Rep. Peter King said he has signed on with the Obama administration’s campaign to crack down on criminal and terrorist use of shell corporations and met Wednesday to discuss it with other lawmakers and national security officials in the White House Situation Room.
The administration launched its effort two weeks ago after publication of the “Panama Papers” — documenting hundreds of offshore shell companies set up through a Panama firm — that were obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
Among the initiatives outlined by the administration is a requirement that all limited liability companies, or LLCs, be required to register their actual owners with the U.S. Treasury Department unless they already have to file those records with a state.
For the past four years, King (R-Seaford) and Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan) have sponsored a bill to make the hundreds of thousands of corporations that form each year to disclose ownership to Treasury unless a state requires it.
King and Maloney say criminals have exploited the lax laws on LLC ownership disclosure to conceal their identities and commit crimes such as drug trafficking, money laundering, tax evasion, corruption and terrorism.
Their bill has 12 co-sponsors, but they all are Democrats, King said. “Businesses are afraid it is going to put too much burden on them. But I don’t see it,” King said.
The bill is backed by the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, Fraternal Order of Police, Global Witness, U.S. Marshals Association, National Association of Former United States Attorneys, and Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI, King said.
Also involved in the campaign are Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).
“Republicans should be behind this,” King said.
King said he was the only Republican at the Situation Room meeting, although he was told that Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) is a co-sponsor of another bill aimed at the shell companies.
The meeting was led by Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken and attended by the deputy national security adviser, national security adviser for international economic affairs and the undersecretary for terrorism in the office of the director of national intelligence, King said.
The purpose of the campaign is to show Congress and the American people that the lack of transparency results in corruption, narcotics trafficking, money laundering and terrorism, King said.
King said he urged the group to aim its message at Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump supporters.
“Basically, I was saying they have to get a better message. This isn’t some ideological crusade. It’s not just against the rich guys,” King said.
“It’s to get the drug dealers off the street and deal with terrorists,” he said. “This is blood and guts.”