Keystone and K Street

November 19th, 2014 by Matthew Barnes

THE SENATE FAILED TO PASS LEGISLATION which would approve the construction of the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline. The bill was narrowly defeated 59-41 in a vote Tuesday. The legislation needed to reach the 60 vote supermajority threshold in order for it to be passed.

The failure of the legislation to pass could be a fatal blow to Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) who faces an uphill battle in her reelection campaign which will be decided by a December 6 run-off election. Her challenger, Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and his campaign wasted no time in using the bill’s defeat writing in an email, “Senator Mary Landrieu’s failure to pass the Keystone XL Pipeline this evening is a perfect snapshot of her time as Chair of the Energy Committee – a failure…Conversely, Dr. Cassidy passed the Keystone pipeline out of the House last week with wide bi-partisan support.”

A failed re-election bid by Sen. Landrieu would be another blow to the Democratic Party, which suffered a disastrous Mid-Term Election cycle in which Republicans won the majority in the Senate and have so far gained 8 seats in the Senate. Democrats now have only 44 seats in the Senate including Sen. Landrieu, while the Republicans have 53.

The change in control of the Senate has also brought about with it some changes on K Street. Lobbyists with ties to prominent Republicans stand to gain significant influence in the new congress. According to The Hill, “Lobbyists whose stock is about to skyrocket include those with ties to new leadership on the Banking, Finance, Judiciary, Commerce and Energy committees, all of which business groups will be watching closely in the next Congress.”

Moreover, the soon-to-be Majority Leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has indicated, that when he takes over the leadership of the Senate, he will make its “committees more active, thereby making chairmen more powerful — and connected K Streeters even more valuable.”

Political Climate Change

November 12th, 2014 by James Cameron

THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION  IS stepping up its efforts to combat climate change, and the GOP and industry lobbyists may not be able to do much to halt it. POLITICO reports that President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to carbon emissions targets for the next twenty years, and that the United States will spend considerable funds to aid developing countries in coping with climate change.

GOP leadership, of course, are none too pleased. The Washington Post notes that both Mitch McConnell and John Boehner have blasted the deal, calling it “job-crushing” and a “crusade against affordable, reliable energy.” Despite the incoming Republican majority in the Senate, it’s unlikely that Congress will be able to significantly impact the deal or the EPA’s proposed climate rules due to Obama’s veto power, although POLITICO notes that the GOP may be able to slow parts of the administration’s climate change agenda.

Industry lobbyists also expressed concerns about the Obama administration’s climate policies, in particular the EPA’s carbon dioxide restrictions on power plants. An industry-backed report claims that the rule could cost the energy industry $366 billion. The industry’s stauch opposition does seem to be having some effect; Bloomberg Businessweek reported that the EPA is now considering extending the timeline of emissions reduction from 2020 to 2029.

On the flip side, the clean energy industry as well as climate change advocates is encouraging Obama to hold his ground. In a letter organized by Environment America, groups such as the Solar Energy Industries Association and SunEdison praised the EPA rules, calling them an important step to reduce emissions and usher in an era of clean, renewable energy.

With an upcoming GOP majority in both chambers of Congress and staunch opposition from the energy industry, the fight against climate change has a bumpy road ahead, but in the short term it appears that its opponents can do little to stop the Obama administration’s agenda.

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The Professional Women in Advocacy Conference will take place Nov. 19-21 at the Capital Hilton in Washington. For details, click here. http://www.associationtrends.com/event/professional-women-in-advocacy-conference

A Red November

November 5th, 2014 by Matthew Barnes

Despite many close races in the 2014 Mid -Term Elections, Republicans have exceeded expectations. The GOP has become the majority party in the Senate with 52 out of 100 seats and added cushioning to their control of the House with 243 out of 435 seats so far. The Republican Party will seek to increase its control of the Senate on December 6th, when a run-off vote is scheduled for the Louisiana Senate race between Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA).

The competitiveness of many of the elections, POLITICO reports, drove some candidates, such as (then) Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), to enact an “all hands on deck” approach for the final stages of the campaign, reaching out to his extended network of allies and former staffers seeking as many volunteers as possible. Many of the people who answered Sen. McConnell’s call to volunteer, such as Hunter Bates, are former members of Sen. McConnell’s staff and are now lobbyists. Mr. Bates was formerly Chief of Staff to Sen. McConnell before co-founding the lobbying firm Republic Consulting.

Nevertheless, the effect the resounding GOP victory in this election will have on the lobbying industry remains to be seen. However, lobbyists with ties to prominent Republicans, like Steve Clark (founding partner at ClarkGeduldigCranford & Nielsen), are very optimistic about the future, saying “If the Republicans take the Senate in November, we feel like our firm, with key House and Senate ties, is as well-positioned as any.”

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The Professional Women in Advocacy Conference will take place Nov. 19-21 at the Capital Hilton in Washington. For details, click here. http://www.associationtrends.com/event/professional-women-in-advocacy-conference

GOP Majority: Scary for Dems, A Boon for K Street

October 29th, 2014 by James Cameron

A POTENTIAL GOP TAKEOVER of the Senate may scare Democrats more than anything Halloween could bring, but  firms on K Street are seeing dollar signs. POLITICO writes that Republican lobbyists have spent eight years in a tertiary role thanks to Democratic control of the Senate, but that may soon change.

The New York Times estimates that there’s a 66% chance that the GOP re-takes the Senate, while FiveThirtyEight projects a 62.3% chance. Whichever model you use, things are looking up for the Republican party, and GOP lobbyists are salivating. Republican-centric firms such as the Nickles Group and Crossroads  Strategies would certainly enjoy a boost in revenue, as well as individual Republican lobbyists and particularly those with ties to GOP leadership. But a Republican takeover of the Senate would impact the entire landscape of K Street.

Firms that aren’t explicitly Republican are still making plans to deal with a Republican majority. As CQ Roll Call notes in its Beltway Insiders Blog, firms would likely hire up to cater to the new majority, but existing Republican employees will also enjoy greater prominence in the K Street power structure.

But it’s not just Republicans who would benefit from a shift in the balance of power. POLITICO makes the point that any change on K Street brings in new business as clients attempt to get a feel for the new regime. Indeed, Roll Call reports that even the possibility of a GOP majority is enough to bring in new business as clients attempt to gain an edge even before election day.

While the possibility of Republicans gaining a majority in both chambers is a scary possibility for Democrats, K Street appears poised to enjoy a hefty bump in business should things go well for the GOP next week.

Battling Ebola On K Street

October 22nd, 2014 by Matthew Barnes

THE SPREAD OF EBOLA from Africa to the United States and Europe has become an issue of great concern for governments and health officials across the globe. The Obama administration reacted to the situation, tasking the newly appointed “Ebola Czar” Ron Klain to coordinate the U.S. Government’s response to the spread of the deadly virus.

Many lobbyists have also joined in the battle against the virus. The Hill has reported that approximately a dozen organizations have already begun lobbying efforts around the disease. To many, like Dr. Larry Brilliant, a senior adviser to the Skoll Global Threats Fund, the current outbreak of the virus has demonstrated our need for new technologies and practices in combatting the spread of infectious diseases in our increasingly globalized world.

On Monday it was announced that Squire Patton Boggs signed a new deal with Hemispherx Biopharma Inc. to represent the company to officials both domestically and abroad. Hemispherx has developed two experimental anti-viral drugs, Ampligen and AlferonN, which it wants to test against Ebola virus. Similarly, medical machinery company Zimek has enlisted the help of lobbying firm Dentons US to assist with promoting its infection control and biohazard technologies.

The outbreak, which began in March, originated in Western Africa and has, to this point, claimed the lives of approximately 4,500 people according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

As the Ebola outbreak develops, debate on Capitol Hill will continue on the allocation of funds for both the research and combatting of the disease.  Congressional action on Ebola has significant implications for both the pharmaceutical industry and their lobbyists as firms are increasingly called upon to lobby both Congress and federal agencies like the National Institute of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

 

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The Professional Women in Advocacy Conference will take place Nov. 19-21 at the Capital Hilton in Washington. For details, click here. http://www.associationtrends.com/event/professional-women-in-advocacy-conference

 

Uber, Taxis Get Lift From Lobbying

October 15th, 2014 by James Cameron

RIDE-SHARING COMPANY UBER has been in the news a lot in recent months, and not in a good way. The company has faced backlash from taxi drivers, competitors, and entire countries over what are seen as predatory business practices and attempts to dodge local regulations. And like any embattled company, Uber is upping its lobbying efforts.

In August, Uber hired former Obama campaign manager David Plouffe as Senior Vice President of Policy and Strategy. This high-profile hire sends a clear statement that Uber intends to go on a legislative offensive. Uber is also hiring up for overseas lobbying; the BBC reported last month that Uber has hired a lobbyist in response to Germany’s ban of the service.

But the opposition is also shoring up its advocacy game. Cab drivers in the Washington, DC metropolitan area have rapidly joined unions and formed coalitions to combat Uber’s influence in the area. Meanwhile, the Washington Post reports that cab drivers dramatically outspent Uber at the local level by more than 3,500 to 1. As the Sunlight Foundation notes, this may explain why at least 12 states and the District have attempted to regulate or limit Uber and other ride-sharing services.

It’s clear that the local lobbying battle between Uber and taxi companies will only intensify. It remains to be seen whether the fight will extend to the federal level, but Uber’s hiring of David Plouffe indicates that the company is prepared should Congress and the federal government begin to weigh in on ride-sharing services.

The Lobbying Economy’s Shadow

October 9th, 2014 by Linnae O'Flahavan

IN A VOX ARTICLE LAST WEEK, researcher and reporter Andrew Prokop writes about a new research study done by Tim LaPira, a political scientist at James Madison University, which used the Lobbyists.info database to calculate the true lobbying economy, including a massive number of unregistered lobbyists. LaPira’s research found that less than half of federal lobbyists were legally registered to lobby, suggesting that the $3.3 billion officially spent on lobbying in 2012 was likely much closer to $7 billion.

LaPira and his team pulled out a random sample of people with federal lobbying-related jobs from the full Lobbyists.info catalog, and worked to recreate those people’s resumes using Google. Once it was determined which of those people were engaged in federal public policy, LaPira calculated the percentage of those who were registered to lobby, which turned out to be a bit less than half of those in the sample. LaPira’s research confirms what many already suspected – that there is a massive underground “shadow lobbying” force at work.

This shadow lobbying force may exist for a variety of reasons. The Center for Responsive Politics counts the number of lobbying disclosure forms filled out, but as LaPira argues in a post for the Sunlight Foundation, the LDA’s definition of a lobbyist is too narrow, and federal lobbyists are able to act as “strategic policy consultants” or “historical advisers” without ever having to register. Not to mention, a number of other factors may be cause for the current underground lobbying trend, including the Obama administration’s efforts to slow down the “revolving door,” new innovations regarding public relations strategies, digital advertising, the defeat of SOPA in 2012, and advances in social media.

Kate Ackley, in an article for Roll Call, suggests that one major cause for the decline in registered lobbyists is the lack of enforcement of lobbying laws. It’s true that Lobbying Disclosure Act violations are rarely prosecuted, although recently the Office of Congressional Ethics referred one case to the District of Columbia’s U.S. Attorney’s Office for failing to register. It’s possible that this signals a new era of harsher penalties and more frequent prosecutions, although it could remain in isolated incident. Understanding the reasons behind shadow lobbying and the de-registration of many federal lobbyists is difficult and complicated, but nevertheless the numbers show a trending increase in unregistered lobbying.

LaPira’s study produced well-researched quantifiable results confirming that despite a decline in the number of registered federal lobbyists, the lobbying economy is booming. While the results are not surprising, they are extremely helpful in better understanding the underground world of shadow lobbying. LaPira’s subsequent paper, co-authored by Herschel Thomas, describes his research methodology and results in even better detail. Here at Lobbyblog we are pleased to see the Lobbyists.info database put to such good use!

A Thirsty State Turns to Congress

October 1st, 2014 by James Cameron

AS CALIFORNIA’S RECORD-WORST DROUGHT continues, local municipalities, farmers, and environmental groups are finding ways to make waves on Capitol Hill. CBS reported Tuesday that 2014 will end as the driest year in the state since 1977—the record-keeping year for water watchers ends in September—and the drought will extend into its fourth winter. As conditions worsen, groups are turning to Congress in an attempt to make themselves heard.

Central to the legislative fight over California’s water is whether environmental restrictions on water use under the Endangered Species Act are partially to blame for water shortages.  At least six bills have been introduced that would loosen restrictions designed to protect fish in the San Joaquin River Delta. However, officials in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and others contend that the ESA has had little impact on water supplies and that the cause of shortages is almost exclusively the drought.

As the Center for Responsive Politics reports, Westlands Water District, the largest in the nation, has spent $600,000 among four different lobbying firms in an effort to secure more water for its farmers, but environmental groups like Earthjustice point out that agriculture already consumes 80% of the state’s water supply.

While Local municipalities might not have that kind of lobbying clout, but the Fresno Bee notes that at least seventeen cities and counties in California passed resolutions  urging Congressional action on the drought. These resolutions were presented before a Congressional hearing earlier this month.

California’s Congressional representatives have been pressing their colleagues to take legislative action to mitigate the drought’s impact, but so far Congress has dragged its feet on the issue. With the August recess just ending and November looming, it seems unlikely that significant legislative action happening anytime soon, even as California closes out one of its driest years ever.

Fitbit Lobbying Shows Immediate Turnaround

September 24th, 2014 by Linnae O'Flahavan

FITBIT, A HEALTH-TRACKING FITNESS COMPANY that sells electronic wristbands enabling users to track physical activity, food intake, and weight, has hired major K Street lobbying firepower after privacy concerns were raised by Senator Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) last month, reports The Hill. Schumer, who is chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, publicly voiced concerns that the highly detailed data stored by Fitbit could be shared with outside organizations due to inadequate privacy laws and Fitbit’s weak privacy policy. Fitbit immediately responded to criticism by hiring Heather Podesta + Partners that same day, according to lobbying disclosure forms, and changes are already being seen.

Fitbit has already updated its privacy policy – a change warmly and publicly received by Senator Schumer – and now will only share collected data with third parties when legally required to do so, or when the customer has chosen to allow it. This marks a significant change in privacy policy. Although Fitbit has stated all along that it does not sell user data, it declined to comment on whether or not it was sharing data with third parties without compensation. Fitbit has drastically toughened its own privacy policy, and although it claims the timing was a coincidence and that the policy was already being updated, the fact remains that Heather Podesta + Partners was hired directly after Senator Schumer’s criticism, and that major changes are being made.

While Schumer’s remarks seem to have pushed Fitbit into action, it is unclear whether or not other electronic fitness tracking companies will toughen their own privacy policies, or if tougher privacy laws will result. This is not the first time Fitbit has faced criticism regarding privacy policies, after an embarrassing situation back in 2011, but its lobbying efforts seem to be working rapidly and effectively.

NFL Prepares for Rough Legislative Road

September 17th, 2014 by James Cameron

THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE has been blasted across the board for its handling of Ray Rice’s domestic abuse of his then-fiancée Janay Palmer, as well as for how it dealt with other incidents of domestic violence among its players. Obviously, the NFL has mobilized its PR department as well as hiring staff specifically to deal with domestic violence issues, but it has also attempted to shore up its lobbying wing; The Hill reported Tuesday that the NFL has hired a new top lobbyist.

However, as POLITICO notes, lobbying for an embattled organization, even one as prominent and popular as the NFL, isn’t the most attractive prospect for a government relations professional. New NFL Senior Vice President of Public Policy and Government Affairs Cynthia Hogan will have to deal with a litany of high-profile legislative issues beyond the Ray Rice case, including the FCC’s review of the sports blackout rule, the controversy over the Washington Redskins’ name and logo, and recent calls to revoke the NFL’s tax-exempt status. Further, POLITICO reports that despite the NFL’s prominence, the pay for the position was thought to be insufficient given the pressure and level of seniority the NFL is seeking for the job.

Despite the immense challenge and pressure Hogan is likely to face, her hire may prove to be a boon for the league. Hogan was a staffer on the Senate Judiciary Committee with then-Senator Joe Biden and helped write the Violence Against Women Act, one of the strongest laws against domestic abuse. This gives her significant credibility to deal with the Ray Rice scandal on the Hill.

It’s likely, given the numerous high-stakes legislative issues that the NFL is facing, that the league will also continue to spend significantly on outside lobbying. According to data from Lobbyists.info, the NFL has spent more than $2.5 million on lobbying since 2012, with $590,000 in the first two quarters of 2014 alone. Given the Ray Rice scandal and mounting pressure on other issues, it seems probable that lobbying expenditures in the second half of 2014 will be even greater.

It remains to be seen if the NFL can weather the legislative and PR disasters of 2014 and regain credibility with fans, women’s groups, legislators, and the media. Although Cynthia Hogan’s hire is a step in the right direction, it’s unclear if the NFL will be able to stem the mounting tide of harmful legislative issues.

Advocacy groups rally public on net neutrality

September 10th, 2014 by James Cameron

ON THE TOPIC OF NET NEUTRALITY, the American public is anything but. POLITICO reported today that the debate has generated more than 1,477,301 public comments, more than Janet Jackson’s accidental exposure during the 2004 Super Bowl, the previous record-holder.

As POLITICO reports, many of these public comments are from form letters created by advocacy groups. Meanwhile, website such as Netflix and Reddit have organized an “internet slowdown day” on September 9th to illustrate the perils of allowing ISPs to create internet “fast lanes” which allocate more bandwidth to companies that are willing to pay.

According to the Daily Dot, ISPs opposed to net neutrality have spent more than 75 million dollars since 2003 lobbying against it, while advocacy groups and companies on the other side have spent a shade over 25 million. It would appear that advocacy groups attempting to guide the public debate in their favor rather than trying to influence lawmakers. Given that the FCC is a regulatory body, this strategy makes sense, and with the majority of the record-breaking 1.4 million comments on the issue in favor of net neutrality, it appears to be working.

Despite the lobbying advantage that ISPs are currently enjoying, tech companies in favor of net neutrality have massive funds and political cachet that they have yet to fully bring to bear on the issue. According to The Hill, tech companies and advocacy groups have spent millions on lobbying Congress but are growing increasingly frustrated with Congressional inaction on key issues such as net neutrality. With no end to gridlock in sight, these groups may begin withholding substantial contributions from lawmakers they deem inactive or in opposition to their goals. Although the eventual fate of net neutrality remains to be seen, if tech companies bring more substantial lobbying resources to bear, we may see the influence game swing in their favor.

E-Cigarette Lobbying Outrage Over CDC Study

September 4th, 2014 by Linnae O'Flahavan

LAST WEEK, THE CDC  released the results of a 2013 study analyzing the connection between e-cigarette use and normal cigarette use among minors. Not surprisingly, groups such as the American Vaping Association are criticizing both the study and the results, which were published in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research. E-cigarette lobbying groups are claiming that the results were improperly computed, citing instances in which teen respondents said they would “probably not” try cigarettes were counted as “likely future smokers,” reports The Hill.

E-cigarette regulation is in the national spotlight as multiple regulatory agencies work to determine appropriate regulations. The FDA has yet to formally declare that e-cigarettes, which contain nicotine but don’t cause users to inhale smoke, fall under their regulatory realm, causing tobacco lobbyists to strategically maneuver their way through impending regulations across the country. Tobacco companies entering the e-cigarette business are being represented by major lobbying firms such as Dickstein Shapiro (Lorillard Tobacco) and Shockey Scofield Solutions (National Tobacco).

In the past, tobacco companies have been blasted for defending an unsafe product,  and as a result their strategies are now shifting. National Journal confirms the shift, explaining that “as tobacco companies jockey to expand their e-cigarette business, they’re using an updated lobbying playbook that drops opposition to regulations and embraces the prohibition of sales to minors.” This new strategy puts tobacco companies in a better light by showing that they are against e-cigarette sales to minors while allowing them to fight against other more important government regulations such as laws restricting where e-cigarettes can be used, or even limits on flavored e-cigarettes.

While this new strategy seems to be taking positive steps to reduce e-cigarette use among minors on the surface, there are some suspiciously contradictory actions being taken by tobacco companies. Simply looking at e-cigarette advertising suggests aggressive marketing toward minors, with cartoon advertisements and e-cigarette flavors such as Cap’n Crunch, Bazooka Bubble Gum, and Cotton Candy. Tobacco companies may be claiming that they embrace regulations such as the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, but it appears to be an underhanded approach.

The criticism that the CDC’s report is receiving is a perfect example. It’s possible that some of the survey results were wrongly computed, but the outrage and intensity that is being expressed by the e-cigarette industry shows that the link between e-cigarettes and minors is by no means unfounded.

The Police Lobby Pushes Back

August 28th, 2014 by James Cameron

AFTER SIGNIFICANT CRITICISM AND concerns expressed by civil rights groups, the media, and politicians over the military tactics and equipment used by local police in Ferguson, Mo. in recent weeks, president Obama has ordered a review of federal programs that supply surplus military equipment to municipal police departments, the Washington Post reports. The move comes after local police deployed what many viewed as excessive military tactics, including tear gas, armored tactical vehicles, and acoustic riot control (LRAD) devices against protests that have been largely peaceful.

But police associations are pushing back, arguing that there is a great deal of misinformation about how military equipment is being used by police departments. The Hill reports that the Fraternal Order of Police has made its presence felt on Capitol Hill in recent weeks, and they’re only one of several police associations that have contacted members and staff about their concerns regarding potentially stripping police of military gear. Bill Johnson, the executive director of the National Association of Police Organizations, said that any decision on the federal programs should be delayed, arguing that emotions are running too high in the wake of the Ferguson protests for a rational decision to be made. The Daily Beast reports that the National Tactical Officers Association, which represents SWAT teams nationwide, has e-mailed every legislative staffer in both the House and Senate, arguing that police need advanced equipment to stay “one step ahead” of criminals.

Despite concerns from the police lobby, it appears that the conversation in Washington has generally been in opposition to police tactics and equipment used in Ferguson. The Hill reports that the Fraternal Order has already met with Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) after she made public statements against police militarization on MSNBC, but lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have expressed concerns that police militarization threatens civil liberties, including Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.). Meanwhile, Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) has introduced a bill to demilitarize local police forces.

It’s still unclear whether significant inroads will be made in demilitarizing police departments, but events in Ferguson have certainly put a spotlight on the issue. It remains to be seen whether the police lobby’s efforts will stem the tide or if public outrage will sway lawmakers into taking legislative action.

The White House’s Revolving Door

August 22nd, 2014 by Linnae O'Flahavan

BARACK OBAMA RAN FOR PRESIDENT on a platform that promised to decrease influence by lobbyists on national policy. He vowed to limit connections between the White House and lobbying firms, but despite creating new regulations against lobbyists, many of those influential ties still remain. Most recently, as The Hill reports, ride-share and taxi-cab alternative company Uber hired Obama’s former campaign chief David Plouffe as its new Senior Vice President of Policy and Strategy. Uber’s co-founder and CEO Travis Kalanick wrote in a blog post that Plouffe will help lead Uber in the political fight against “the Big Taxi cartel.”

Connections such as these, while not necessarily Obama’s fault, exemplify how close national policy and lobbying remain. According to analysis from the Washington Post, there are 65 current members of the Obama administration who have direct experience lobbying the federal government. While many of these people have been in their positions since the start of Obama’s first term, questions remain about the constant stream of people going back and forth between positions with the federal government and private sector lobbying firms.

The White House is attempting to crack down on former Congressional staffers and members who are moving into the private sector, but seems to be unable to slow down their departure, especially as mid-term elections approach. It’s hard to know whether or not those 65 members of the Obama Administration are truly getting in the way, or if the number isn’t actually all that significant. It will also be interesting to see how the exodus of Congressional staffers moving toward private government affairs lobbying work is affected by the results of upcoming elections.

 

White House Reverses Lobbying Ban

August 13th, 2014 by Linnae O'Flahavan

THE WHITE HOUSE HAS REVERSED part of its ban preventing registered lobbyists from serving on advisory panels. Lobbyists may now sit on advisory panels “so long as they’re acting on behalf of a corporation, trade association or industry group and not as private citizens or representatives of the government,” reports POLITICO. The original ban was put in place in 2010, but has been challenged in court by 6 lobbyists who, as a result of the ban, were kicked off advisory panels. Those lobbyists include Erik Autor, Nate Herman, Cass Johnson, Stephen Lamar, Bill Reinsch, and Andrew Zamoyski. The courts ruled against the White House by refusing to dismiss the case, and as a result, the Office of Management and Budget has eased up on restrictions by publishing the new rule in the Federal Register.

There appears to be significant criticism of the Obama administration for easing up on promised ethics reforms regarding K Street’s influence, although it is important to note that the reversal in policy is coming after court decisions going against the ban. Bloomberg quotes OMB’s Communications Director Melanie Roussell, who defends the ban, clarifying that “the purpose of the prohibition is ‘to restrict the undue influence of lobbyists on the federal government’ and was ‘not designed to prevent lobbyists or others from petitioning their government.’” Nonetheless, many lobbyists are up in arms about the ban, claiming constitutional rights violations, and are glad to see the White House reversing part of the ban.

It remains unclear exactly how far the White House will retreat on this issue since the administration is admitting defeat by reversing even part of the ban. In addition, POLITICO reports that the Obama administration has hired over 70 previously registered lobbyists including Broderick Johnson, Melody Barnes, James Kohlenberger, and Sean Kennedy. President Obama ran for office on a platform vowing to keep K Street influence out of the White House, but his plans seem to be failing, regardless of his intentions. It’s hard to say what Obama truly intended to accomplish, but quite easy to say that his ethics reforms aiming to minimize special interest influence on government policy are not really working.