Under federal rules, both SEPTA and the lobbyists have reporting requirements.
Any agency that pays a lobbyist at least $25,000 to try to influence the federal government must file. SEPTA has paid three Washington lobbying firms a total of $252,000 a year, the agency says. This year, it hired a fourth lobbying firm.
Records show that SEPTA's Washington lobbying firms filed regularly but that SEPTA did not.
In releasing Casey's letter, SEPTA chief financial officer Richard Burnfield said his agency did not file the lobbying disclosures because it did not believe it was required to under a literal interpretation of the regulations.
Burnfield said SEPTA - which receives about $200 million in federal funds annually - never intended to dodge reporting. And he said that, as far as he knew, the agency had never filed a lobbying-disclosure report in the 32 years he has worked there.
Burnfield said SEPTA officials never received any written legal opinion on whether they needed to file the one-page disclosure forms with Washington.
The federal administration has just sent out notices to hundreds of transit agencies across the nation to clarify the reporting regulations.
That notification, while not mentioning SEPTA, suggested that the agency was not alone in failing to submit required paperwork.
"Some recipients of FTA funding," it stated, "failed to comply with the lobbying-disclosure requirement."
Those agencies, it said, "incorrectly assumed" that they did not need to report because they had not used federal funds for lobbying.
It stressed that expenditures of more than $25,000 of nonfederal funds must be reported and that use of federal funds for lobbying was prohibited.
Transit administration spokesman Brian Farber said his agency was reviewing SEPTA's response. He said there "is not a timeline" for his agency to decide what penalties SEPTA would face, if any.
Contact Mark Fazlollah
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