Phishing, Ransomware and Cybersecurity Plaguing Organizations

June 14th, 2018 by Allison Rosenstock

On Monday, May 7th, Equifax submitted Equifax’s Statement for the Record Regarding the Extent of the Cybersecurity Incident Announced on September 7th, 2017 to the Securities and Exchange Commission. They divulged that names, social security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and some drivers license numbers, were all publicly exposed impacting almost 150 million people during their consumer data breach last year. This enormous attack is not the first, nor the biggest data theft we’ve seen in the 21st century, and unfortunately, it will not be the last. Companies such as Yahoo, eBay, and Target have all been victims of cybersecurity attacks within the last 5 years. Leaving many of us to wonder, if billion-dollar organizations who can pay for the best security in the world, are not safe, who is?

Two types of cybersecurity attacks being seen at the corporate level are phishing and ransomware. Phishing is the practice of trying to obtain personal information using false or deceptive emails and websites. Ransomware is a type of malicious software that, upon gaining access and taking over your computer, threatens you, usually by denying access to your own data. The attacker will then demand a ransom from the victim to restore access once payment is received.

Knowbe4, a security awareness training and simulated phishing platform, sponsored an Osterman Research White Paper in September of 2016, titled, Best Practices for Dealing with Phishing and Ransomware. Within this paper, findings show that not only are phishing and ransomware getting worse but “for many organizations, key security solutions are either not improving over time or their performance is actually deteriorating.”

In a research study done by ASAE in partnership with SCIPP, titled Association Data Breach Preparedness, they set out “to explore how associations are preparing for cyber attacks, and to describe the processes and actions that can help them improve their defenses.” In their conclusions, they found that CEO’s and CIO’s consider an attack virtually inevitable. Their studies also found “that many associations do not have sufficient security in place, and may not have a plan to effectively manage a future breach.” Many association leaders claimed they found the process of improving security “daunting, preventing them from actively taking these steps.”

In Knowbe4’s white paper they assure that “There are a variety of best practices that organizations should follow in order to minimize their potential for becoming victims of phishing and ransomware.” And many of them are simple, easily obtainable, and something that every association can implement.

First and foremost, associations need to understand the risks they face. “Decision makers must understand that they face threats across all of their communication and collaboration systems.” Being knowledgeable on these issues will assist in leading to cyber-attack prevention and minimizing security risks. They also signify the importance of developing detailed policies when it comes to email, website, social media and other digital tools and keeping all systems up to date. Make sure your organizations have backups on all data. Not only is this good business practice, but it creates a safety net when recovering from a ransomware attack, for a quick bounce back. A large focus for organizations should be user behavior and implementing best practices. This includes enforcing strong passwords, applying robust security awareness training, maintaining anti-malware defenses, and making sure there are policies in place for when sensitive information needs to be transferred or communicated.

Knowbe4’s white paper makes it very clear, “phishing and ransomware are very serious threats that can cause enormous damage to an organization’s finances, data assets, and reputation.” However, associations don’t need to sit back and wait. There are actions that can be taken to reduce the chances of an attack and alleviate the effects of one.

Visit https://info.knowbe4.com/whitepaper-osterman-bp-phishing-16 to download Knowbe4’s white paper in its entirety. You can also visit their resources page at https://www.knowbe4.com/resources for a wide range of free tools, white papers, and more.

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From Candidacy to Congress pt. 3

June 7th, 2018 by Allison Rosenstock

The following candidates have won congressional primaries this year in districts where their party is largely in control. These party nominees almost certainly will win election in November and become House Members in the 116th Congress, which will convene in January 2019. Additional names will be added to the list following primaries in other states, which will extend until September. These bios are an initial version of the profiles that will appear in the 2020 Almanac of American Politics, which will be published by Columbia Books.

Texas-2

Dan Crenshaw, a political newcomer, won the May 22 Republican runoff for the suburban Houston district of retiring Republican Rep. Ted Poe, with an unexpectedly strong 70 percent of the vote. Crenshaw, a retired Navy lieutenant commander who served as a Navy Seal for 10 years, lost his right eye to an explosive blast that nearly killed him while deployed in Afghanistan in 2012; he wears a distinctive eye patch. He defeated Kevin Roberts, a one-term state representative who was endorsed by the Texas Association of Business.

In his campaign, Crenshaw ran as an outsider who emphasized the importance of “service before self.” He appealed to young voters, including the need for long-term steps to preserve Social Security. Crenshaw received a late campaign boost from former Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who criticized a negative campaign mailing from the Roberts camp. Following his victory in the runoff, the Houston Chronicle wrote that Crenshaw “became a potential star on the national stage because of his war-hero story and a charisma that is drawing younger voters.”

Crenshaw, 34, is a native of Houston, where his father worked in the oil business and traveled around the world. He graduated from Tufts University, where he joined the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, and received a Master’s in Public Administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government following his military retirement. In the first round of voting in March, he finished second by a scant 155 votes ahead of Republican donor Kathleen Wall, who spent $6 million of her own funds.*

 

Texas-5

Lance Gooden won the Republican run-off with 53 percent of the vote on May 22 in the district that covers Mesquite and other suburbs east of Dallas. He started as the underdog to Bunni Pounds, a GOP political consultant who had been the campaign manager for Rep. Jeb Hensarling, the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, who is retiring after serving eight terms in this district. With support from the Club for Growth and other national conservative groups, Pounds had the early fundraising lead in the campaign.

Gooden, who was endorsed by many local officials from the rural parts of the district, emphasized his support for “traditional values” of those rural communities. He contrasted the “establishment” support for his opponent from insiders, including Vice President Mike Pence, with “no connection to our district.”

The 35-year-old Gooden got Bachelor’s degrees in government and business administration from the University of Texas, and has worked as an insurance broker and consultant for energy companies. Gooden, who has served three terms in the Texas state House, was endorsed in the runoff by the Dallas News, which cited his “strong legislative experience,” in contrast to the lack of legislative background by the “doctrinaire” Pounds. The editorial cited Gooden’s passage of a bill that stopped municipalities from annexing rural land into their city limits without an election. He has been an ally of Texas Speaker Joe Straus, whose emphasis on coalition-building has led to internal Republican conflicts.*

 

Texas-6

Ron Wright won the Republican nomination in the May 22 run-off for the Arlington-based district that retiring Rep. Joe Barton has represented for 17 terms. As a long-time top aide to Barton, Wright was his “heir apparent,” though Barton did not endorse in the contest after a nude photo of him appeared on social media and led to his decision not to seek reelection. With only 52 percent of the vote, Wright struggled against Jake Ellzey, a former Navy fighter pilot who became an aide to President George W. Bush and lost a 2014 bid for the Texas House.

Wright is a native of Tarrant County and graduated from the University of Texas in Arlington. Following a lengthy career in the private sector, he spent more than a decade as district director and then chief of staff to Barton. As a member of the Arlington City Council, he served as mayor pro tempore. He was appointed as Tarrant County tax assessor-collector and later was elected to two terms in that position.

Wright ran on his conservative credentials, including support from the Club for Growth. Although he did not disavow Barton, he emphasized his own experience in local office and distanced himself from Barton by voicing hardline opposition to rights for illegal immigrants. The district’s population is more than 40 percent African-American and Hispanic. In the March 6 primary, he led Ellzey, 45%-22%. In an editorial, the Dallas News recommended Ellzay and criticized Wright’s plan to join the conservative House Freedom Caucus if he is elected.*

 

Texas-21

Chip Roy, a veteran congressional aide and political insider who was supported by leading local Republicans plus national conservative groups, took an unexpectedly narrow 53%-47% victory in the May 22 run-off for the district that ranges from the suburbs of Austin to the suburbs of San Antonio. He will succeed retiring Rep. Lamar Smith, who has chaired four House committees during his 32-year House career. Roy defeated Matt McCall, a local businessman who ran a low-profile contest and had taken about one-third of the vote against Smith in the two most recent GOP primaries in the district.

“For years, Roy has operated behind the scenes on behalf of top Texas GOP officeholders,” according to the Austin American-Statesman. “Now he’s trying to make a name for himself as a politician in his own right.” Roy, 45, who has served as a top aide to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and former Gov. Rick Perry among others, got his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the University of Virginia and a law degree from the University of Texas. He served as a federal prosecutor with then-U.S. Attorney John Cornyn, became a senior aide when Cornyn became a Senator and later was a top official for the Texas Attorney General. In the private sector, Roy has been an investment banking analyst and top officer of the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation.

In the GOP campaign, the Texas Tribune reported, McCall criticized Roy “as an outsider in the district who is leaning hard on his political connections to get him across the finish line.” Roy emphasized his experience in fighting for conservative principles.*

 

Texas-27

Michael Cloud, a local Republican activist who has not previously held public office, won the May 22 runoff with 61 percent of the vote in the district that sprawls from Corpus Christi to Victoria and the outskirts of Austin. The seat was vacated in April by Republican Rep. Blake Farenthold, who was the target of ethics violations by an aide. Cloud will have an opportunity to get an early start in Congress with a special election that has been scheduled for June 30 to fill the remainder of Farenthold’s term; if no candidate receives a majority of that total vote, a runoff likely will be held in September.

Cloud, 42, graduated from Oral Roberts University and owns the Bright Idea Media business. He has been the communications director of the Faith Family Church in Victoria and served seven years as chairman of the Victoria County Republican Party. Cloud ran as an outsider against “career politicians.” He said “Congress is broken” and fails to serve the public’s interests.

He won the May 22 runoff against Bech Bruun, who has held several senior positions in Texas government, including chairman of the Water Development Board. Cloud had trailed Bruun, 36%-34%, the early frontrunner among the six GOP candidates in the March primary. Cloud benefited from the support of the conservative Club for Growth and House Freedom Caucus, plus former Rep. Ron Paul, who served many years in an earlier version of the district; Bruun was endorsed by the Texas Association of Business.*

 

*These profiles were prepared with the assistance of biographical and campaign information from the Ballotpedia website.

A Narrow House Margin Could Produce a Chaotic Vote for Speaker

May 31st, 2018 by Allison Rosenstock

By Richard Cohen, Chief Author, The Almanac of American Politics

As the November election approaches, forecasts of the outcome in the House have evolved. No doubt, the uncertainties will continue. But little attention has been given to the implications of the growing possibility that the House majority could be razor-thin, for one party or the other. That, in turn, could result in a chaotic handling of the House’s customary first decision and vote—the selection of the Speaker.

Given statements that have been made by renegade Democrats and Republicans—including both incumbents and prospective freshmen in each party—who oppose their party’s current leadership, there is a real risk that when the 116th Congress convenes next January nobody will receive the requisite majority for Speaker from those present and voting, as required by House rules.

Already, some junior House Democrats have demanded the ouster of Nancy Pelosi as their party leader. On the other side of the aisle, some Freedom Caucus Republicans have warned that they again will refuse to go along with the GOP Conference’s selection of their party leader. As election campaigns intensify, the number of rebels more likely will grow rather than shrink—especially among those who have had no stake in earlier leadership choices. That could force a multi-ballot House contest for the first time since 1923, when nine ballots were required to select the Speaker. (More below on that little-known conflict.)

In addition, there were two instances prior to the Civil War in which deadlocks in selecting the Speaker, which resulted from conflicts over slavery, required three weeks (and 63 ballots) to resolve in 1849 and two months (and 133 ballots) in 1855. Those separate battles were settled by creative use of House procedures and control by plurality rule, rather than a majority.

So, what would happen next January if—hypothetically—one party has 220 members of the 435 who have taken the oath of office, but three of them stubbornly object to their party’s formal nominee for Speaker? The short answer is that nobody knows. Given the speculative nature of this scenario, including the impossibility of knowing prior to November who will be casting votes and what will be the partisan margin, serious maneuvering would not start until the days immediately following the election.

It’s worth noting that a five-seat House majority (i.e., 222 seats) for one party or the other would require a Democratic gain in November of 17 to 27 seats from the most recent partisan control of each seat; that is in the range of many current assessments.

House history and precedents offer some clue to the internal challenges and how they might be resolved. In a word, the usually routine selection of the next Speaker could become a mess. Almost certainly, the in-fighting would produce a media spectacle that might further erode confidence in the legislative process and democratic governance. For example, multiple House members could step forward as candidates for Speaker. All sorts of promises might result, with deals that are both public and private. Under the Constitution, the Speaker is not required to be a House Member, though an outsider has never been seriously considered.

In some recent cases, the Speaker has barely prevailed, as the result of defections in his own party. John Boehner received 216 votes in January 2015, with 25 Republicans voting for a medley of 10 other candidates. In 1997, Newt Gingrich received 216 votes as 4 GOP members voted for other candidates; six other Republicans either voted present or did not vote. In each case, at least 227 Republicans had been elected and the winner for Speaker received a majority of those voting—though not a majority of all House members. So, the controversy was resolved within the party in control.

There have been other cases in which the House majority was exceedingly thin. In 2001, when 221 Republican had been elected, they remained unified. Speaker Dennis Hastert, accordingly, won another term without controversy. In 1930, 218 Republicans were elected. But the deaths of GOP members and subsequent special elections prior to the December 1931 vote for Speaker resulted in the victory of Democrat John Nance Garner, who got 218 votes. (Prior to the ratification in 1933 of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution, which moved the convening of Congress to the January following the election, a newly-elected Congress did not take office for more than a year.)

In a closely divided House, uncertainty would result if members of the majority party voted for somebody other than that party’s nominee for Speaker. “If no candidate receives the requisite majority, the roll call is repeated until a Speaker is elected,” according to a May 2017 report by the Congressional Research Service. “Members may continue to vote for any individual, and no restrictions, such as eliminating minority candidates or prohibiting new candidates from being named, are imposed.”

Following the 1922 election, in which 225 Republicans were elected, a bloc of roughly two dozen self-styled Progressives within the GOP demanded changes in House rules and other procedural reforms. Frederick Gillett of Massachusetts, who had been Speaker the previous four years, agreed to the changes after three days of negotiations and he won another term.

(There were numerous notable aspects to the 1922 election—including the mid-term loss of 75 House GOP seats, the Teapot Dome scandals that undermined support for President Warren Harding, and the only time in U.S. history when the House—under GOP control in 1921—refused to order a reapportionment to reflect the results of the decennial Census. As it turned out, Harding died in August 1923 and was succeeded by Calvin Coolidge. Both Coolidge and Gillett started their political careers in western Massachusetts towns a few miles apart, though Gillett was 20 years older. The low-profile Gillett gave up the Speakership to run successfully in 1924 for the Senate, where he served one term before retiring.)

Contested elections for Speaker can raise the prospect of rewards, or possibly punishment, for the party mavericks. Following the 2015 conflict, for example, Boehner stripped two Republican dissidents from their seats on the House Rules Committee.
Dissidents arguably have enhanced leverage when the two major parties are more closely divided. In an extreme case, members of the minority party might have influence if they can create a coalition with majority-party rebels, especially if they can find ideological common ground; such outcomes occasionally have resulted in state legislatures. For a hypothetical showdown next January, the prospective rebels—in either party—could be centrists or from the policy fringes.

In a 2015 article in The Washington Post, two academicians wrote that the rebels in 1923 held the balance of power in the House. “The Republican Old Guard had to swallow a lot to make this deal, but they had no choice — the alternatives were an unorganized House or a House organized along Democratic/Progressive lines,” wrote Jeffrey Jenkins and Charles Stewart, who are professors of political science respectively at the University of Virginia and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Jenkins and Stewart authored a related book, Fighting for the Speakership, which was published in 2012. They analyzed how changes in the organization of politics and parties have affected the selection and power of the House Speaker. In a paper that they wrote for a meeting of political scientists in 2001, they encouraged greater “understanding how House members tried to impose stability on a process that seems ripe for instability and gridlock.”
With the increase in congressional instability and gridlock since 2001, it’s been uncertain whether and how the internal dysfunction might intensify. In ways that can only be guessed for now, that perfect storm might hit Capitol Hill in November. The outcome might have unpredictable consequences, such as blowing away the current party leaders in the House and uprooting the leadership dominance of legislation that has grown entrenched in recent years.

Richard E. Cohen is Chief Author of The Almanac of American Politics. For more insights, including profiles of all Members of Congress and the governors, order your copy of the Almanac from www.thealmanacofamericanpolitics.com.

From Candidacy to Congress Pt. 2

May 24th, 2018 by Allison Rosenstock

The following candidates have won congressional primaries this year in districts where their party is largely in control. These party nominees almost certainly will win election in November and become House Members in the 116th Congress, which will convene in January 2019. Additional names will be added to the list following primaries in other states, which will extend until September. These bios are an initial version of the profiles that will appear in the 2020 Almanac of American Politics, which will be published by Columbia Books.

Indiana-4:

Jim Baird won the Republican primary in a competitive contest with six other candidates. In an outcome that many local Republicans said was a surprise, he led runner-up Steve Braun, 36-30 percent; Braun’s brother Mike won the Republican nomination for the Senate in another close campaign in the May 8 primary. In the mostly rural district northwest of Indianapolis, Baird is almost certain to succeed Rep. Todd Rokita, who ran unsuccessfully in that Senate primary.

Steve Braun was endorsed by the state Chamber of Commerce and the Farm Bureau. He raised more than twice as much campaign money as Baird, who benefited from a superior grass-roots appeal. The closing days of the campaign were marked by negative advertising campaigns by several outside political action committees. A late ad attacked Baird’s vote to increase the state’s gasoline tax and said that he had cost Hoosiers “an arm and a leg.” Given his war injuries, that generated a sympathetic response for Baird.*

Pennsylvania-4:

Madeleine Dean was the convincing winner of the May 15 Democratic primary for the open House seat in the Philadelphia suburbs. She won 74 percent of the vote against two other candidates, including former Rep. Joe Hoeffel, who served three terms before he ran unsuccessfully for the Senate in 2004. The once-competitive Montgomery County battleground has become solidly Democratic.

In 2012, Dean was elected to the Pennsylvania state House. She is vice-chair of the Finance Committee and has co-chaired the PA Safe Caucus, a coalition that has sought to curb gun violence through action and awareness; she has filed legislation to eliminate bump stocks on firearms. She has served on the Governor’s Commission for Women, which has advised on policies that promote equality issues ranging from sexual assault to business initiatives. In 2017, she announced her campaign for Lieutenant Governor, but changed her plans when the state Supreme Court early this year approved a new congressional redistricting map. Dean was endorsed by labor unions and EMILY’s List, the Democratic abortion-rights group. She likely will be one of at least three Democratic women from southeast Pennsylvania to join what had been the state’s all-male congressional delegation.*

Idaho-1:

Brad Fulcher easily won on May 15 the Republican nomination for an open House seat in Idaho, with 43 percent of the vote against six other candidates. The runner-up with 17 percent was David Leroy, who was the state’s attorney general and lieutenant governor more than 30 years ago and lost a Republican primary for Congress in 1994. Fulcher will likely succeed Rep. Raul Labrador, who ran unsuccessfully in the GOP primary for governor, in the district that stretches along the western edge of Idaho from Canada to the Wyoming border.

Fulcher was endorsed by numerous conservative activists and interest groups, including the Club for Growth, which spent more than $500,000 on his behalf. Labrador said that Fulcher would continue his “fight for liberty.” Like Labrador, Fulcher is an outspoken conservative. He challenged Gov. Butch Otter in the 2014 primary on a pledge to protect Idaho’s “true conservative ideals,” and lost, 51%-44%. He served 10 years in the state Senate, where he was the leader of the Senate Republican Caucus.*

*These profiles were prepared with the assistance of biographical and campaign information from the Ballotpedia website and Ballotpedia editor, Geoff Pallay.

Association Lobbying Analysis: 2012 v. 2017

May 18th, 2018 by Allison Rosenstock

Those who work in the government relations industry know, policy focus and fervor changes with each new administration. Lobbyists must demonstrate their adaptability to changes in the political climate—to get the job done no matter who is at the helm. So, how do association lobbying trends vary over time? When a new head of state is in the White House, what changes in the association advocacy space? Are you curious? Association TRENDS was too.

Through Lobbyists.Info, the one-stop resource for information on lobbying and government relations, we pulled data directly from LDA disclosure forms filed with the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives for the full years of 2012 and 2017 to see what associations spent the most money on outside counsel, which lobbying firms receive the most money from associations, and which issues are most frequently registered for by associations. Here’s what we found out.

*Source: Data completed by lobbyists.info in partnership with Association TRENDS. Spending data sourced directly from lobbying disclosure filings and based solely on association activity and does not reflect any other client activity.

Lobbyists.Info Launches First Full-Scale Government Relations Industry Compensation Survey

May 3rd, 2018 by Allison Rosenstock

May 2nd, 2018 WASHINGTON DC – Lobbyists.Info is launching the first ever full-scale Government Relations Compensation Survey spanning the complete landscape of government relations professionals from firms to corporations, associations, PACs and think tanks. Lobbyists.info, provider of industry staples including Washington Representatives to the US Congress Handbook and Almanac of American Politics, aims to explore and unveil compensation truths and trends in an often misunderstood industry.

Given the complexity of the industry structure which includes a wide variety of professional focuses, specialties, and education levels and the lack of a certifying body, government relations has been vastly ignored in compensation reporting.
The Survey can be completed by any individual involved in government relations and advocacy work including registered lobbyists, policy experts, PAC staff, advocacy managers and more.

This completely anonymous survey and comprehensive report will analyze compensation trends in the GR industry by:

• Age
• Gender
• Education Level
• Government Experience
• Industry Type
• Organization Type
• Lobbying Registration Status
• Legislative Issue Specialty
• Job Title and Function
• Location

The Government Relations Compensation Survey will require no name or contact information be given, leaving total anonymity for survey takers. No personally identifiable information will be captured during the process unless voluntarily provided by survey takers. During the creation of the Government Relations Compensation Report, participant information will be combined with other survey takers, summarized, and analyzed to further protect anonymity.

Lobbyists.Info is excited to work in tandem with the Government Relations industry to answer questions like these and look behind the industry curtain through the creation of this innovative and comprehensive report.

What advanced degrees are most pervasive? How important is past government experience? What specific job titles are showing the widest pay scales? Does the glass ceiling exist in the industry?

To participate go to http://www.lobbyists.info/The-Government-Relations-Industry-Compensation-Report. Participants are eligible to receive a free executive summary of the report and can purchase the complete results for a discounted, participants only rate.

Lobbying Disclosure Act Revenue for Q1

April 26th, 2018 by Allison Rosenstock

According to Politico, here are the Lobbying Disclosure Act revenue rankings for the first quarter of 2018:

Top Firms:

  1. Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld: $10 million (versus $10 million in Q4 2017 and $9.5 million in Q1 2017)
  2. Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck: $7.2 million (versus $8.3 million in Q4 2017 and $6.7 million in Q1 2017)
  3. BGR Group: $6.9 million (versus $6.9 million in Q4 2017 and $5 million in Q1 2017)
  4. Squire Patton Boggs: $6.3 million (versus $6 million in Q4 2017 and $5.8 million in Q1 2017)
  5. Holland & Knight: $6.1 million (versus $6.3 million in Q4 2017 and $5.1 million in Q1 2017)
  6. Cornerstone Government Affairs: $6 million (versus $5.1 million in Q4 2017 and $4.5 million in Q1 2017)
  7. Covington & Burling: $4.5 million (versus $4.5 million in Q4 2017 and $4.2 million in Q1 2017)
  8. Williams & Jensen: $4.5 million (versus $4.2 million in Q4 2017 and $3.9 million in Q1 2017)
  9. Capitol Counsel: $4.4 million (versus $4.7 million in Q4 2017 and $4.2 million in Q1 2017)
  10. K&L Gates: $4.4 million (versus $4.4 million in Q4 2017 and $4.3 million in Q1 2017)

Top Spenders:

  1. U.S. Chamber of Commerce: $15.4 million (versus $16.8 million in Q4 2017 and $17.2 million in Q1 2017)
  2. National Association of Realtors: $13 million (versus $22.2 million in Q4 2017 and $10.1 million in Q1 2017)
  3. Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America: $10 million (versus $5.9 million in Q4 2017 and $8 million in Q1 2017)
  4. U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform: $7.5 million (versus $7 million in Q4 2017 and $7.4 million in Q1 2017)
  5. American Medical Association: $6.6 million (versus $4 million in Q4 2017 and $6.8 million in Q1 2017)
  6. Business Roundtable: $5.6 million (versus $17.4 million in Q4 2017 and $2.3 million in Q1 2017)
  7. Google: $5 million (versus $4.4 million in Q4 2017 and $3.5 million in Q1 2017)
  8. American Hospital Association: $5 million (versus $4.6 million in Q4 2017 and $4.6 million in Q1 2017)
  9. Pfizer: $4.7 million (versus $1.9 million in Q4 2017 and $3.8 million in Q1 2017)
  10. Northrop Grumman: $4.4 million (versus $2.7 million in Q4 2017 and $4.3 million in Q1 2017)

Biggest Contracts:

  1. Covington & Burling: Qualcomm ($1.1 million)
  2. Cornerstone Government Affairs: Lankford & Reed ($750,000)
  3. Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld: Gila River Indian Community ($670,000)
  4. McGuiness, Yager & Bartl: HR Policy Association ($650,000)
  5. Federal Policy Group: Edward Jones ($500,000)

The Rise and Fall of Tony Podesta

April 19th, 2018 by Allison Rosenstock

Tony Podesta’s lobbying firm ended in 2015 as the third largest in Washington D.C., according to the Wall Street Journal. The firm had about 30 million dollars in revenue from over 100 different clients from Google to Wells Fargo. His firm had great potential with Hillary Clinton on the 2016 Presidential ballot as well. Podesta was one of Washington’s most influential players.

Until it all fell apart.

In 2016, with “financial problems, legal threats and the election of President Donald Trump,” his clients all disappeared. This tumble from the throne occurred due to Podesta’s ties to Paul Manafort- Trump’s former campaign manager- and questions about whether the firm did work for a Russian bank under sanctions. One of the few things that could have saved Podesta’s status would have been the election of Hillary Clinton, however that did not go to plan for him either. Then, Podesta decided to step down from the firm.

During the heyday of the Podesta group, Mr. Podesta “drew an annual salary of more than two million dollars and made millions more in commissions and bonuses.” According to fundraising records, “he and Heather Podesta together donated more money to the Democratic Party and its candidates than any other Washington lobbyists in the past decade.” Podesta not only ruled Washington lobbyists, but he was also the socialite, restauranteur and art collector every Washington insider strived to be. However, his love of art drove a wedge between him and Mrs. Podesta and they eventually filed for divorce in 2014. After the divorce, Podesta began to take on clients simply for their monetary value, such as the NRA, much to the dismay of his Democratic Party base supporters and his own employees. One lobbyist quit and cost the Podesta Group two million dollars in revenue. Podesta’s overseas business doubled from 2011 to 2015. His clients included the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Republic of Iraq and the government of South Sudan.

Return of the TPP?

April 12th, 2018 by Allison Rosenstock

Amid the trade dispute with China, President Trump is currently weighing the possibility of rejoining the Trans-Pacific Partnership, according to the Washington Post. The original intent of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) by the Obama administration was to “counter China’s influence,” but Trump did not agree with that decision and pulled the U.S. out of the deal in early 2017. Economic Council Director Larry Ludlow and two GOP Senators suggested that the U.S. needs to “do business with all the people [China’s] doing business with in the region: their competitors.” Trump’s response was to tell the group to consider getting the U.S. back into the TPP.

“Engaging in talks to reenter the TPP would be part of a broader White House strategy to respond to an escalating trade flap between Trump and Beijing.” Trump believes the U.S. has been part of many unfair trade deals with China, so he has taken a hard line approach to dealing with the Chinese on trade. However, he has not succeeded at rallying other countries to “backstop” his approach involving new tariffs. The TPP involved the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Japan, Vietnam, Singapore, Australia and a number of other countries. It was intended to create a sense of power in numbers when dealing with China on trade.

The deal, however, never went into effect. Trump refused to sign the trade deal because he believes the United States has been “ripped off” in large multinational trade deals in the past. Further, he has a general distaste for any Obama-era decisions. President Obama wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post in May 2016 aiming to rally support for domestic political backing in entering the deal. He wrote, “increasing trade in this area of the world would be a boon to American businesses and American workers, and it would give us a leg up on our economic competitors, including one we hear a lot about on the campaign trail these days: China.” However, Trump refused to participate in the partnership at that point.

 

From Candidacy to Congress

March 29th, 2018 by Allison Rosenstock

The following candidates have won congressional primaries this year in districts where their party is largely in control. These party nominees almost certainly will win election in November and become House Members in the 116th Congress, which will convene in January 2019. Additional names will be added to the list following primaries in other states, which will extend until September. These bios are an initial version of the profiles that will appear in the 2020 Almanac of American Politics, which will be published by Columbia Books.

Freshman Congressman Blog Image (002)

Chuy Garcia; Illinois – 4

  • Arrived in Chicago as a 5-year-old immigrant from Mexico
  • Graduated from the University of Illinois
  • Spent 6 years on the Chicago City Council, 6 years in the State Senate, and 8 years in his current seat on the Cook County Board of Commissioners
  • Unsuccessfully challenged Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s reelection in 2015


Sylvia Garcia; Texas – 29

  • Graduated from Texas Woman’s University and received her law degree from Texas Southern University in Houston
  • In 1998 became Houston City Controller
  • Elected in 2002 to the Harris County Commissioners Court; the first woman, and first Latina to hold that position


Van Taylor; Texas – 3

  • Graduated Harvard College and Harvard Business School
  • Captain in the Marine Corps, winning awards for his services as a platoon commander and intelligence officer in Iraq
  • Elected to the Texas Senate in 2014, previously serving four years in the state House


Veronica Escobar; Texas – 16

  • Graduated from the University of Texas at El Paso
  • Taught Chicano Literature at UTEP
  • Served as El Paso County Commissioner
  • Served 7 years as El Paso County Judge

 

*These profiles were prepared by Richard Cohen, Chief Author of The Almanac of American Politics with the assistance of biographical and campaign information from the Ballotpedia, The Encyclopedia of American Politics, website. This content may not be copied or duplicated without permission from Columbia Books and Ballotpedia.

New Tariffs on China: Where does the American consumer fit in?

March 22nd, 2018 by Allison Rosenstock

On Thursday, President Trump unveiled new trade restrictions on China that would block $50 billion in Chinese exports from entering the United States, according to Politico. Trump claimed the restrictions will “make us a much stronger, much richer nation.” The Trump administration created these restrictions as “punishment for Beijing’s intellectual property practices.” The targets of the restrictions are Chinese technology companies who, according to the administration, are forcefully taking from U.S. companies. The White House also plans to add “25 percent additional tariffs on certain products that are supported by China’s unfair industrial policy.”

These new restrictions are just the first step that the White House plans to take to “counter Chinese policies that U.S. technology companies argue force them to surrender billions of dollars in intellectual property and other proprietary information to gain access to China’s state-controlled economy.” Trump claims that the U.S. and China are in the midst of a very serious negotiation. He also wants to restrict Chinese companies from investing in certain sectors of the U.S. economy.

On Capitol Hill, there has been a cautious reaction from lawmakers. They support “cracking down on China but not at the expense of U.S. businesses and consumers.” Sen. Orrin Hatch said that his continued support is “contingent on the president choosing an appropriate remedy.” Rep. Kevin Brady, House Ways and Means Chairman, urged Trump to find a remedy that does not impose new taxes on products Americans buy.

Chinese retaliation is inevitable, especially in soybeans, aircrafts and other exports. However, Trump still believes he is coming through on his campaign promise to remedy Chinese “trade abuses,” no matter what the cost to the American consumer. The Trump administration uses China’s “Made in China 2025” plan as a central point in their argument to limit technological trade with China. The plan aims to “support growth in advanced industries and technologies, such as biopharmaceuticals, robotics and artificial intelligence, electric vehicles and next-generation telecommunications.”

Better Late than Never: Trump’s New Sanctions Against Russia

March 15th, 2018 by Allison Rosenstock

The Trump administration announced that the U.S. will impose “new economic sanctions on two-dozen Russian individuals and entities for cyberattacks in the U.S. and meddling in the 2016 election, senior national security officials said,” according to The Hill. The Treasury Department will “freeze the assets and prohibit Americans from doing business with the accused Russians.” Some of the fraudulent organizations have already been indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

This week, Moscow has been accused by the British government as well as United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley for various alleged crimes. British Prime Minister Theresa May “expelled 23 Russian diplomats and the U.S. has signed on to a joint statement with its Western European allies slamming Russia for the ‘abhorrent’ attack and demanding accountability from Moscow.” Nikki Haley

The Treasury also “continues to pressure Russia for its ongoing efforts to destabilize Ukraine, occupy Crimea, meddle in elections, as well as for its endemic corruption and human rights abuses.” The Russian government has been described as “reckless” and “irresponsible” in regard to their use of a military-grade nerve agent “in attempt to murder two UK citizens.” However, the central message of the new sanctions is to stop Russian election meddling. Robert Mueller has already charged most of the individuals connected with setting up an interference campaign in the 2016 election. In addition, the Treasury Department has “targeted two Russian intelligence organizations in retaliation for what officials described as widespread and persistent cyberattacks.” Further, government officials believe the attack cost companies and individuals billions of dollars worldwide and “wreaked havoc on the global shipping trade.”

To appoint or not to appoint, that is the question

March 8th, 2018 by Allison Rosenstock

Since President Trump took office, “more than 2,745 political appointees have joined the federal government…including at least 187 former lobbyists and also 125 people with ties to conservative think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute, the records show,” according to The New York Times. ProPublica posted the records of federal employees online, which also offers a “comprehensive look at how Mr. Trump is influencing the direction of the federal government.

Trump has not only influence the trajectory of the government with high-level cabinet appointees, but he has also “rewarded people who have been loyal to him or share his priorities,” such as a recent college graduate who earned a job as an aide to the commerce secretary after working on Trump’s campaign in New York for a few months. However, Trump has yet to fill about 35 percent of the positions needing Senate confirmation. Unlike other presidents before him, President Trump did not arrive in Washington with a long list of political friends. Therefore, he’s bringing in like-minded people from other aspects of his life to fill the positions, so far. At the White House alone, almost 60 former campaign workers have been hired. Many of the other hires are former lobbyists who “recently lobbied the agencies where they now work.” To work in the agencies on the same issues they previously worked on, these former lobbyists must comply with guidelines and sign an ethics waiver.

While no comparative database exists, experts say that the Trump appointments stand out in comparison with previous presidents. Thomas E. Mann, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution said, “overall, my reading is that the Trump political appointees have less expertise, in their respective areas, than any presidential administration dating back to at least the Reagan era.” Internal staff believes that the “administration had appointed well-qualified staff.” Executive agency staff who have worked in their positions through multiple administrations say that the new appointees have added value.

Infrastructure in 2018?

February 28th, 2018 by Allison Rosenstock

A new CNN generic poll shows Democrats leading in the congressional polls by 16 points. The party in power also historically loses ground during midterm elections. The majority party often has problems getting voters to turn out for the midterms because they get complacent. Given these factors, and the GOP’s struggle to pass legislation other than the tax bill, Democrats are looking good for November.

However, Democrats are defending 25 Senate seats while the GOP is defending eight.

Given the lack of action on the part of the GOP this year, it’s no surprise that, “Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) thinks getting an infrastructure bill across the finish line this year will be tough,” according to Politico. Therefore, leading lobbyists are advising their clients to “start thinking about what a bipartisan infrastructure plan could look like if the Democrats take back the House in November.” Congress is unlikely to pass President Trump’s $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan this year “because [they] have so many other things to do and we don’t have much time” said Cornyn. However, Sen. Tom Carper disagrees with Sen. Cornyn. He believes that Congress must find a path forward on infrastructure this year. However, lobbyists are not discouraged. While they believe that there might not be an infrastructure bill this year, they are “not backing down” in their advocacy, said Julie Minerva, a partner at Capri and Clay. A Republican lobbyist described 2018 as, “the year to build momentum on infrastructure.”

Even though a large infrastructure bill might not pass this year, smaller initiatives might pass. “Infrastructure lobbyists are paying attention to the Water Resources Development Act, which authorizes water projects.” Other smaller infrastructure projects are still on the table, such as the Inland Waterways Trust Fund and the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund.

The New Tax Bill – What Nonprofits Should Know Right Now

February 22nd, 2018 by Allison Rosenstock

On December 22, 2017, H.R. 1 (also known as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act) was signed into law. This new tax law provides sweeping changes that potentially impact all U.S. taxpayers, including associations and other exempt organizations. For the most part, these changes are effective for tax years beginning after December 31, 2017.

The full text of the bill is here. The following provisions are of particular interest to exempt organizations:

• Decrease in Maximum Tax Rate – The bill decreases the tax rate for corporations, and on unrelated business taxable income (UBTI) for exempt organizations, from a maximum of 35% to 21%. Note that this new 21% rate is a flat tax rate. This decreased tax rate also applies to the proxy tax on exempt organizations for lobbying and political expenditures incurred, and also for Form 1120-POL.

This change in the tax rate structure may affect your organization’s estimated tax calculations. Your overall tax liability may decrease, or it may increase, based on your organization’s pre-2018 incremental tax rate.

In addition, for financial statement purposes, organizations should consider this new rate in valuing its deferred tax assets and liabilities, for tax years beginning after December 31, 2017.

• Unrelated Business Income – The bill requires exempt organizations carrying on more than one unrelated trade or business to calculate UBTI separately for each trade or business. This practice effectively prohibits using losses relating to one trade or business to offset income from another trade or business.

• Non-Deductible Fringe Benefits – The bill increases UBTI by the amount of certain fringe benefits for which deductions are disallowed. These fringe benefits include qualified mass transit and parking benefits paid by the employer. However, the provision for amounts paid by an employee through elective salary deferral via a qualified transportation fringe plan appears to be unchanged and would not be subject to tax.

• Executive Compensation – The bill imposes a 21% excise tax on compensation over $1 million for executives of nonprofit organizations. The excise tax is imposed on the organization and not on the employee.

 Net Operating Losses – The bill eliminates carrybacks of net operating losses (NOL), and it allows unused NOLs to be carried forward indefinitely. The bill also limits the NOL deduction to 80% of a taxpayer’s taxable income. These changes to the application of NOLs are effective for losses arising in tax years beginning after December 31, 2017.

 Local Lobbying Expenses – The bill eliminates the deduction for lobbying expenses regarding legislation before local government bodies, including Indian tribal governments. As a result, these expenses will be included in the calculation of non-deductible membership dues or proxy tax liability.

• Provisions Not Included – Certain provisions affecting nonprofits from earlier drafts of the tax bill have not been signed into law at this time. These provisions include the repeal of the Johnson Amendment, prohibiting Section 501(c)(3) organizations from engaging in political activity; the inclusion of name and logo royalties in UBTI; and changes to the methods for determining reasonable compensation for the purposes of the intermediate sanctions excise tax.

Many of these provisions require additional clarification and guidance, and still, others may require technical correction. We will provide additional information in the coming weeks regarding how the new tax bill could affect your organization. Please consult any member of the Tate & Tryon tax team if you have questions regarding this matter.