Trump Linked Industries Are Early Winners

March 24th, 2017 by Matthew Barnes

Since the election of President Trump organizations from an array of industries have been focusing on re-writing their government relations playbook for the new administration. For the first time in 8 years, organizations feel like there is a chance to usher through substantial changes on Capitol Hill.  According to Jeffrey Taylor, Managing Partner of USGRI.com, “Based on President Trump’s cabinet, the policy and management differences with the outgoing Obama Administration will be stark, substantial, significant, and aimed at systemic change in nearly every area of government policy that affects business.”

 

Industries that has already begun to see change during the Trump Administration include a few of the President’s favorites: real estate, construction, entertainment, hospitality, gambling and, golf courses. Politico reports, “Since taking office in January, Trump has made moves — from rolling back water quality permits to signaling big changes on overtime pay and internet betting — that benefit the fields he knows best. And his former peers — partners and competitors alike — are finding familiar faces in Trump’s White House and Cabinet agencies, who have the power to make even more of their wish lists come true…This is the first time a president of the United States is someone so familiar with private clubs,” said Henry Wallmeyer, president and CEO of the National Club Association, the trade group for private clubs. “That’s a unique circumstance.”

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Re-writing the Playbook Under Trump

March 2nd, 2017 by Matthew Barnes

When President Trump took office many industries and organizations new that it would call for a re-examining of the lobbying playbook. Throughout his campaign, Trump called for a draining of the swamp and to implement new lobbying reforms. Moreover, Republicans won a supermajority in the 2016 elections, changing the political landscape of Washington, D.C. Jeffrey Taylor, Managing Partner of USGRI.com, argues that “Some presidential transitions are so Earth shaking that they require companies to conduct a much deeper analysis of their government relations plans; Carter to Reagan, Bush to Clinton, Clinton to Bush, Bush to Obama were all substantial ideological flips… but Obama to Trump is not your typical transfer of power.  It is a monster change in direction for the U.S.; and by extension for U.S. and foreign business and industry.”

When President Obama took office in 2009, he also had supermajorities in both chambers of Congress, many companies initiated a new government relations efforts. However, according to Taylor, “Based on President Trump’s cabinet, the policy and management differences with the outgoing Obama Administration will be stark, substantial, significant, and aimed at systemic change in nearly every area of government policy that affects business.” This means companies need to re-write their playbook for the new administration.                                                                             

However, Taylor also argues that “those that want to engage in a first-time government relations effort don’t need to carve out a big lobbying budget, there are firms that can capably and economically represent your company in Washington for a reasonable budget – and it gets you in the game!”

In the Trump era, one strategy that organizations will employ is how they frame their argument. Taylor suggests that President Trump “believes – rightly or wrongly – that he’s beholden to no one for his victory, except ‘middle America’ who elected him. In the past few week, he and his Administration has come to adopt a message of fighting for the ‘forgotten man’.” President Trump indicated this in his first speech before a Joint Session of Congress saying, “Dying industries will come roaring back to life.  Heroic veterans will get the care they so desperately need.  Our military will be given the resources its brave warriors so richly deserve.  Crumbling infrastructure will be replaced with new roads, bridges, tunnels, airports and railways gleaming across our very, very beautiful land.  Our terrible drug epidemic will slow down and, ultimately, stop.  And our neglected inner cities will see a rebirth of hope, safety and opportunity.  Above all else, we will keep our promises to the American people.” Therefore, organizations that can frame their argument as being advantageous to the average American will be significantly more impactful.

Lobbying Transparency In the E.U.

February 17th, 2017 by Matthew Barnes

This week’s lobby log post looks into the current debate over lobbying transparency in the European Union. Currently steps are being made to make lobbying more transparent through the introduction of a mandatory transparency register. Politico reports, “Negotiations on setting up a mandatory transparency register, which lobbyists and activists would have to sign up to in order to meet with MEPs and senior EU officials, are to begin behind closed doors in the coming months. But lawyers from the Council of the EU, representing governments, have already raised questions about the legality of the plan.”

In 2011 the European Commission, the executive of the E.U. headed by President Juncker, and the European Parliament, composed of Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) who are directly elected by voters in each of the 28 Member States, created a voluntary lobbying register. Politico reports that, “As of Thursday, 11,191 organizations — including consultancies, trade associations and NGOs — had voluntarily signed up to the existing register…The [new] idea is to expand that register, make meetings with senior EU officials conditional on being signed up to it, and give it more staff and resources.” However, lobbyists have also complained that regulations in individual member states overlap the current E.U. initiative.  For example, “Ireland…introduced its own register in 2015 which covers meetings with MEPs as well as national politicians,” according to Politico.

The problem historically with creating such a registry in the E.U. has been the Council. “So far, we never got the Council on board,” said Hübner [chair of the Parliament’s Constitutional Affairs Committee] “We never managed to have the three institutions on board and we never managed to make it obligatory.”

The Council is the main-decision making body of the each where “government ministers from each E.U. country meet to discuss, amend and adopt laws, and coordinate policies. The ministers have the authority to commit their governments to the actions agreed on in the meeting.” The Council opposes the initiate because it argues, “the Commission’s decision to regulate lobbying by using a so-called inter-institutional agreement is problematic — and possibly not legal,” according to a legal opinion obtained by Politico.

Despite Activity, Number of Registered Lobbyists Declines

February 10th, 2017 by Matthew Barnes

Since his inauguration, President Trump and the Republican controlled Congress have worked at light-speed to dismantle many Obama-era regulations like the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act. On Friday, Feb. 3, 2017 President Trump issued the “Presidential Executive Order on Core Principles for Regulating the United States Financial System” executive order, which according to Politico “backed sweeping changes to U.S. financial regulations…taking the first step toward undoing one of his predecessor’s signature legislative initiatives.”

Such actions have ignited fierce debate and lobbying activity. However, the Wall Street Journal reports that, “The number of federal lobbyist registrations last year fell to its lowest mark in 18 years, according to an analysis of new public records, as lobbyists increasingly exploit loopholes in disclosure rules. Some 11,143 total lobbyists filed registrations in 2016, down from 14,153 in 2008, the year before President Barack Obama took office—a decrease of nearly 30%, according to an analysis of lobbying records by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.”

2016 LDA Table

January 27th, 2017 by Matthew Barnes

The 2016 year-end and fourth quarter LDA results are in. Many of the top firms saw decreased Q4 revenue when compared to the same period in 2015. However, much of this decrease in revenue can be attributed to the focus on the election.  Politico has ranked the top firms below. The figures were verified with the firms, except those marked with an asterisk, which were estimated based on Senate filings:

  1. Akin Gump: $36.17M in 2016 vs. $39.38M in 2015 ($8.36M in 4Q16 vs. $9.82M in 4Q15)
  2. Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck: $25.6M in 2016 vs. $25.7M in 2015 ($5.73M in 4Q16 vs. $7.4M in 4Q15)
  3. Podesta Group: $24.05M in 2016 vs. $23.17M in 2015 ($6.07M in 4Q16 vs. $5.87M in 4Q15)
  4. Van Scoyoc Associates: $23.12M in 2016 vs. $23.63M in 2015
  5. Holland & Knight: $19.67M in 2016 vs. $19.85M in 2015 ($4.86M in 4Q16 vs. $5.05M in 4Q15)
  6. Squire Patton Boggs: $18.9m in 2016 vs. $25.03M in 2015 ($5.09M in 4Q16 vs. $5.46M in 4Q15)
  7. BGR Government Affairs: $17.45M in 2016 vs. $17.76M ($4.48M in 4Q16 vs. $4.42M in 4Q15)
  8. Cornerstone Government Affairs: $16.79M in 2016 vs. $15.31M in 2015 ($4.37M in 4Q16 vs. $15.31M in 4Q15)
  9. Capitol Counsel: $16.24M in 2016 vs. $17.17M in 2015 ($4M in 4Q16 vs. $4.22M in 4Q15)
  10. K&L Gates: $15.98M in 2016 vs. $18.05M in 2015 ($3.5M in 4Q16 vs. $4.38M in 4Q15)
  11. Williams & Jensen: $15.74M in 2016 vs. $16,97M in 2015*
  12. Peck Madigan Jones: $13.3M in 2016 vs. $13.35M in 2015 ($3.3M in 4Q16)*
  13. Cassidy and Associates: $13.18M in 2016 vs. $12.85M in 2015 ($3.57M in 4Q16 vs. $3.1M in 4Q15)
  14. Fierce Government Relations: $12.88M in 2016 vs. $12.95M in 2015 ($3.11M in 4Q16 vs. $3.3M in 4Q15)
  15. Mehlman Castagnetti Rosen & Thomas: $12.86M in 2016 vs. $11.68M in 2015 ($3.26M in 4Q16 vs. $2.99M in 4Q15)
  16. Washington Council EY: $12.6M in 2016 vs. $13.54M in 2015*
  17. Covington & Burling: $12.62M in 2016 vs. $12.38M in 2015 ($3.04M in 4Q16 vs. $3.19M in 4Q15)
  18. Capitol Tax Partners: $12.18M in 2016 vs. $13.11M in 2015*
  19. Alpine Group: $11.38 in 2016 vs. $12.15M in 2015 ($2.86M in 4Q16)*
  20. Ogilvy Government Relations: $10.49M in 2016 vs. $10.07M in 2015 ($2.63M in 4Q16)

Lobbying Activity Under Scrutiny in Sec. of State Confirmation Hearing

January 12th, 2017 by Matthew Barnes

This week the Senate has been busy with the confirmation hearings for President-Elect Trump’s cabinet nominations. On Wednesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s confirmation hearing of Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson became heated over ExxonMobil’s lobbying activities connected to sanctions on Russia while Mr. Tillerson was the CEO.

Responding to a question from Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) Mr. Tillerson denied opposing sanctions on Russia saying, “I have never lobbied against sanctions. …To my knowledge, Exxon never directly lobbied against sanctions,” reports The Hill. This resulted in Senator Menendez pulling “out printed pages of lobbying disclosure reports filed by Exxon going back to at least 2009, listing legislation that would further impose sanctions on Russia. One form described a lobbying topic as “Russian Aggression Prevention Act, provisions related to energy.” CNN reports that Sen. Menendez continued saying, “I know you weren’t lobbying for the sanctions.” In fact, he said: “Exxon became the in-house lobbyist for Russia against these sanctions.”

Politico Influence reports that “Exxon, for its part, chimed in on Twitter, “Let’s be clear: We engage with lawmakers to discuss sanction impacts, not whether or not sanctions should be imposed.” Let’s be clear: That is akin to saying you’re “educating” instead of “lobbying.” Exxon was raising concerns about how sanctions would impact them, such as inconsistencies between the rules in the United States and in Europe. The staffers on the receiving end understood this to be lobbying against the proposals as written.”

Throughout the hearing Mr. Tillerson’s connection to Russia has been under scrutiny. As CEO of ExxonMobil, Mr. Tillerson met with Russian President Vladimir Putin on several occasions and was awarded the “Russian Order of Friendship” in 2012, according to Politico.

GOP’s Ethics Blunder on Day 1

January 4th, 2017 by Matthew Barnes

On Monday, during a closed-door meeting the House Republican Conference voted to adopt an amendment to the proposed House rules package, which was set to be voted on Tuesday. The amendment put forward by Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte’s (R-Va.) would move the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) watchdog under the oversight of lawmakers through the House Ethics Committee.

The OCE is an independent, non-partisan entity charged with reviewing allegations of misconduct against Members, officers, and staffers of the United States House of Representatives. The office was first created in 2008 under then Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. According to Politico, “Congress had created the office in the wake of Jack Abramoff scandal, which included the GOP lobbyist’s admission that he tried to bribe lawmakers. At the time, lawmakers hoped to stop anything like that from ever happening again.”

By Tuesday however, there was widespread outcry from both democrats on the Hill and outside groups about Chairman Goodlatte’s amendment.  In a statement House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said, “Republicans claim they want to ‘drain the swamp,’ but the night before the new Congress gets sworn in, the House GOP has eliminated the only independent ethics oversight of their actions.  Evidently, ethics are the first casualty of the new Republican Congress. The Office of Congressional Ethics is essential to an effective ethics process in the House, providing a vital element of transparency and accountability to the ethics process.  The amendment Republicans approved tonight would functionally destroy this office. Congress must hold itself to the highest standards of conduct.  Instead, the House Republicans Conference has acted to weaken ethics and silence would-be whistleblowers.” Similarly, the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) released a statement saying, “Undermining the independence of the House’s Office of Congressional Ethics would create a serious risk to members of Congress, who rely on OCE for fair, nonpartisan investigations, and to the American people, who expect their representatives to meet their legal and ethical obligations…If the 115th Congress begins with rules amendments undermining OCE, it is setting itself up to be dogged by scandals and ethics issues for years and is returning the House to dark days when ethics violations were rampant and far too often tolerated.”

By Tuesday afternoon House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) was forced to call an emergency House Republican Conference to reverse the decision on the amendment. However, Politico reports that “McCarthy’s motion to restore the current OCE setup was adopted by unanimous consent after Trump himself got involved” tweeting “With all that Congress has to work on, do they really have to make the weakening of the Independent Ethics Watchdog, as unfair as it ……..may be, their number one act and priority. Focus on tax reform, healthcare and so many other things of far greater importance! #DTS.”

Minority Leader Pelosi released another statement following the House Republican Conference’s removal of Chairman Goodlatte’s amendment saying, “House Republicans showed their true colors last night, and reversing their plans to destroy the Office of Congressional Ethics will not obscure their clear contempt for ethics in the People’s House.  Once again, the American people have seen the toxic dysfunction of a Republican House that will do anything to further their special interest agenda, thwart transparency and undermine the public trust.”

Some Republican members praised President-Elect Donald Trump’s involvement in the issue. According to The Hill, “Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) said late Tuesday that President-elect Donald Trump “deserves a lot of credit” for House Republicans ditching a plan to weaken the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE). “I think he deserves a lot of the credit. Look, I think it’s absolutely the right thing to do,” Cole told CNN’s Erin Burnett OutFront.

Following the Republican’s decision to remove the amendment from the House rules package (H.R. 5), the House of Representatives, approved the rules of the 115th Congress in a vote by the Yeas and Nays: 234 – 193.

Much of President-Elect Trump’s electoral campaign focused on “draining the swamp” and cleaning up Washington through ethics reforms, particularly around lobbying. During the election President-Elect Trump’s campaign released a plan for a lobbying reform package and implemented strict rules about lobbyists serving during the transition and in President-Elect Trump’s administration. Lobby Blog will continue to monitor ethics regulation changes under the 115th Congress and Trump Administration.

 

Lobbying in Sacramento

December 9th, 2016 by Matthew Barnes

Lobbying in Sacramento, the state capital of California, has exploded in recent years. The Los Angeles times reports that, “State records show $551.9 million in lobbyist expenditures for all but the final two months of the 2015-16 legislative session. Two decades ago, total state government lobbying cost $266.9 million.” Moreover, there are currently 1,871 registered professional lobbyists, which is more than 15 per member of the state Senate and Assembly.

However, the biggest lobbying spenders in Sacramento may surprise you. Unlike in Washington D.C., where large national business interests, associations and corporations, like the  U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Realtors, and General Electric top the list of lobbying spending, in Sacramento the biggest spenders are local governments. According to the Los Angeles Times local governments lobbying the state government accounted for “more than $84 million in the last two-year legislative session. By comparison, oil and gas companies spent less than half that amount. Agriculture interests spent just 10 cents to every dollar spent by cities, counties and statewide government associations.”

The reason many local governments are turning to lobbyists is that “Local officials often feel they need more Sacramento muscle beyond their legislators.  City council members in Glendale were told in a 2013 staff report that lobbyists would help “gain support from key public officials and policy makers on decisions that directly impact the city.” In the most recent legislative session, Glendale paid more than $166,000 for lobbyists. The city of Los Angeles spent about $1.6 million.”

In Washington D.C., state and local governments spent a combined total of $51,271,774 on lobbying efforts in 2016 according to The Center for Responsive Politics. 4 out of the top 10 state and local government spenders in Washington, D.C. were from California: Los Angeles County, CA – $707,000; Orange County, CA – $570,000; City & County of San Francisco, CA – $500,000; City of Los Angeles, CA – $470,000.

 

Lobbying Shake-Up Under Trump

December 2nd, 2016 by Matthew Barnes

There has been a wave of lobbyist deregistrations in the past couple of weeks after the incoming Trump transition team announced that registered lobbyists will not be able to serve in the transition process or in the administration. The Washington Post reports that “As part of the new policy, every person who joins the administration will be asked to sign a form that states they are not a registered lobbyist. If they are, they will have to provide evidence of their termination.”

However, according to The Washington Post some critics argue that “This kind of snap immunity demonstrates the flaw in the apparent Trump approach focusing on lobbying conflicts to the exclusion of other kinds,” said Norm Eisen, chief White House ethics lawyer in the Obama administration. “There are also a huge amount of non-lobbying conflicts both coming into and leaving a transition … that Trump’s emerging ethics structure does not seem to adequately address.”

The incoming administration has not only shaken the status quo for individual lobbyists, but has also changed the way businesses are going to handle government relations over the next four years. The Wall Street Journal reports, “Businesses are moving from defense to offense,” said Hunter Bates, a partner at law and lobbying firm Akin Gump and onetime chief of staff to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.). “What we’re about to see is a host of issues going from gridlock to the goal line.”

Many major issues for businesses, such as immigration, health care, the tax code, infrastructure and Wall Street regulations. According to “Matthew Johnson, a Republican lobbyist at Podesta Group, one of Washington’s top lobbying firms… If Mr. Trump and Congress take action on immigration, health care and other areas, he said, “That is a full plate. That’s a legislative bonanza.”

Trump Transition’s & Lobbying

November 18th, 2016 by Matthew Barnes

In the face of mounting criticism that the Trump transition team is heavily reliant on lobbyists, the incoming President-Elect decided to replace New Jersey Gov. Christie as transition chairman with his Vice President Elect, Mike Pence.  USA Today reports that, “Pence and the transition’s newly installed executive director Rick Dearborn also are removing lobbyists from the transition.”

Lobby Blog has previously reported that during his campaign President Elect Trump proposed a “5 point ethics reform package directed at the lobbying industry. The goal of this reform package, according to Mr. Trump, is to Drain the swamp in Washington, D.C. “

Furthering his ethics reform package, the Trump transition told reporters in a conference call Wednesday night that “it would require lobbyists hired for either transition or official administration positions to terminate their lobbying registrations and sign a pledge not to lobby again for five years after departing,” according to Politico.  The lobbying restrictions “could make it difficult for Trump, whose transition team has struggled to get off the ground, to attract experienced professionals in policy circles where lobbying is a common revenue stream. The policy is in some ways far more rigid than President Barack Obama’s groundbreaking lobbyist ban.”

The restrictions on lobbying the Trump transition has issued complicates the transition as some job-seekers will look elsewhere because it limits how they can earn a living when they decide to leave the administration.  The incoming administration needs to hire approximately 4,000 executive-branch employees. According to Politico, “Several lobbyists on the transition were caught off guard by the announcement and said they were not aware of the new policy. They will have to terminate their registrations to come into compliance, according to a transition team official.”

Third Quarter LDA Results

October 26th, 2016 by Matthew Barnes

The third quarter Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA) revenue rankings have been released. Under the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995, all lobbying firms and active corporations are required to file quarterly reports that details an array of internal and external financial information. The third quarterly report, covering all lobbying incomes and external spending on lobbying functions between July 1st and September 30th, came to its end on October 20th. The numbers, conveniently provided by Politico Influence, showcase a various palette of incomes received by lobbying firms, and the top lobbying spenders.

The top lobbying firms are:

  1. Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld: $8.54 million (vs. $9.6M in 2Q16 and $9.73M in 3Q15)
  2. Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck: $6.38M (vs. $6.74M in 2Q16 and $6.26M in 3Q15)
  3. Podesta Group: $6.08M (vs. $5.96M in 2Q16 and $5.95M in 3Q15)
  4. Van Scoyoc Associates: $5.075M (vs. $5.74M in 2Q16 and $5.27M in 3Q15)
  5. Holland & Knight: $5.025M (vs. $5.045M in 3Q15)
  6. Squire Patton Boggs: $4.5M (vs. $4.66M in 2Q16 and $6.13M in 3Q15), plus $28M from its U.S. regulatory, governmental investigations and state lobbying practices and $4.6M from its foreign practice, for a total of $36M global policy revenue.
  7. BGR: $4.32M (vs. $4.46M in 2Q16 and $4.23M in 3Q15)
  8. Cornerstone Government Affairs: $4.16M* (vs. $4.22M in 2Q16)
  9. Capitol Counsel: $3.99M (vs. $4.05M in 2Q16 and $4.365M in 3Q15)
  10. K&L Gates: $3.78M (vs. $4.35M in 2Q16 and $4.37M in 3Q15)

The top lobbying spenders are:

  1. National Association of Realtors: $23.8 million
  2. U.S. Chamber of Commerce: $18.41M
  3. U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform: $8.31M
  4. Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies: $7M
  5. Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America: $4.13M
  6. AT&T: $4.11M
  7. American Hospital Association: $4.05M
  8. American Medical Association: $3.87M
  9. Google: $3.81M
  10. National Association of Broadcasters: $3.77M

Donald Trump’s Lobbying Reforms

October 20th, 2016 by Matthew Barnes

Republican Presidential Nominee Donald Trump has released a 5 point ethics reform package directed at the lobbying industry. The goal of this reform package, according to Mr. Trump, is to Drain the swamp in Washington, D.C. That’s why I’m proposing a package of ethics reforms to make our government honest once again.”

Mr. Trump’s proposal is stricter than the current lobbying regulations under the Honest Leadership and Government Accountability Act (HLOGA), which President George W. Bush signed into law in 2007. Under Mr. Trump’s proposal, a 5-year ban on all executive branch officials lobbying the government for 5 years after they leave government service would be re-instituted. He would also “ask Congress to pass this ban into law so that it cannot be lifted by executive order.”   Similarly, Mr. Trump would also increase the current cooling-off period for former members and their staffs to a 5-year ban. Senior executive branch officials who are lobbying on behalf of foreign governments would receive a lifetime ban.

Mr. Trump also proposes expanding “the definition of lobbyist so we close all the loopholes that former government officials use by labeling themselves consultants and advisors when we all know they are lobbyists.”

Lastly, Mr. Trump proposed to “ask Congress to pass a campaign finance reform that prevents registered foreign lobbyists from raising money in American elections.”

The Atlantic reports that, “the Republican nominee’s 11th-hour, five-point plan for ethics reform is winning decent reviews from good-government advocates in Washington… “These are certainly steps in the right direction, and Common Cause certainly agrees with them and would like to see them enacted,” said Aaron Scherb, director of legislative affairs for the nonpartisan advocacy group.”

Lobbying For Foreign Agents

October 6th, 2016 by Matthew Barnes

Last week the House and Senate voted to over-ride President Obama’s veto, allowing families of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks to sue the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The votes were particularly dramatic as Saudi Arabia invested millions of dollars in lobbying efforts to fight against the vote. Many of those enlisted to help Saudi Arabia include former Members of Congress such Sen. Norm Coleman,  Rep. Michael Castle, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, and Sen. John Breaux. However, former Members representing foreign governments is nothing new. According to Politico, “Of the 1,009 members of Congress who have left Capitol Hill since 1990, 114 of them — just over 11 percent — lobbied for or otherwise represented a foreign government, foreign-owned company or think tank.”

As recently as Oct. 4th Saudi Arabia has continued its lobbying push. O’Dwyer’s reports that “On the heels of signing several high-profile contracts with Glover Park Group and Squire Patton Boggs in September, Saudi Arabia has continued its lobbying push on Capitol Hill, hiring law firm King & Spalding as well as public affairs powerhouse Podesta Group.”

Foreign actors are increasingly investing in Washington lobbying. According a Politico review of FARA spending records,  “Middle Eastern monarchies and former Soviet bloc nations, including Georgia, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Belarus and Hungary, are becoming some of the top spenders on Washington lobbying — and they’re often hiring former members. Saudi Arabia, for instance, reported $1 million in spending in 2000; last year, it reported more than $13 million, part of a ramp-up in lobbying that’s made the kingdom one of many up-and-comers in the Washington foreign influence game.”

The uptick in spending by foreign agents comes at a difficult time for the FARA regulations. In September, the Inspector General of the Department of Justice released an in-depth audit report on the “enforcement and administration” of the office managing lobbying registrations for foreign entities. Sunlight Foundation analysis of the report found that “half of all registrants filed late and 62 percent of initial registrations were “untimely,” suggesting those happened after the 10-day window allowed by federal law. What is even more notable is that the inspector general’s office found that 15 percent of registrants had stopped filing altogether or were delinquent for more than six months.”

Campaigning on Company Time

September 14th, 2016 by Matthew Barnes

By: Thomas J. Spulak – Partner and Chair, King & Spalding Government Advocacy & Public Policy Group

As we enter the home stretch of the 2016 campaign season, many will double down on their efforts to assist their favorite candidates for federal office.  Many of these eager advocates work for corporations and accordingly face a host of rules and restrictions in their efforts.  To help employers and employees stay on the right side of the law, we address some common issues and provide guidance in each of the areas.

Campaign Activities at the Workplace

Remember that corporations are prohibited from making contributions in federal elections.  A contribution includes services, i.e., an in-kind contribution.  Many employers confuse efforts to raise money for their PAC with raising money for a candidate.  Corporations and their employees can do virtually anything they want to raise money for their PAC.  The opposite is true for candidates—corporations may not use resources or employees to raise money for candidates.

A corporate executive who has committed to raising money for a federal candidate must be acutely aware of the restrictions of doing so at the workplace and with corporate resources.  She may do so on her own time but may not use any corporate facilities, services, or equipment to raise money for a federal candidate without reimbursing the corporation for the market value of the corporate benefits.  (There is a very limited exception that permits the use of things such as telephones, but any increase in the cost to a corporation must be reimbursed.)  She may contact colleagues and solicit them for contributions, but this must be done in a personal capacity and not using her corporate title.  One important rule—she may never use administrative help, such as a secretary, to assist in her personal fundraising unless she reimburses the corporation in advance for the fair market value of the administrative support.  This includes that portion of salary and benefits to which the employee was entitled.  She should not instruct potential donors to return contributions to her secretary, in fact, it is best to have contributions sent directly to the candidate.  For those concerned about getting credit, it is perfectly permissible to advise a donor to reference your solicitation in transmitting the contribution to a candidate.  If the executive is hosting an event at the office, she must be sure either she or the campaign reimburses the corporation for the fair market value of the use of the room and any associated help, such as staff time to set up and clean the room.  If she is going to provide food for the event, she must be sure to reimburse the corporation in advance for any catering services.

Volunteering for a Campaign

Sometimes, individuals take time to work on a campaign.  For a corporate employee, this is permissible, provided that the employee is doing so on their own time, such as earned leave.  If the employee does not have leave available, then he or she must take unpaid leave—they may not be paid for the time working on the campaign.  And, while on unpaid leave, the employee may continue to receive benefits, such as health insurance, but must reimburse the corporation for the employer’s share of the benefits.  By the same measure, an employer may not pay the expenses of the employee incurred in travelling to the state or district where they intend to volunteer; nor may the employer pay for their expenses while on the campaign trail.

And, while on this subject, the payment by the employee will not count as a contribution for the purposes of the federal contribution limits as long as the cost of the travel is limited to $1,000 per election.  While working on the campaign, the payment of room and board by the employee is also not considered a contribution.

Direct Monetary Contributions

Finally, employees may make direct monetary contributions to candidates and their campaigns.  For the 2015-2016 election cycle, such contributions are limited to $2,700 per election per candidate, with a primary and general election deemed separate elections.  Additional limits apply to contributions to political parties and other political committees.

Employees of corporations do not lose their First Amendment rights when they are hired but they must separate their corporate identities from their personal ones.  They must avoid using corporate facilities, services, or personnel when engaging in campaign-related activities.    Failure to do so could subject the corporate employer to significant enforcement actions under the concept of corporate facilitation.  This is an increasingly active area of enforcement by the Federal Election Commission and the Department of Justice.

Lobbying Under Pres. Clinton

August 25th, 2016 by Matthew Barnes

Lobbyists have started to explore what a Hillary Clinton presidency would mean for the industry. So far, signs have pointed to a thawing of the relationship between a future Clinton Administration and lobbyists, especially in comparison to President Obama’s 2008 presidential election campaign when he pledged not to accept contributions from registered lobbyists.  Moreover, once President Obama was elected the administration issued an “executive order [which] imposed strict rules about lobbyist participation that went farther than previous administrations. It barred political appointees in his administration, if they were registered lobbyists within the previous two years, from working for agencies they’d lobbied during the previous two years,” according to the Washington Post.

In a Time report discussing the difference between President Obama’s policies and Secretary Clinton’s, lobbyists Heather Podesta of Heather Podesta + Partners said, “During Obama Administration I couldn’t give money to the Democratic National Committee, the President, and if the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee was having an event with him I couldn’t go even though I was a maxed-out donor,” she continued. “This year, I’m helping to raise money for Hillary. I’ve known her a long time. I’m really excited about her campaign. I raised for her in 2008 and I’m ready for her to go all the way. So my money is now good.”

So far, according to the Washington Post, “lobbyists have raised about $7 million for the 2016 Clinton campaign so far, and Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta co-founded what became one of Washington’s top lobby firms with his brother, prominent Democratic lobbyist Tony Podesta — a top Clinton bundler.” A Clinton White House may also issue a new executive order on lobbying which would supersede President Obama’s executive order. “There is some speculation that Obama could lift or loosen the restrictions on lobbyists before leaving office, which would save Clinton the political trouble of having to do it herself,” The Washington Post reports.

Earlier this year the Democratic National Committee (DNC) reversed the lobbying donation prohibition policies it adopted under President Obama in 2008.  The Hill reports that Mark Paustenbach, Deputy Communications Director for the DNC said, “The DNC’s recent change in guidelines will ensure that we continue to have the resources and infrastructure in place to best support whoever emerges as our eventual nominee.”