Start-Ups Start Lobbying

November 25th, 2015 by Matthew Barnes

The revolving door that ushers the political elite in Washington D.C. from their jobs in the federal government to K-Street has started to face competition in recent years from Silicon Valley. Technology companies of all sizes from start-ups to Silicon Valley’s biggest player have begun to attract the top talent from Washington, D.C. Business Insider reports, “Tech companies are gobbling up executives who have the political clout and connections to help build bridges to D.C.” and that “the gulf that once existed between Silicon Valley and DC is growing smaller.” Below are a couple examples of notable D.C. political insiders who have made the move over to Silicon Valley.


  • Jay Carney served as President Obama’s Press Secretary from 2011-2014. He joined Amazon in2015 as Senior Vice President for Global Corporate Affairs.
  • Kevin Martin served as Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission from 2005 to 2009. He joined Facebook in 2015 as its Vice President of Mobile and Global Access Policy.
  • Susan Molinari served as a Republican representative from New York where she stayed for seven years. She joined Google in as Vice President of Policy and Public Relations.
  • David Plouffe served as President Obama’s campaign manager in the 2008 election. He joined Uber in 2014, as Senior Vice President of Policy and Strategy.

The addition of politically connected executives has led to a change in strategy in Silicon Valley. Mashable reports that after years of being behind the curve in Washington, D.C., “Silicon Valley slowly caught on to the traditional way of doing business with the power elite: Google has spent more than $16 million lobbying Congress and the Obama administration already this year, Facebook is up to nearly $8 million and Twitter, which spends a tiny fraction of that, added three outside firms in the last quarter to assist its nascent two-person lobbying shop.” In fact, the technology industry has so thoroughly embraced lobbying that “while total annual spending on lobbying has decreased slightly over the last five years, Internet companies have tripled their lobbying spending, to $47.5 million, during the same period. The industry now spends just a little less than the auto sector,” according to the New York Times.

Lobbying is also not just restricted to the biggest players in Silicon Valley, startups like personal butler service Hello Alfred have also embraced lobbying as an essential aspect of doing business. Marcela Sapone, CEO of Hello Alfred has said, “We are a young company but we also have to make decisions early that are ethical and business-oriented, and that means engaging in Washington early.” Getting involved in lobbying also doesn’t necessarily mean hiring lobbyists. Leaders from Hello Alfred have “appeard on numerous policy panels and have written op-eds. They have been invited to a White House summit event on the future of labor. And Marcela Sapone, the company’s chief executive, has made two trips to Capitol Hill to urge lawmakers, research organizations and the political press to rethink labor laws for the digital age.”

For technology companies lobbying can serve multiple purposes from simply creating good will with those on the Hill to working with lawmakers on policies and regulations. Whatever the goal, according to Ted Ullyot, a former adviser to President George W. Bush, who is now at Andreessen Horowitz, “For our start-ups, the advice we give is to get in early.”

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Presidential Race Update

November 18th, 2015 by Matthew Barnes

At Lobby Blog we are always on the search for the latest tools to help government relations professionals with the many different facets of their job, including keeping informed of the latest developments from the 2016 Presidential election cycle. With that in mind, this week we would like to introduce you to the Presidential Race Update from Ballotpedia & Columbia Books. The Presidential Race Update is an expertly curated e-newsletter that provides users with daily updates on 2016 presidential candidates. It keeps users up-to-date on what candidates are saying on the issues, where the candidates are appearing next, the latest poll numbers, and more!

The “Presidential Race Update” can be read across a variety of platforms from your phone to your tablet or laptop and within minutes you can be reaching out to members, donors and staff with information and action plans. The e-newsletter comes with three different delivery options:

Internal Memo

  • Hand curated news stories from the experts at Ballotpedia
  • License to distribute to internal staff (includes up to 50 users)

Custom Branded

  • Hand curated news stories from the experts at Ballotpedia
  • License to distribute to full contact list
  • Branding and design of custom newsletter template

Platinum Distributed

  • Hand curated news stories from the experts at Ballotpedia
  • Daily email distribution of custom branded newsletter to up to 50,000 contacts
  • Branding and design of custom newsletter template
  • Monthly usage reporting

We all know keeping up with all the latest 2016 election news is no easy task. This tool is ideal for anyone fighting a busy schedule and who is struggling to stay up to date on all of the news from the campaign trail. According to one chairman of a 501c4 political organization and long-time political activist, the Presidential Race Update is “Absolutely unique! … Makes it possible in 10 minutes a morning to know exactly the key events in the presidential election as a whole and in each candidate’s camp as well.”

For more information or for any questions on the Presidential Race Update you can go to, call 888-265-0600, or email

Lobby Blog will continue to monitor this space and provide insights into the latest tools to help government relations professionals successfully get the job done.

Scoring State Integrity

November 11th, 2015 by Matthew Barnes

This week Lobby Blog is turning its attention to our 50 states.  The  Center for Public Integrity and Global Integrity have recently released the 2015 State Integrity Investigation, a report that grades the states based on the laws and systems they have in place to deter corruption. The investigation found that “in state after state, open records laws are laced with exemptions, and part-time legislators and agency officials engage in glaring conflicts of interests and cozy relationships with lobbyists while feckless, understaffed watchdogs struggle to enforce laws as porous as honeycombs.”

An example of such a loophole can be found in lobbying compliance changes that Lobby Blog has reported on in the past. When reviewing state regulatory changes for The ‘State’ Of Lobbying,  Lobby Blog came across HJR 1009 in Arkansas, “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.”  The State Integrity Investigation found that lobbyists have been able to circumvent this rule because ‘the prohibition does not apply to “food or drink available at a planned activity to which a specific governmental body is invited,” so lobbyists can buy meals as long as they invite an entire legislative committee.’

The overall results from the investigation found a decline in integrity among the states when compared to the last time the investigation was conducted in 2012. Demonstrating a negative trend in results, Alaska achieved the best grade in the nation, with just a C and only two others stated earned better than a D+. Moreover, the State Integrity Investigation found that “in two-thirds of all states, ethics agencies or committees routinely fail to initiate investigations or impose sanctions when necessary, often because they’re unable to do so without first receiving a complaint.”

The investigation measured hundreds of variables to compile transparency and accountability grades for all 50 states. According to the investigation, “The 2015 grades are based on 245 questions that ask about key indicators of transparency and accountability, looking not only at what the laws say, but also how well they’re enforced or implemented. The “indicators” are divided into 13 categories: public access to information, political financing, electoral oversight, executive accountability, legislative accountability, judicial accountability, state budget processes, state civil service management, procurement, internal auditing, lobbying disclosure, state pension fund management and ethics enforcement agencies.”

To keep up-to-date on the latest rules and regulations for lobbying in all 50 states turn look no further than’s State Lobbying Compliance Handbook. It is an action-oriented publication, designed to help you move into states quickly, effectively and without worrying that you’re violating lobbying regulations or using outdated registration or disclosure forms.

Shadow Lobbying and the 2016 Election

November 4th, 2015 by Matthew Barnes

Lobbyists have come to play a significant role supporting many of the 2016 presidential campaigns through direct donations and fundraising. Lobby Blog has previously reported that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton “received more than $600,000 from more than 300 different registered lobbyists and PACs in the first half of 2015” and Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush’s Right to Rise Super PAC has “brought in $523,325 from lobby firms and $282,850 from 107 lobbyists, according to the Federal Election Commission.” However, this may not be the full story. According to Politico only a fraction of the lobbyists who fundraise for campaigns are reported in the mandatory disclosures from campaigns, once again highlighting the issue of the “unlobbyist” and shadow lobbying.

As previously reported by Lobby Blog, unlobbyists are those who participate in lobbying activities without ever formally registering as a lobbyist. According to the Politico report, “A quarter of the “Hillblazers” who bundled $100,000 or more for Clinton work at lobbying firms or public affairs agencies lobby at the state level or otherwise make their living from influencing the government on behalf of special interests, even though they aren’t themselves registered to lobby Congress. For Bush, 58 of the 342 people who raised at least $17,600 are advocates and operatives linked to the influence industry, although they aren’t reported as federal lobbyists.”

In total, when all donations from all professional influencers are added up, Clinton received at least $5.4 million compared to $3.2 million from registered lobbyists disclosed to the FEC, a difference of $2.2 million dollars. Similarly, when examining donations to the Bush campaign Politico found that he received $1.02 million in total from professional influencers, more than double the $408,000 that was reported from registered lobbyists.

Discussing this issue with Politico Matthew Rumsey, a senior policy analyst at the nonpartisan Sunlight Foundation said, “It really speaks to the breadth of the loopholes that exist for D.C. lobbyists: Once you reach a certain point in your career, you never have to register to lobby no matter how much influence you’re exerting.”  Politico underscores this point highlighting Steven W. Farber, president and founding partner of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck. According to the report, “He bundled at least $100,000 for Clinton, so he’s listed as a Hillblazer. But he hasn’t registered as a lobbyist since 2008, although he now employs an army of them.” reports that the firm brought in $23,400,000 in lobbying revenue in 2014.

However, not all 2016 presidential candidates have been willing to embrace the support of lobbyists and other professional political influencers. In an interview with Breitbart top Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has said, “I don’t need anybody’s money. I’m not running with anybody’s money. I’m spending my own money. But the lobbyists have — they totally control these politicians. Just take a look, in one of the articles, very recently, I see Bush with the lobbyists. And he’s sitting there with all of these people. They’re totally telling them what to do, like a little puppet. And the same with Hillary, and the same with everybody else.”

As these issue of lobbyists and the 2016 presidential election develop Lobby Blog will continue to monitor the issue and report the latest lobbying news.

The Hastert Scandal and Dickstein Shapiro

October 28th, 2015 by Matthew Barnes

On Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2015 former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) pled guilty to lying to the FBI in a hush-money scheme. According to Fox Hastert agreed to “a deal with federal prosecutors that recommends he serve no more than six months in prison and averting a trial in the case.” It has been widely reported that the payments were meant for an individual as part of an agreement between the individual and Hastert to conceal decades old claims of sexual misconduct.

Hastert was elected Speaker of the House in 1999 after a scandal in the Speaker’s race involving, the Speaker-elect Rep. Bob Livingston (R-La.) in December 1998.  Time reports that after an ad was posted in the Washington Post “offering $1 million to any woman who presented evidence that she had had an affair with a high-ranking government official,” several people came forward say they had affairs with Rep. Livingston. This effectively ended Rep. Livingston’s bid for the Speakership and led to his now infamous announcement “I have on occasion strayed from my marriage.” Following the downfall of Rep. Livingston, Hastert became the clear choice for Speaker. Once elected Speaker of the House, Hastert went on to hold the position for a Republican record of eight years (1999-2007).

After the 2006 election Democrats took control of the House of Representatives leading to Hastert’s decision to resign his seat in the House. The Chicago Tribune reports that “six months after Hastert left Congress, a Washington-based law and lobbying firm, Dickstein Shapiro, announced in May 2008 that Hastert was joining its team as a senior adviser, though he had to wait to become a lobbyist because of a federally mandated cooling-off period.” During his tenure as a lobbyist for Dickstein Hastert was able to grow both his wealth and lobbying reputation, earning the label of “the eclectic lobbyist” from The Center for Responsive Politics.

In May, when Hastert was first indicted he immediately resigned from his position at Dickstein Shapiro, however the damage may have already been done. Still recovering from the loss of several lobbyists to rival firm Greenberg Traurig in the summer of 2014, Hastert was a key figure in Dickstein Shapiro’s plans to rebuild its lobbying practice. However, the Washington Post reports that “five lobbying clients have ended their relationship with Dickstein since July — significant, considering the firm had just 10 lobbying clients on record this year. One of those five clients, Fuels America — a coalition advocating for renewable fuel standards — was Hastert’s client.” This has led Dickstein Shapiro’s chairman Jim Kelly to say, “We are evaluating the strategic direction of our public policy practice…We have a solid group of people upon which to build if we determine additional resources are necessary to serve our clients. Currently, we are happy with our group and the clients we serve.”

Quarter 3 On K Street

October 21st, 2015 by Matthew Barnes

The unpredictability that has come to embody the past month on the Hill, with surprising events such as Speaker Boehner’s (R-Ohio) decision to resign from Congress, appears to have been replicated on K Street during the third quarter producing a mixed bag of Q3 results. Some major firms such as Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, Capitol Counsel and K&L Gates saw reduced fees compared to Q3 2014. According to The Hill, “the third quarter this year brought K&L Gates a 3 percent decrease compared with 2014’s third-quarter numbers. Brownstein’s fees took a 1 percent dip, and Capitol Counsel’s fell 8 percent.” However, this was not a trend across the board. Taking advantage of the Republican Party’s control of Congress, two all-Republican firms saw Q3 increases when compared to the same period last year. CGCN Group and Fierce Government Affairs saw 37% and 11% boosts, respectively.

Moreover, a successful third quarter was not solely limited to Republican aligned firms. The Hill reports that “Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld …took in its highest third-quarter numbers ever. The firm earned $9.73 million in lobbying fees over the last three months, a 10 percent increase compared with the same period last year.”  Similarly, Van Scoyoc Associates, BGR Group and Holland & Knight also all saw modest growth during 2015’s third quarter.

Despite a mixed bag of results for Q3 on K Street, many remain optimistic with a busy winter ahead of Congress including activities related to trade, cybersecurity and the budget. As previously reported by Lobby Blog, the Trans-Pacific Partnership has been a major focus for those on K Street with 56 of the top 100 lobbying spenders since 2008 have lobbied on TPP at least once during that period. According to Stu Van Scoyoc, the president and chief executive at Van Scoyoc Associates “We continue to be optimistic and continue to work with our clients. Despite all the turmoil and all the chaos at the moment, we’ll find the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Below is a list of the third quarter’s top 10 biggest lobbying registrants in terms of revenue and clients in terms of spending as reported by Politico.

Biggest registrants:

  1. U.S. Chamber of Commerce ($16.02 million)
  2. Akin Gump ($9.7M)
  3. National Association of Realtors ($7.52M)
  4. Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck ($6.26M)
  5. Squire Patton Boggs: $6.13M
  6. National Association of Manufacturers ($5.98)
  7. Podesta Group ($5.75)
  8. Van Scoyoc Associates ($5.22M)
  9. U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform ($5.07M)
  10. Holland & Knight: ($5.045M)

Biggest clients:

  1. U.S. Chamber of Commerce ($16.02 million)
  2. National Association of Realtors ($7.52M)
  3. National Association of Manufacturers ($5.98)
  4. U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform ($5.07M)
  5. American Medical Association ($4.28M)
  6. American Bankers Association ($4.26M)
  7. PhRMA ($4.24M)
  8. American Hospital Association ($4.02M)
  9. National Association of Broadcasters ($3.93M)
  10. Google ($3.65)

The Advocacy Day Assistant

October 14th, 2015 by Matthew Barnes

At Lobby Blog we are always on the search for the latest tools to help government relations professionals with the many different facets of their job. One important role government relations professionals can provide is organizing advocacy days/legislative fly-ins on the Hill. For anybody who has organized one of these events, they know it is a painstaking task. To help reduce the stress of running an advocacy day the U.S. Congress Handbook, known for its customizable guides on our members of Congress, which have been a long standing tool for those attending an advocacy day on the Hill, has launched their new Advocacy Day Assistant smartphone app. The app allows users to schedule, coordinate and update Hill meetings with ease, stay in constant contact with advocates, upload talking points, and get real-time feedback throughout an advocacy day.

Joel Poznansky, the publisher of the Original US Congress Handbook has said, “After years of working with clients to create custom advocacy tools with our line of US Congress Handbooks, the natural next step was to develop and app. We’ve partnered with the expert app developers at NWYC and fly-in expert Stephanie Vance of Advocacy Associates to put together the most comprehensive and user friendly advocacy day app available.”

The app is full of features that make it the ideal tool for advocacy days on the Hill. You’ll be able to view congressional profiles with biographies, vote history, committee assignments, recent news articles & links to each member’s social media profile, as well as the ability to research bills. These features can also be customized for each individual user based on their meetings schedule. You’ll also never have to worry about your advocates getting lost in the maze of buildings and hallways on the Hill. The app has built in Google Maps integration, allowing users to navigate the corridors of power with ease.

While on an advocacy day you’ll also be able to keep in constant communication with your advocates using the app’s advocate to advocate messaging. The app can also send real-time schedule updates with push notifications allowing users to update advocates about any last minute meeting changes. Moreover, you’ll be able to stay in touch with advocates and receive feedback from them after the advocacy day through post fly-in surveys with push notifications.

Like the U.S. Congress Handbook, the app is also highly customizable. You can customize the look and feel of your app using one of four template options, create a custom splash page for your organization, add your logo and branding within the app, provide space for advertisers & sponsors, pre-load customized hashtags for tweeting, and even upload up to 20 custom documents for your advocates including: talking points, event schedules, handouts, etc.

Utilizing powerful tools like the Advocacy Day Assistant can help to greatly improve an advocate’s experience and the overall success of an advocacy day, while greatly reducing the stress of organizing such an event. Lobby Blog will continue to monitor this space and provide insights into the latest tools to help government relations professionals successfully get the job done.

Trans-Pacific Partnership – Big Business for Lobbyists

October 7th, 2015 by Matthew Barnes

After years of intense negotiations a deal between the U.S., Japan and 10 Pacific Rim nations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement was finalized on Monday, Oct. 1, 2015. The New York Times reports that for “Mr. Obama the accord could be a legacy-making achievement, drawing together countries representing two-fifths of the global economy, from Canada and Chile to Japan and Australia, into a web of common rules governing trans-Pacific commerce. It is the capstone both of his economic agenda to expand exports and of his foreign policy “rebalance” toward closer relations with fast-growing eastern Asia, after years of American preoccupation with the Middle East and North Africa.”

However, the work on the trade agreement is far from over as the deal must first be sent to Congress to consider, likely in early 2016. President Obama is required to give Congress a legally mandated 90-day notice that he intends to sign the deal. Gaining support from Congress will be no easy feat for President Obama who will have to assemble a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers with opposition to TPP coming from both Democrats and Republicans. Senator and Democratic presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders has already come out against the trade agreement saying, “”I am disappointed but not surprised by the decision to move forward on the disastrous Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement that will hurt consumers and cost American jobs,” according to Politico.  Similarly, Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump has opposed TPP saying, “The only entities to benefit from this trade deal will be other countries, particularly China and Japan, and big corporations in America,” reports Breitbart. President Obama relied on support of a similar bipartisan coalition, leaning heavily on Republicans, to grant him fast-track trade authority, which enables the accord to be voted on in a simple up-or-down vote without threat of amendments or filibusters.

Since negotiations began the Trans-Pacific Partnership has been a major focus for those on K Street. According to a report by Open Secrets, “Clients who reported lobbying on TPP accounted for nearly thirty percent of all lobby spending. And a lot of that work was concentrated among Washington’s power players: 56 of the top 100 spenders since 2008 lobbied on TPP at least once during that period.” Moreover, Open Secrets reports that since 2008 when the negotiations began, “487 clients paid lobbyists to meet with or contact lawmakers and administration officials to discuss the trade pact” and that TPP was “mentioned 4,875 times in lobbying filings since 2008,” not including third-quarter 2015 lobbying reports, which are due to Congress on Oct. 20 and could further increase this figure.

As Congress considers TPP lobbying will continue to play a significant role for sides both supporting and opposing the trade agreement and Lobby Blog will continue to monitor the results of these efforts.

Boehner’s Departure Felt on K Street

September 30th, 2015 by Matthew Barnes

On Friday, September 25, 2015 Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) made the surprise announcement that he plans to resign from the U.S. House of Representatives at the end of October, not only sending shockwaves throughout the Capitol, but also down K Street. Such was the surprise of Boehner’s announcement that the Minority Leader, Representative Nancy Pelosi, reportedly “learned about Mr. Boehner’s resignation when she read a breaking news alert on a staff member’s phone.”

Following Speaker Boehner’s announcement the National Corn Growers Association president Chip Bowling released a statement saying,  “We are grateful for Speaker Boehner’s leadership in so many areas, including service on the House Agriculture Committee, and his work for a more transparent and productive Congress.” Other lobbyists, such as Gary Shapiro, the president of the Consumer Electronics Association, shared their reactions via social media tweeting, “Boehner resigning. Sad. Decent honorable man in a near impossible job.”

Many up and down K Street are lamenting Boehner’s retirement. Roll Call reports, “He [Boehner] had a very close relationship with K Street —  that’s just kind of how it is,” said John Feehery, a former House GOP aide who worked for Boehner’s predecessor, J. Dennis Hastert, and is now a lobbyist. “McCarthy’s got a lot of good contacts on K Street, too.”

Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is considered to be the most likely Representative to take over as the Speaker of the House, the top position in the House and fourth in the line of succession to the presidency. According to Sam Geduldig, a partner at the CGCN Group and former senior Boehner aide, “Boehner will absorb criticism for whatever deal is cut, in order for the Republicans to have a better opportunity to win the White House in 2016, and give McCarthy the fresh start he needs to be effective.”

Politico Influence reports that the departure of Speaker Boehner has provided the opportunity for some of his senior staffers to make the move over to K Street, with some already in early discussions. “Top picks include chief of staff Mike Sommers, floor director Anne Bradbury, and policy director David Stewart, according to a PI tipster. Assistants to the speaker for policy Brad Baileyand Cindy Herrle, assistant floor director Lydia Calio, and member services director Trevor Kolegoare also being discussed.”


Pope Francis, President Obama and the Catholic Lobby

September 23rd, 2015 by Matthew Barnes

The arrival of Pope Francis in Washington, D.C. has been one of the most anticipated events in recent memory. Many thousands of people are expected to gather across the city to see and hear the head of the Catholic Church in his first ever visit to the United States. The excitement for Pope Francis extends across the city and into the chambers of congress where the pope will address members of our legislature before a joint session on Thursday. Anticipation levels are so high that congressional leadership will employ some extraordinary measures during the pope’s visit. To enforce discipline among the members, “each party is assembling teams of lawmakers to essentially act as blocking tackles, willing to restrain any of their colleagues intent on trying to reach out for a papal touch as he walks onto the floor of the House. And after the historic speech, the doors to the cloakrooms and the hallways will be blocked — and in some cases, locked — to prevent lawmakers from leaving the chamber for perhaps half an hour, until Francis has appeared on a West Front balcony to greet the ticketed throng and then departed the Hill by motorcade” reports Roll Call.

Moreover, the Washington Post reports that the Pope’s U.S. visit will produce one of the largest and most extensive security operations in U.S. history. According to the Post, “The U.S. Secret Service is in charge of coordinating the massive intergovernmental operation on counterterrorism operations, crowd management, crisis response and air and vehicle traffic control. The FBI, Capitol Police, Coast Guard, Pentagon and Federal Emergency Management Agency are closely involved in the planning, along with local police departments.”

On Wednesday, in his first full day in Washington, D.C., the pope will start the day with a welcoming from President Obama at the White House. The president and Pope Francis have a strong working relationship and share similar views in some key policy areas. U.S. News reports, “Both want governments to increase their commitments to the poor and the unfortunate, such as immigrants. And Francis supports reducing lengthy prison sentences for people convicted of lesser offenses, which is part of Obama’s agenda. Francis also backs Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran.”

The two world leaders also share very similar views on climate change, which has had a significant impact on the influential Catholic lobby in the United States. The Washington Post reports, “In August, when President Obama took the podium in the East Room to announce his plan to curb greenhouse gas emissions, standing behind him was Sister Joan Marie Steadman, head of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the nation’s largest group of Catholic nun leaders.” In speech President Obama “thanked her [Sister Joan Marie Steadman] for helping ‘rally Catholic women across America to take on climate.’”

In an interesting article titled, “Catholic lobby flexes its muscle ahead of Pope Francis’s visit” the Washington Post profiles the Catholic lobby in the United States and it is well worth a read while enjoying Pope Francis’ historic visit.

A Salty Reaction to Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act Reauthorization

September 16th, 2015 by Matthew Barnes

With the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act up for re-authorization this month the salt lobby has reignited the battle over national sodium standards for school meals. The aforementioned act requires schools to reduce “per-lunch maximum sodium levels from 1,230 milligrams in elementary school, 1,360 mg in middle school and 1,420 in high school to 935, 1,035 and 1,080, respectively, by 2017. They would be lowered again to 640, 710 and 740 by 2022” according to The Hill.

The reduction of sodium in school meals is a part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative. The goals of the First Lady’s initiative are “solving the challenge of childhood obesity within a generation, so that children born today will grow up healthier and able to pursue their dreams. Combining comprehensive strategies with common sense, Let’s Move! is about putting children on the path to a healthy future during their earliest months and years. Giving parents helpful information and fostering environments that support healthy choices. Providing healthier foods in our schools. Ensuring that every family has access to healthy, affordable food. And, helping kids become more physically active.”

However, leaders from the salt industry dispute the science behind reducing sodium levels. Lori Roman, the president of the Salt Institute has said, “There is absolutely no scientific basis for any population-wide sodium reduction strategy…Studies show, left to ourselves, we will naturally seek out the safe range. What I worry about is the captive people — the kids in schools, who are getting more than one meal a day or maybe one of their only meals of the day, and elderly people in nursing homes, who are put on low-sodium diets for no reason,” reports The Hill.

Furthermore, in a statement to The Hill, School Nutrition Association (SNA), President Jean Ronnei has said, “Schools are committed to reducing the sodium in school meals and snacks, but the later sodium reduction mandates are unrealistic for schools, let alone families, and will force healthy choices off the menu.”

Complicating re-authorization, in March Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) introduced S.1146, the Healthy School Meals Flexibility Act which would “prohibit the Department of Agriculture (USDA) from implementing any regulation that would require a reduction in the quantity of sodium contained in federally reimbursed meals, foods, and snacks sold in schools below specified July 2014 maximum levels allowed in school breakfasts for school year 2014-2015.” However, Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) is working to finish the re-authorization package of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act for a committee markup on Thursday.

The NFL’s Lobbying Blitz

September 9th, 2015 by Matthew Barnes

As the NFL gets ready to kick-off the 2015 season on Thursday with an intriguing match-up between last year’s Super Bowl champions, The New England Patriots, and the Pittsburg Steelers, the league is also preparing for a lobbying blitz on the Hill. The NFL has had a turbulent off-season plagued by headline grabbing stories such as the now infamous “deflategate,” player safety and criticisms of both on and off field violence in the sport.

The NFL is no stranger to the world of lobbying; it is the only major sports league to have its own full time lobbying shop in Washington, D.C. The NFL’s lobbying efforts are led by Cynthia Hogan, a former attorney to Vice President Joe Biden. Politico reports that Hogan said the “NFL would be briefing the House Energy and Commerce Committee and Senate Commerce Committee on player safety and pro football’s new efforts to pay for research into head injuries” in a series of closed-door meetings.

Hogan and the rest of the NFL’s lobbying team certainly will certainly be kept busy for the near future facing challenging issues on multiple fronts from members of Congress. For example, “several Democratic senators have led the charge, from Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein demanding a “zero-tolerance policy” for players who commit domestic violence to Maria Cantwell and Harry Reid pressuring Goodell into taking a stand on whether the Redskins should drop their mascot,” according to Politico.

One of the most significant legislative priorities for the NFL is the protection of the league’s antitrust exemption. Politico reports, this exemption, which congress granted for all of the major professional sports leagues, allows “their teams to work and negotiate in concert, something most other industries can’t do”. In the past this exemption has been the target of some lawmakers who seek to use the league’s exemption as leverage against the NFL to force the league to become more accountable for issues such as player safety. For example, in the 113th Congress Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) introduced S.2974 or the Sustained Promotion Of Responsibility In Team Sports (SPORTS) Act. The SPORTS Act, according to Sen. Blumenthal, “would sunset the four major professional sports leagues’ (NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA) permanent anti-trust exemption, and replace it with an every-five-years reauthorization conditioned on the leagues acting consistently with the public trust their special status requires… Ninety-five days before each exemption is scheduled to sunset, a special commission, composed of heads of Executive Branch offices with jurisdiction over issues relevant to the leagues, will provide Congress with a report regarding the leagues’ behavior. In particular, the Commission’s report will discuss how the leagues have treated their employees and how they have responded to inappropriate conduct by their employees and owners. The Commission’s report will ensure that before Congress decides whether to grant the leagues a public benefit—their antitrust exemptions—it has access to a thorough, fair, and honest assessment of whether the leagues have served or harmed the public interest.”

On April 28th, 2015 Sen. Blumenthal said he plans to re-introduce the SPORTS Act in the 114th Congress.

Nevertheless, as the NFL continues its lobbying efforts on the Hill, Hogan reminds us that “It’s a long road, and it’s not one that we think we’re at the end or we’ve somehow fixed everything, but we made really, really significant changes, and I think that we went from a place where we were not doing everything we could do to really being in the lead of what a private entity can do in this area.”

Planned Parenthood Controversy Continues

August 26th, 2015 by Matthew Barnes

THE RELEASE OF a series of controversial videos of Planned Parenthood officials discussing the organization’s fetal tissue donation program continue to stir up dissent. The videos, which were filmed undercover by the Center for Medical Process, have led to a battle over Planned Parenthood’s funding. Social conservative members of the Republican Party have promised to not support any funding bill which includes financial support for Planned Parenthood, potentially leading to another government shutdown with current funding set to expire on Sept. 30, 2015. According to The Hill, Presidential contender Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has vowed to lead the fight against the organization, saying, “the Department of Justice needs to investigate and prosecute Planned Parenthood for any potential criminal actions of commercial trafficking of fetal organs.”

Similarly in the House of Representatives, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is facing an uprising from conservative members of his party who, like Sen. Cruz, refuse to vote for a spending plan that includes funds for Planned Parenthood.  Politico reports, Speaker Boehner would prefer “prefer to build bipartisan opposition to funding the group through a series of high-profile Congressional investigations.”

Speaker Boehner’s office itself became embroiled in video scandal when it was reported that Charlotte Ivancic, Speaker Boehner’s health policy director was related to Cate Dyer (they are sisters). Cate Dyer is the founder and CEO of StemExpress, and she was also featured in the videos released by the Center for Medical Process due to her organization’s connection to Planned Parenthood. On August 5th Charlotte Ivancic left Speaker Boehner’s office to work for lobbying firm Tarplin, Downs & Young according to reports from The Hill.

Planned Parenthood, which Politico reports has spent nearly $1.3 million on lobbying during the first six months of 2015, according to federal disclosures, has hired public relations firm SKDKickerbocker to help manage with the on-going situation. The organization also has Capitol Council, a D.C. based lobbying firm on retainer.

Who’s Backing Hillary?

August 20th, 2015 by James Cameron

 DONALD TRUMP AND the Republican primaries have dominated the news cycle recently, but Hillary Clinton has quietly outraised any other candidate on K Street, as The Hill reports.  Clinton received more than $600,000 from more than 300 different registered lobbyists and PACs in the first half of 2015, outpacing the next closest candidate (Jeb Bush) by nearly $200,000 and by double the number of contributors. More intriguing, though, is which industries have contributed the most to Clinton’s campaign so far.

As The Intercept notes, private prison companies have been among the top donors and organizers for Hillary Clinton’s campaign fund. Although Clinton has increasingly moved leftward, particularly with regard to her views on police and criminal justice reform, advocates are growing concerned that the contributions from private prison companies will color her views in that regard. Indeed, we’ve expressed concern about the pernicious influence of private prison companies on the criminal justice system in this country. It remains to be seen how much their contributions will impact Clinton’s views and policies, though.

Despite her unequivocal support of climate change reform, including naming it as one of her top priorities should she be elected President, Clinton has also received significant campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry, as Mother Jones reports. Clinton has called climate change “consequential, urgent, [the most] sweeping collection of challenges we face as a nation and a world.” Despite this, she has been hammered by activists over her perceived support of the Keystone XL Pipeline, as well as the speaking fees she accepted by Canadian banks that support the pipeline. On the other hand, the fossil fuels industry has some of the deepest pockets around, and it’s unlikely that any candidate in this election hasn’t received money from the industry at one point or another.

So, how concerned should criminal justice reformers and climate change advocates be about the apparent contradictions between Hillary Clinton’s policy positions and her campaign contributors? At this juncture, not too concerned. Clinton isn’t the first candidate to hold positions that directly oppose the interests of her campaign contributors, and she certainly won’t be the last in this election cycle. Even so, reformers should stay informed on who’s giving money to whom, and Lobby Blog will continue to track these issues for key candidates leading up to the next Presidential election.

Grassroots Advocacy – The Key to Your Success

August 13th, 2015 by Matthew Barnes

Now that presidential campaign 2016 season is in full swing, not only have we started to see a flood of advocacy efforts on behalf of the candidates, but from an enormous and ever increasing pool of different organizations and interests groups. For example, by now we are all familiar with advocacy groups such as Veterans Against the Deal, which has launched an ad campaign opposing the Iran nuclear deal and groups like Global Zero, which has also launched a series of ads, but in support of the deal.

But in today’s highly competitive and well-funded advocacy environment reaching the right audience, building a strong coalition of support, and achieving your goal is no easy task. So, how will you get your voice heard? The answer is through a successful grassroots advocacy campaign, a quintessential tool for today’s advocacy and government relations professionals. However, the nature of grassroots advocacy is constantly changing and adapting. Where does one start today?

This is where and Association TRENDS comes to the rescue with their new online e-learning course, Grassroots Advocacy Strategies & Techniques Deep Dive. In this 8-week course, Stephanie Vance—one of America’s foremost experts on grassroots advocacy—teaches today’s best grassroots advocacy strategies.

From where advocacy fits into your government relations program and policy agenda, to how to deploy your plan far less expensively than through traditional lobbying, you’ll actually build a plan for engaging more members and achieving change.

The highly interactive course includes video clips, readings, and a 24/7 discussion board with fellow attendees. You’ll take graded quizzes each week, fill out worksheets for homework assignments, and have weekly call-in times where you can speak directly with the instructor if you desire. Not only will you come away with an actual advocacy plan built on today’s absolute smartest strategies, you’ll have Stephanie Vance’s feedback on that plan. Each student will also receive a copy of the Advocacy Handbook (a $329 value) as a course reference guide.