Archive for April, 2010

Weekly Lobbying News Round-Up

Friday, April 30th, 2010 by Vbhotla

This week in lobbying news:

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) introduced the “Close the Revolving Door Act of 2010″. Among other things, the bill would ban members of Congress from ever lobbying, and would increase the “cooling off period” already in place for Congressional staffers, post-employment. Read about the bill here, at Sen. Bennet’s website.

Long-awaited legislation: on Thursday, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and his fellow Senate co-sponsors finally introduced the Senate version of the DISCLOSE Act (read about that here, and the text of the bill is here). Rep. Chris Van Hollen, along with his two Republican co-sponsors  introduced the House version, which is just a little shorter).

Reps. Hodes and Flake demand access to PMA probe documents. The OCE and House Ethics Committee have investigated and cleared seven lawmakers in a earmarking matter. But Reps. Hodes and Flake are demanding to see the thousands of pages of background documents that have not been released to the public.

A couple of news stories on new media and lobbying, from the Washington Post and Roll Call. (Roll Call is subscription, Washington Post free registration).

Travel & Events: Overview

Friday, April 30th, 2010 by Vbhotla

Yesterday, hosted an audioconference with Ki P. Hong of Skadden Arps, a top political law practitioner.

While of course we want you to attend our seminars to get the full inside scoop, here’s a look at a couple of the topics he covered.

  • Overview of the LDA / HLOGA filing requirements: In order to register as a lobbying entity (with in-house lobbyists): A company must have at least one employee who spends 20% or more of his or her working time engaging in lobbying activity; That same employee must have made 2 or more lobbying contacts; and the company must spend more than $11,500 on such lobbying activity over a 3-month period.  If registering a lobbying firm, the same personal thresholds, AND the firm’s  lobbying income for a particular client must exceed $3,000 over a 3-month period.
  • LD-203 filing: As a best practice, make sure your company, association, or lobbying firm has a robust and enforceable gift policy across all levels, not just for your government relations staff.
  • Sponsoring travel: organizations employing or retaining a lobbyist to lobby on their own behalf may sponsor one-day travel for members of Congress or Congressional staffers, but MUST submit their proposed sponsorship to the appropriate (House or Senate) Ethics Committee for pre-approval.

More detailed info on sponsoring travel & events is in our handy-dandy Compliance Center.

To legislate or not to legislate — UPDATED

Thursday, April 29th, 2010 by Vbhotla

With a bill framework now titled the DISCLOSE Act, the Democrats, led by DCCC chair Rep. Chris Van Hollen and Sen. Charles Schumer, are pushing ahead on a legislative response to Citizens United. DISCLOSE is an acronym for “Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections.”

As reported previously when the framework was first announced, the two legislators seek to set stricter limits on foreign entities’ ability to participate in American elections, and requires disclosures of donors to entities’ major ad buys. A “stand by your ad” provision, requiring top execs of corporations is also in the bill.

A Republican, Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.) was announced as having signed on to the bill. The Democrats had been searching for some Republican support on the framework, which is sure to be contentious. Rep. Van Hollen and Sen. Schumer have been unsuccessful in finding a Senate Republican co-sponsor so far.

Democrats have declared that their money in politics bill should be passed in time to “blunt the impact” of Citizens United for the 2010 elections. The bill is expected to be introduced within the next week. Democrats’ self-imposed deadline for passage is July 4.

The Chamber, not known for supporting Democratic proposals across the board, announced that it would oppose the DISCLOSE Act as well.

A Roll Call story is here:

UPDATE: The bill text is now available here. (H/T SkepticsEye 2.0 Blog)

Travel and Events Training Session this Thursday

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010 by Brittany

Join Ki P. Hong of Skadden Arps – one of the nation’s leading legal authorities on HLOGA – as he explains exactly how travel and event requirements have changed since 2007, including how to comply with tough certification rules that apply even to employees not usually covered by lobbying law (including federal contractors).

Click here for complete conference details and to register online.

Lobbying in the Public Interest

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010 by Vbhotla

Note: From the Eyes of the Editors will be a recurring post each week. From our team of editors, who spend hundreds of hours scouring thousands of lobbying registrations and filings, these pieces will look at common errors, misperceptions, and ways to improve your understanding of lobbyist filings.

Last week it was reported that Washington-based non-profit Public Citizen approached retiring senators and congressmen, suggesting that they sign a pledge promising to avoid future jobs with lobbying firms.  In a bit of humorous commentary, The Huffington Post noted that the spokeswoman for Public Citizen, the very woman leading the charge against public servants becoming lobbyists, is herself a registered lobbyist.  Her response was “I’m like a people’s lobbyist.”

This got me thinking, “Aren’t all lobbyists representative of the people?” In reality, each lobbyist on K St. is representing the interests of some person or some group of like-minded individuals.  In fact, of the thousands of lobbying reports I have read, the only client I have encountered that seems to include no people is a filing on behalf of “Boo,” a family dog from Staten Island who is being represented on a number of issues including disaster planning, housing, and animals (obviously).

Lobbyists represent groups of American citizens. For example, former Rep. Louis Stokes (D-Ohio) represented Cleveland in the House for 30 years and is now Senior Counsel at Squire, Sanders, and Dempsey.  Though he has left Congress, Stokes is still representing Cleveland on the Hill through one of his clients, the Cuyahoga County Board of County Commissioners.  While in the House, Stokes represented one area of the city.  By now lobbying for the entire county, Stokes essentially represents twice the number of people he did as a Congressman.  Given the role that the county plays in the entire region, one could argue that the number of people his actions affect has  quadrupled.  Now in my opinion,  Cleveland, though it has its problems like all places, is the greatest city in the country.

As a lobbyist, former Rep. Stokes is able to continue representing his hometown as he lobbies on issues including alcohol and drug abuse, economic development, and water quality.  And, given that the Cuyahoga River is about to enter its 41st fire-free year, I can only assume that he’s doing a good job.  Also, go Cavaliers!

Members opting to lobby makes sense.  Lobbyists can work to serve the needs of former constituents, hometowns, home states, and the variety of industries that play integral roles in the daily lives of Americans.  Former Members intimately understand the legal process and how to disseminate information on the Hill.  Lobbyists don’t inherently serve the forces of evil and former Members who become lobbyists are no exception.  Besides, all citizens have the right to petition their government.  Should former Members be asked to sign away that right?

Tuesday Ethics Tip

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010 by Vbhotla

Baseball season is upon us. From President Obama’s first pitch at Nationals Stadium, to escaping the dog days of summer with a little baseball stadium R&R, to October’s playoffs (maybe?), lobbyists must be careful when inviting their favorite members of Congress or Congressional staffers out to Nats games. (Or, for our other DC-sports fans, Capitols, D.C. United, or Wizards games. What did I forget? Shout it out).

Below is an abbreviated explanation of when you can or cannot invite someone to a sporting event.

Remember: The gift rule is that lobbyists or lobbying firms may not provide anything of value to a member of Congress or Congressional staffer.

Tickets and Events: Members and staff may be offered tickets to sporting events, concerts, and other types of events. The rules specify what may and may not be accepted and how such tickets are to be priced for purposes of personal payment by Members and staff.

How much does a Member or staffer have to pay for a ticket to a sporting event or concert? The price would differ depending on the source of the ticket and the amount (if any) on the ticket.

Source: The source of tickets is the entity or person who paid for the tickets.  For example, if a lobbyist wants to take a Member or staffer to a ticketed event using tickets provided by his/her firm or company, he/she would not be the source of the tickets. In this case, the firm or company is the source, AND the personal friendship rule would not permit a Member or staffer to accompany a lobbyist date to an event using such a ticket. The individuals themselves would be required to pay the face value of the tickets to the firm or company in order for the tickets to be used.

Valuation: Generally speaking, all gifts are valued at their retail, not wholesale, value under the gift rules.  Further, for tickets to sporting or other entertainment events, the rules provide specific guidance as to how to value tickets for purposes of Member/staff payment for their use.  The general rule: Members and staff must pay market value for all gifts unless there is an applicable exception.

Type of Ticketed Event House Senate
Athletic, sporting event – ticket with face value Member/staffer pays face value, if identical to price available for tickets sold to the public

Member/staffer pays face value, if identical to price available for tickets sold to the public
Athletic, sporting event – ticket with NO face value Member/staffer pays highest individually-priced ticket for the event Member/staffer pays highest individually-priced ticket for the event or may ask for Senate Ethics approval in advance of event to pay price of a comparable ticket to same event.  Written and independently verifiable information (including seat location, parking, access to areas not open to the public, and the availability of food and refreshments) must be submitted to show that the ticket offered them is equivalent to another ticket that does have a face value
Event in a skybox with food, beverages, and/or parking Member/staffer pays either face value or highest individually-priced ticket for the event plus the value/costs of food and parking in accordance with other gift rules and exceptions See above

This information is adapted from’s Compliance Center.

Welcome to Lobby Blog

Monday, April 26th, 2010 by Vbhotla

A free service of, the Lobby Blog seeks to provide timely, informative snippets of useful content and conversation on the federal lobbying community: from lobbying and lobbyists to ethics, campaign finance, and pay to play law.

We will post Lobbying News – whether it’s a short snippet of an article from a DC publication or an update on lobbying in the fifty states. And we’ll keep you up to date on Moves and Changes in the lobbying community.

Our Ethics Tips will give you a short, easy-to-read weekly refresher on ethics and lobbying.

At, we have a staff of editors and researchers who are constantly coming across ways that lobbyists can clarify or improve their filings. So in From the Eyes of an Editor, we’ll look at things that lobbyist-registrants constantly get wrong – and how to improve.

The intersection of money and politics is constantly in the news, and undergoing new regulation. So in our Campaign Finance section, we’ll keep you up to date the ever-changing campaign finance world.

Weekly, we’ll do a Lobbying News Round-Up of the things you should be reading. And we might even throw in a few Celebrity Lobbyist spottings.

Keep checking back for updates! We’re looking forward to posting.

Just a little about us: is the one-stop resource for information on lobbying and Government Relations. The site consists of three main components: Washington Representatives Online, US Congress Online and The Lobbying Compliance Center.

Washington Representatives Online, is the online directory of all federally registered lobbyists and their clients, including the legislative areas they are registered to lobby under. This database also has contact information for PACs, 527 Groups, think tanks and government legislative affairs offices. US Congress Online, is the online database of all members of the US Congress and their staffs. Profiles include complete contact information, photos, maps, biographies and more. The Compliance Center is the resource for all things compliance – from filing forms to FAQs on lobbying ethics and technical questions and HLOGA compliance training. The Compliance Center is also home to The Lobbying Compliance Handbook.

Feel free to comment and let us know what you’d like to see!

(Updated 4/29/10 to correct language).

Please note that Lobby Blog may not reflect the views of or its parent company, Columbia Books & Information Services. No information contained on this site should be taken as legal advice. Please consult counsel if you have an ethics, lobbying disclosure, or political law question.