Diving Deeper into Local Lobbying

March 4th, 2015 by Matthew Barnes

HAVING PREVIOUSLY DISCUSSED state level lobbying, this week Lobby Blog dives a little deeper, looking at local lobbying oversight. City Ethics, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that provides information and advice on local government ethics issues nationwide, has recently released the final draft of the chapter, “Local Government Lobbying,” from its free e-book, Local Government Ethics Programs. This chapter is a new resource on the subject of local lobbying, a subject that has received very little attention.

In the chapter Mr. Wechsler, Director of Research at City Ethics, discusses many topics surrounding local lobbying including: the ways in which local lobbying differs from state and federal lobbying; a consideration of the reasons for setting up a lobbying oversight program; a look at the all-important definitions of what constitutes “lobbying” and who is a “lobbyist”; an in-depth look at the disclosure requirements and the obligations and prohibitions that local governments have instituted; and a consideration of the oversight and enforcement processes that will ensure that local lobbying is done openly and without improper conduct. The chapter also includes a draft Model Lobbying Code for local governments.

The draft has been made available online with the goal of receiving feedback from lobbyists, academics, and lobbying programs and good government staff members. The 312-page draft is available for free in four digital formats on the City Ethics website.

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Droning On

February 25th, 2015 by Matthew Barnes

THE FLYING OF REMOTE DRONES has become a major domestic policy issue in the United States. Just last month drones made headline news as a federal employee accidentally flew a remote control drone onto the White House grounds, causing a mass security stir and furthering debate on the issue around the country.  On February 15, 2015 the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released new regulations for drones with Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx saying, “Technology is advancing at an unprecedented pace and this milestone allows federal regulations and the use of our national airspace to evolve to safely accommodate innovation.” The DOT and FAA also announced a 60 day period for the public to comment on the proposed regulations, which will begin from the date of publication in the Federal Register.

However, the proposed regulations have been met with considerable opposition in the business community as the regulations heavily restrict some potential business applications of drone use, such as delivery services. This prevents some companies, like Amazon.com, from capitalizing on the removal of the current near-ban on flying drones for commercial purposes. Amazon.com has a goal of establishing Amazon Prime Air, a “future delivery system…designed to safely get packages into customers’ hands in 30 minutes or less using small unmanned aerial vehicles.”

Lobbyists representing businesses and supporters of drone technology will use the comment period to persuade lawmakers and regulators that new technologies employed by the drones will make some of the limitations proposed by the DOT and FAA unnecessary. Such technological innovations include allowing drones to “sense and avoid” obstacles including other aircraft and autonomous GPS navigation. Reuters reports that, “Spending on lobbying by special interests that list drones as an issue surged from $20,000 in 2001 to $35 million in 2011 to more than $186 million in 2014, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks lobbying activity.”

However, not everyone is excited about the prospect of an increased amount of unmanned drones flying overhead. A website, NoFlyZone.org, has been created with the goals of letting you establish a no-fly zone over your property. Despite the voluntary basis, a number of drone hardware and software firms have already promised to honor your request including:  EHANG, Horizon Hobby, DroneDeploy, YUNEEC, HEXO+, PixiePath and RCFlyMaps.

With the lines drawn, no matter the result, the drone debate is certainly setting itself up to be a highly contested and publicized issue for the coming year.

Walking Through The Revolving Door Without Your Wallet

February 19th, 2015 by Matthew Barnes

In a controversial move, two congressmen have introduced bills which would prevent former members of Congress from receiving their federal pensions if they begin lobbying after their term in office, according to the Hill. Rep. Bill Posey (R-Fla.) has introduced legislation to ban members of Congress from lobbying for five years after leaving office (H. R. 318) and eliminate their federal benefits if they choose to lobby (H. R. 319). Similarly, Rep. Steve Israel introduced the “Revolving Door Pension Prevention Act” (H.R.567) which makes former members of Congress receiving compensation as a highly-paid lobbyist ($1,000,000 or more as a direct result of lobbying activities) ineligible to receive certain Federal retirement benefits.

The legislation has angered many former members of Congress such as former Rep. Jim Slattery (D-Kan.) who has said, “Current members think they’re going to satisfy the beast by throwing this kind of red meat, and it doesn’t work…Some ill-informed members of Congress believe they can blame lobbyists for their poor standing in the public. That’s a joke. The only way they’re going to improve their standing in the eyes of the public is to do a better job…Some members of Congress have tried to blame lobbyists for their decisions. Whenever I hear something like that I want to just vomit. What a cowardly answer.”

Moreover, James Hickey, President of the Association of Government Relations Professionals, has argued that such legislation is ripe for a Supreme Court challenge as the right to petition the government is protected by the First Amendment.

Other former lawmakers such as Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) have provided alternative ideas for reform like extending the “cooling off” period that members of Congress must adhere too. Currently, former members of the House of Representatives are required to wait one year before they are allowed to register to lobby while former Senators are required to undergo a two year waiting period.

Whatever the result, this issue is likely to remain at the forefront of lobbying reform as many still have fresh memories of lobbying scandals like that of Jack Abramoff. However, legislators must be careful when implementing reforms in an effort to avoid creating more “shadow lobbyists” who do not register as lobbyists despite engaging in advocacy which would just exacerbate the situation.

Tax, PR Fight Fermenting Between Brewers

February 11th, 2015 by James Cameron

IF YOU READ LOBBY BLOG regularly, you know that even groups within the same industry don’t always get along when it comes to legislative issues. That’s the case in the fight that’s brewing between craft brewers and large “macrobreweries” such as Miller-Coors and Anheuser-Busch InBev. According to the OpenSecrets blog, the fight centers around two competing bills: The Small BREW Act and the Fair Beer Act, both of which offer differing definitions for how beer producers should be taxed.

The Small BREW Act is supported by the Brewers Association, a trade association which represents more than 10,000 key stakeholders in the American beer industry, with a focus on craft brewers. The association is relatively new to lobbying, with its first lobbying expenditures taking place in 2008. Currently, it spends 14.9% of membership dues it collects on lobbying on issues such as The Small BREW Act. The Act limits tax breaks only to beer producers headquartered in the United States and excludes importers; this would leave out such notable producers as Anheuser-Busch InBev. Further, it would expand the definition of small brewer to any organization that produces six million barrels of beer or less per year, again excluding the industry giants.

This restriction on overseas-based producers and importers is the key difference between the Small BREW Act and the BEER Act, which is supported by the National Beer Wholesalers Association and the Beer Institute, which represents both macrobreweries such as Miller-Coors as well as smaller producers and microbrewers. Both organizations reject the Small BREW Act in favor of the Beer Act, which the organizations claim is more inclusive and fair in its application of excise taxes.

But the fight between craft brewers and industry giants moved from Congress to the living rooms of millions of Americans when Budweiser ran an ad during the Super Bowl that was critical of craft beer, claiming that beer shouldn’t “be fussed over.” PBS notes that even as beer sales as a whole have fallen, craft beer sales have grown exponentially in the past three decades, even though they still represent a small portion of overall beer sales.

While it remains to be seen which (if either) bill prevails, it’s clear the legislative and public relations conflict between large and small beer producers is far from over. If craft beer continues to grow at its current rapid pace, the fight will only intensify.

Leading Association Lobbyists and the Salute to Association Excellence

February 4th, 2015 by Matthew Barnes

ON FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 6TH, 2015, Association TRENDS will host its 36th annual Salute to Association Excellence, an annual awards luncheon which honors the brightest stars of the association community and their commitment to excellence.  The event is known in the industry as THE event to attend with the awards luncheon drawing a crowd of over 500 leading association professionals each year. During the event a number of people will be honored including, Association TRENDS’ five Leading Association Lobbyists.

This year’s honorees are:

Jon JohnsonManaging Partner, Johnson & Blanton – “In the 2013 legislative session Johnson’s firm, which represents 16 associations, assisted the Florida Engineering Society in passing a crucial lawsuit reform bill that protected individual engineers from wrongly being sued. The most recent session in 2014, Johnson worked with lobbyists for the Florida Healthcare Association to pass litigation reform surrounding nursing homes. This resulted in a bipartisan effort and saw a compromise emerge between nursing home owners and trial lawyers.”

Patricia Rojas-Ungár – Vice President, Government Relations, U.S. Travel – “In 2013, U.S. Travel launched a campaign to reduce delays for international visitors when they arrive at U.S. gateway airports. Rojas-Ungar’s advocacy efforts resulted in a presidential executive memo calling for the development of a national goal to improve service levels for international visitors and to remove unnecessary travel barriers. Congress also weighed in by approving enough resources to hire 2,000 new Customs and Border Control officers to process travelers more quickly. In 2014, Rojas-Ungar’s efforts to reauthorize Brand USA have delivered strong bipartisan approval by the House of Representatives and further cleared the Senate Commerce Committee.  Focus is now on full consideration by the U.S. Senate before the end of the year.”

Neil Snyder, MPA, CAEDirector of Federal Advocacy, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association – “Snyder worked with the U.S. House Education and the Workforce Committee staff to craft and send a request letter from the full and subcommittee chairmen to the General Accountability Office, to launch an investigation into the conflicting and burdensome requirements surrounding the delivery of services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. GAO accepted the request and is meeting with stakeholder groups including my association, among others. A report from GAO is anticipated in 2014 that will help guide legislative and statutory changes in advance of an IDEA reauthorization by Congress.”

Christopher Vest, CAE  - Director of Public Policy, ASAE – “Over the past couple of years, Vest and the ASAE public policy team have worked to ensure a better understanding on Capitol Hill of the importance of allowing government employees to attend outside conferences and meetings to receive training and exchange knowledge with the many industries and professions represented by associations. Vest and ASAE also continue to meet with congressional offices to convey the impact that various tax reform proposals would have on the revenue-generating activities of associations.”

Nominations for honorees were accepted year-round and from across the country by the lobbyists’ peers, colleagues and other association executives.  To be eligible all nominees are either lobbyists who are on staff at an association or were hired to represent an association. Nominees can represent associations at the local, state, regional and national levels. Taken into consideration is the work (not necessarily successes because lobbying can be a slow process) of the nominated lobbyist in the past 2 years.

Lobbying Without Lobbying

January 28th, 2015 by Matthew Barnes

New analysis from the Center for Public Integrity (CPI) has found that trade groups are relying more heavily on advertising than traditional lobbying for influence and to achieve their goals. CPI’s analysis of the tax records of 144 trade groups from 2008 to 2012 found that trade groups spent 37% of their total contractor budgets on advertising, PR and marketing. In total trade groups spent $1.26 billion on advertising, public relations and marketing services, nearly twice as much as the $682.2 million that was directed toward legal, lobbying and government affairs.

The heavy reliance on the use of advertising can be at least partly attributed to the greater freedoms the advertising industry has when compared to lobbying, due to lack of regulation. According to Erin Quinn and Chris Young , the authors of the report,  “Public relations work, unlike lobbying, is not subject to federal disclosure rules, and PR and advertising campaigns can potentially influence a broader group of people.” Similarly, Edward Walker, a sociology professor at the University of California, Los Angeles argues that, “The trade associations that rely most on PR and advertising campaigns are usually those representing industries facing the heaviest regulation and the most public contempt.”

In the end, the overall effect this trend will have on the lobbying industry remains to be seen. However some people, such as Doug Pinkham, President of the Public Affairs Council, have suggested that “The gradual shift from a focus on traditional lobbying toward greater use of the “outside game of politics,” or communications like PR, has been going on for at least a decade…but is now accelerating with advances in technology, social media and digital strategies.” Nevertheless, lobbyists should note that while lobbying expenditures peaked in 2010 at $3.6 billion, have they have since declined steadily, falling to $3.24 billion in 2013 and $3.21 billion in 2014, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Meanwhile in 2013, the global public relations industry grew 11% over the previous year to $12.5 billion, according to trade journal The Holmes Report.

Congress All A-Twitter

January 21st, 2015 by James Cameron

TWITTER HAS BECOME A key way for Members of Congress to communicate with their constituents, both on the campaign trail and in office. In fact, all but one of the incoming Congressional freshmen for the 114th Congress already has a Twitter account. Although many Congressional Twitter accounts are likely run by staffers, some (notably @ChuckGrassley) are run directly by the Member. In either case, these accounts are valuable sources of news and Member viewpoints.  So, without further ado, Lobby Blog presents  a list of the Twitter accounts for all of the freshmen Members in both chambers, compiled using data from Lobbyists.info.

Senate:

Dan Sullivan  (R -Alaska) http://twitter.com/DanSullivan2014
Tom Cotton  (R -Ark.) http://twitter.com/cotton4congress
Cory Gardner  (R -Colo.) http://twitter.com/CoryGardnerCO
David Perdue  (R -Ga.) http://twitter.com/Perduesenate
Joni Ernst  (R -Iowa) http://twitter.com/joniernst
Bill Cassidy  (R -La.) http://twitter.com/billcassidy
Gary Peters  (D -Mich.) http://twitter.com/Peters4Michigan
Steve Daines  (R -Mont.) http://twitter.com/DainesForMT
Ben Sasse  (R -Neb.) http://twitter.com/Sasse4Senate
Thom Tillis  (R -N.C.) http://twitter.com/thomtillis
James Lankford  (R -Okla.) http://twitter.com/jameslankford
Mike Rounds  (R -S.D.) http://twitter.com/RoundsforSenate
Shelley Moore Capito  (R -W.Va.) http://twitter.com/CapitoForWV

 

House:

Gary Palmer  (R-Ala.) http://twitter.com/palmer4alabama
Martha McSally  (R-Ariz.) http://twitter.com/MarthaMcSally
Ruben Gallego  (D-Ariz.) http://twitter.com/RubenGallego
French Hill  (R-Ark.) http://twitter.com/ElectFrench
Bruce Westerman  (R-Ark.) http://twitter.com/bruce_westerman
Mark DeSaulnier  (D-Calif.) No account available
Steve Knight  (R-Calif.) http://twitter.com/stephentknight
Pete Aguilar  (D-Calif.) http://twitter.com/aguilarpete
Ted Lieu  (D-Calif.) http://twitter.com/tedlieu
Norma Torres  (D-Calif.) http://twitter.com/Norma4Congress
Mimi Walters  (R-Calif.) http://twitter.com/MimiWaltersCA
Ken Buck  (R-Colo.) http://twitter.com/BuckForColorado
Gwen Graham  (D-Fla.) http://twitter.com/GwenForCongress
Carlos Curbelo  (R-Fla.) http://twitter.com/carloslcurbelo
Buddy Carter  (R-Ga.) http://twitter.com/Carter4Congress
Jody Hice  (R-Ga.) http://twitter.com/jodyhice
Barry Loudermilk  (R-Ga.) http://twitter.com/Loudermilk2014
Rick W. Allen  (R-Ga.) http://twitter.com/RickAllen
Mark Takai  (D-Hawaii) http://twitter.com/MarkTakai
Bob Dold  (R-Ill.) http://twitter.com/RobertDold
Mike Bost  (R -Ill.) http://twitter.com/RepMikeBost
Rod Blum  (R -Iowa) http://twitter.com/BlumforCongress
David Young  (R -Iowa) http://twitter.com/YoungForIowa
Ralph Abraham  (R -La.) http://twitter.com/abraham_ralph
Garret Graves  (R -La.) http://twitter.com/garretgraves
Bruce Poliquin  (R -Maine) http://twitter.com/BrucePoliquin
Seth Moulton  (D -Mass.) http://twitter.com/sethmoulton
John Moolenaar  (R -Mich.) http://twitter.com/JohnMoolenaar
Mike Bishop  (R -Mich.) http://twitter.com/MikeBishopMI
David Trott  (R -Mich.) http://twitter.com/Trott4Congress
Debbie Dingell  (D -Mich.) http://twitter.com/DebDingell
Brenda Lawrence  (D -Mich.) http://twitter.com/MayorLawrence
Tom Emmer  (R -Minn.) http://twitter.com/tomemmer
Ryan Zinke  (R -Mont.) http://twitter.com/RyanZinke
Brad Ashford  (D -Neb.) http://twitter.com/BradAshford14
Cresent Hardy  (R -Nev.) http://twitter.com/CresentHardy
Frank Guinta  (R -N.H.) http://twitter.com/Guinta4Congress
Tom MacArthur  (R -N.J.) http://twitter.com/TMac4Congress
Bonnie Watson Coleman  (D -N.J.) http://twitter.com/BWatsonColeman
Lee Zeldin  (R -N.Y.) https://twitter.com/leezeldin
Kathleen Rice  (D -N.Y.) http://twitter.com/KathleenRice
Elise Stefanik  (R -N.Y.) http://twitter.com/EliseStefanik
John Katko  (R -N.Y.) http://twitter.com/John_Katko
Mark Walker  (R -N.C.) http://twitter.com/walker4nc
David Rouzer  (R -N.C.) http://twitter.com/davidrouzer
Steve Russell  (R -Okla.) http://twitter.com/SteveRussellOK
Ryan Costello  (R -Pa.) http://twitter.com/RyanACostello
Brendan F. Boyle  (D -Pa.) http://twitter.com/RepBrendanBoyle
John Ratcliffe  (R -Texas) http://twitter.com/ratcliffetx4
Will Hurd  (R -Texas) http://twitter.com/willhurd/
Brian Babin  (R -Texas) http://twitter.com/Babin4Congress
Mia Love  (R -Utah) http://twitter.com/MiaBLove
Don Beyer  (D -Va.) http://twitter.com/DonBeyerVA
Barbara Comstock  (R -Va.) http://twitter.com/BarbaraComstock
Dan Newhouse  (R -Wash.) https://twitter.com/repnewhouse
Alex Mooney  (R -W.Va.) http://twitter.com/MooneyforWV
Evan Jenkins  (R -W.Va.) http://twitter.com/evanjenkinswv
Glenn Grothman  (R -Wisc.) http://twitter.com/GrothmanforWI

 

 

The ‘State’ Of Lobbying

January 13th, 2015 by Matthew Barnes

WITH ALL OF THE ATTENTION lobbyists in Washington, DC receive, lobbying on the state level is often overlooked. Lobbyists who focus their attention on the state level must comply with different regulations than federal lobbyists, which are created on a state-by-state basis. Despite very little change to the regulatory framework for Federal lobbyists, states have taken their own initiative in developing new legislation to regulate lobbying.

On November 4th, 2014, voters in Arkansas approved a constitutional amendment, HJR 1009, which affects the lobbying arena in the state in several ways, including prohibiting lobbyists from “giving gifts to lawmakers under a new “no cup of coffee rule”—so named because there is no allowance for gifts of nominal value, so even a cup of coffee would be a prohibited gift.  The amendment prohibits all gifts from lobbyists and lobbyist employers to the Governor, other statewide elected officials, and members of the General Assembly.” Moreover, as part of the new regulations in Arkansas, “Corporations and labor unions may not make candidate contributions (but may still give to state-registered PACs).”

Similarly, on January 1, 2015 new provisions came into effect in Maryland which focus on the political contributions of government contractors. However, the law also brings changes to the contribution limit for both individuals and business entities.  According to Venable, “an individual or an entity formed for a genuine business or organizational purpose may contribute up to $6,000 per four-year cycle to any one candidate for state or local office, or any one state PAC. The current election cycle began on January 1, 2015, and runs through December 31, 2018. The prior limit was $4,000. There are no longer aggregate contribution limits as a result of a Supreme Court decision in 2014.” Importantly, for the first time, under the new laws the “State Board of Elections is empowered to issue civil penalty citations, on a strict liability basis, for a variety of violations, including failure to maintain a proper bank account and failure to maintain accurate books and records.”

With the regulatory environment constantly shifting in many states, lobbyists who focus on the state level face a constant battle to make sure they remain compliant. However, that battle just might pay off as companies such as Uber turn to state-level lobbying efforts to reach their corporate goals. In Virginia, Uber mounted a successful lobbying campaign after the state attempted to make the company cease all of its operations in the commonwealth in June. According to The Washington Post, “Uber’s approach is brash and, so far, highly effective: It launches in local markets regardless of existing laws or regulations. It aims to build a large customer base as quickly as possible. When challenged, Uber rallies its users to pressure government officials, while unleashing its well-connected lobbyists to influence lawmakers.”

Cheap Oil, Expensive Lobbying

January 7th, 2015 by James Cameron

PLUMMETING OIL PRICES are good news for drivers—and for lobbyists. With oil prices continuing to drop, the Houston Chronicle reports that, although the price drop is hurting drilling companies, the oil industry plans to ramp up lobbying efforts in favor of continued tax breaks and decreased regulation.

The industry argues that these elements are necessary to keep prices low.  The Associated Press reports that Jack Gerard, CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, claims that while the low oil prices will hurt some companies in the short term, the U.S. is on its way to becoming a global leader in oil production as long as it continues to offer the industry tax breaks and no new regulations.

Oil companies are certainly willing to spend to ensure that beneficial policies stay in place.  According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the oil and gas industry spent more than $50 million on lobbying in 2014, and with the Keystone XL pipeline still in limbo, it seems likely that they’ll continue to be big spenders in 2015.

By the same token, the sudden drop in oil prices is actually harming green energy policies that were put in place as a result of high oil prices. The Wall Street Journal notes that the Obama administration spent billions on initiatives to boost sales of electric and hybrid vehicles, along with consumer rail projects, but as gas prices fall, consumers are again returning to trucks and SUVs. Although gas prices are expected to remain low throughout 2015, many of the policies

Given the impact of gas prices on the daily lives of most Americans, it’s no surprise that a sudden fluctuation can throw lawmakers and lobbyists into policy limbo. Whether the steep decline of oil prices will have longer-term policy implications remains to be seen, but both oil companies and  environmental advocates will try to make themselves heard on Capitol Hill.

Lobbyists.info’s Annual “12 Days of Lobbying”

December 16th, 2014 by Matthew Barnes
Lobbyists.info
Lobbyists.info’s Annual “12 Days of Lobbying”
The American Fruit and Vegetable Processors and Growers Coalition may not be able to find you a partridge, but they can definitely point you in the direction of a pear tree as they continue their mission “to educate and represent to Members of Congress and other policy makers about issues important to growers and processors of America’s processed fruit and vegetable industry.”
I’m not sure about turtledoves, but Unilever, the parent company of Dove, has made significant lobbying efforts this year. Unilever has lobbied Congress on a variety of issues including chemicals, agriculture and taxes.
Having a hard time finding those three French hens this year? Look no further than the professionals at the United States Poultry and Egg Association, who will be able to answer any and all of your poultry related questions.
Bill Anaya, Robert C. Jones, Elise Paeffgen and Bruce Pasfield have certainly been busy calling birds. All four have lobbied for Mohawk Industries, Inc. on behalf of Alston & Bird, LLP.
Its five rings may not all be golden, but the Special Olympics, which employs Potomac Strategic Development Company, LLC to lobby on its behalf, sure deserves them for the incredible work they do.
Laurence S.S. Wildgoose II is Sen. Bill Nelson’s (D-Fl.) Director of Scheduling, but with the Senate’s busy schedule I am sure you won’t find him “a-laying” down on the job.
The National Parks Conservation Association lobbies for the protection and preservation of our many fantastic national parks, ensuring all seven swans are able to swim in the pristine Reflecting Pool and Tidal Basin.
The National Milk Producers Federation supports the “eight maids-a-milking” and 31,992 other dairy producers in the United States with the aim of “improving the economic interests of dairy farmers, thus assuring the nation’s consumers an adequate supply of pure, wholesome, and nutritious milk and dairy products.”
Dance/USA seeks to advance the art form of dance by addressing the needs, concerns and interests of professional dance by lobbying on a range of issues from appropriations to taxes. Join them and the nine ladies, and enjoy spending some time dancing.
Leaping to the task, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, LLP lobbies the government on the automotive industry and energy issues for one of its clients, Lord Corporation.
DLA Piper may not be piping out a tune, but if what your true love really needs is help lobbying on a myriad of issues, they have got you covered.
On the 12th day of lobbying, we hope you have a great holiday and enjoy listening to all 12 drummers drumming and all the other musicians whose First Amendment rights and intellectual property The Recording Industry Association of America lobbies to protect.
HAPPY HOLIDAYS from everyone at Lobbyists.info!
For more information on the lobbying industry visit www.Lobbyists.info.

Lobbying For Labels

December 11th, 2014 by Matthew Barnes

JUST LABEL IT, A GROUP which advocates for the labeling of genetically engineered foods, has hired its first lobbying firm, Mehlman Castagnetti Rosen Bingel & Thomas. According to the firm’s lobbying disclosure form it will help Just Label It with “support [for a] legal petition to the FDA calling for the mandatory labeling of GE foods.”

The hire of Mehlman Castagnetti Rosen Bingel & Thomas is most timely; the House Energy and Commerce Committee is holding a hearing on the Food and Drug Administration’s role in regulating GMO food ingredients today.  The focus of the hearing is on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s current “authority over foods from genetically engineered plants and what the agency has learned about the safety of such products”  according to a letter from the Majority Committee Staff to the Members of the Subcommittee on Health.

Congress has shown an increasing interest in addressing the GMO labeling debate. In April, Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) and Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.) introduced H.R. 4432, Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2014. Source Watch reports that “the bill would prohibit states from passing their own state-wide laws to label genetically modified organisms (GMOs), prevent states from ensuring that GMOs can’t be labeled as “natural,” and make “voluntary labeling” the continuing federal standards.”

The Associated Press has reported that “Rep. Henry Waxman of California, the top Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee, said he is concerned that labeling could be “inherently misleading.” Rep. G.K Butterfield of North Carolina, a Democrat who represents a heavily agricultural district, said he is worried the costs of labeling would be passed on to consumers.”

Mehlman Castagnetti Rosen Bingel & Thomas certainly have their work cut out for them. They face opposition from other powerful and experienced outside influence groups who oppose the need for mandatory labeling of GE products. The “Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and dozens of other food groups,” have all come out in opposition of measures introduced by states which attempt to create mandatory GMO labeling, reports Politico.

A New Revolving Door in Washington?

December 3rd, 2014 by James Cameron

WE’VE FREQUENTLY WRITTEN IN this space about the revolving door between Congress and K Street, but it would seem there’s a new revolving door in town. The New York Times reported Monday that some banks and Wall Street firms routinely pay executives special bonuses and compensation packages if they receive a high-level government job. The Times article comes in the wake of a POLITICO report noting that President Obama’s nominee for Treasury undersecretary, Antonio Weiss, would receive a multi-million dollar bonus from his firm, Lazard Ltd. if his nomination is confirmed.

Is this just a sneaky way for Wall Street to broaden its influence in Washington, or is it a way to encourage qualified executives to go into public service? For the progressive wing of the Democratic party, led by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the answer is very clearly the former. The Hill notes that although Warren (D-Mass.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) have formally opposed Weiss’s nomination, it seems likely that broader opposition will emerge as confirmation hearings approach in 2015. Indeed, POLITICO reports that Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) has also voiced his disapproval of the nomination.

Weiss is far from the first Wall Street insider to land a top position in the Obama administration, however.  As The Hill notes, SEC Chairman Mary Jo White spent a portion of her career as an attorney representing major financial firms and banks such as Morgan Stanley and Bank of America. Likewise, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew was a top executive at Citigroup before joining the administration, and several other prominent executive branch officials have strong ties to Wall Street.

But should having ties to the industry an agency is tasked with regulating automatically disqualify a candidate? In an article for the New York Times, Andrew Ross Sorkin argues that it should not. In fact, Sorkin asserts that the most talented and qualified candidates, like Antonio Weiss, often come from executive-level positions and should be encouraged to pursue public service.

While it’s likely unavoidable that executives will be appointed to senior executive branch positions, bonuses such as the one Weiss is purportedly due should he be nominated give the appearance of attempting to influence the federal government in an underhanded fashion. According to The Hill, firms are already doing away with such bonuses. While the eventual outcome remains to be seen, it seems likely that the practice will gradually diminish, given the outcry from progressives over Weiss’s nomination.

Is Your Website Advocating for You?

November 25th, 2014 by Matthew Barnes

Join Lobbyists.info and speaker Peter LaMotte on December 17, 2014 2:00-3:30 pm ET for a webinar  on “Is Your Website Advocating for You: Tactics to Maximize Your Legislative Impact on the Web.” This webinar provides a fantastic crash course for mastering web tactics that can fundamentally transform your existing online presence.

Peter LaMotte is Senior Vice President & Chair, Digital Communications Practice at LEVICK. He leads the award-winning digital team, bringing the richest, most diverse digital talent and resources to bear on behalf of firm clients worldwide. A proven digital marketing and strategy leader, Mr. LaMotte is well-known for his ability to help clients drive adoption, change and understanding through unique combinations of digital strategies and channels. His client experience includes success with dozens of diverse brands including AARP, NEA, Sony, Kraft, Colgate Palmolive, Yahoo!, and Audio-Technica.

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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