, which is under that committee’s jurisdiction.

The group is pushing lawmakers to make changes such as annual audits, notifying a policymaker or candidate if one of their staffers are being surveilled, and keeping “public policy positions off limits” as part of the process.

Although not expressly stated, many of the proposed changes appear to stem from criticism of the FBI’s handling of its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. A Justice Department inspector general’s report criticized the bureau’s application for a FISA warrant for the surveillance of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers have floated FISA proposals of some kind.

Goodlatte serves as a senior policy director for the group. Former House members must wait one year after leaving Congress before they’re able to advocate before their former colleagues, although they can lobby the administration and the Senate.

The Project for Privacy and Surveillance Accountability also has former Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), the former chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, on retainer through his firm, the McKeon Group.

To contact the reporter on this story: Megan R. Wilson in Washington at mwilson@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Bennett Roth at broth@bgov.com; Kyle Trygstad at ktrygstad@bgov.com

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