Archive for June, 2010

Starbucksgate is not going away

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010 by Drew

What seemed like a softball story in the New York Times last week has turned out to be a textbook case of investigative journalism. The Times has seemingly pulled back the curtain on how business is actually done in Washington.

NYT’s story about White House staffers meeting with lobbyists in coffee shops near 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is causing ripples inside the beltway. Mother Jones reported yesterday that Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) sent a letter (PDF) to the House Oversight and Government Reform committee requesting a hearing about the matter. CREW, disappointed in the Obama administration’s failure to live up to their anti-lobbying campaign rhetoric, wants Congress to figure out how to get these coffee shop meetings on record.

We’ll see how long it takes until Congress closes this loophole with a coffee-shop-meeting-near-the-White-House-disclosure rule. When they do, you’ll be able to find it here, naturally.

UPDATED: Celebrity Lobbyist Alert

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010 by Brittany

Tom Colicchio, judge of Top Chef DC, will be heading to Capitol Hill this Thursday to lobby on behalf of the Improving Nutrition for America’s Children Act,” sponsored by Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.).  (PDF here).

This visit comes on the heels of last week’s Top Chef DC competition of creating a healthy school lunch that was on budget (which is ridiculously low), kid friendly and healthy. Not an easy task.

Cheers to Chef Colicchio for lobbying for healthy and affordable meals for kids in the US.

FARA Thee Well

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010 by Vbhotla

In light of the recent arrests of eleven individuals accused of spying for the Russian government, Lobby Blog thought this would be as good a time as ever to review the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938.

The Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) was passed prior to World War II in response to Nazi propaganda in the United States. Nowadays, FARA applies to individuals and organizations engaging in political activities for a foreign principal, working in public relations for a foreign principal, buying or selling something of value in the United States, and lobbying the U.S. government on behalf of a foreign principal.

If you don’t register, you could be a spy.  But you’d be the kind that goes to jail, not the cool Jason Bourne kind.

So just who is a foreign principal?  Foreign principals can include foreign governments, foreign political parties, persons located outside of the United States, and foreign entities.

Anyone needing to register under FARA should be aware of the different forms required.

  • Registration Statement: The initial form filed at the organization level.
  • Supplemental Statement: A six month report form filed at the organization level.
  • Short-Form Registration Statement: Each individual appearing on a registration statement must file his/her own short-form registration statement.

So, if your relationship with a foreign principal doesn’t involve placing garbage bags full of classified information underneath park bridges in Northern Virginia, make sure to file your FARA forms.  And if it does, consider activating the Cone of Silence.

Compliance Q&A: Educating your board on lobbying

Monday, June 28th, 2010 by Vbhotla

Q: As a trade association, regarding lobbying compliance education, we understand we must educate our staff, but should we also be educating our board?

A: Yes, first because if you’re an association and you have board members, or corporate members who separately employ or retain lobbyists, it’s important that everyone understand how far-reaching the law is. It can directly effect both you as an organization, and your members in their own corporate capacities.

Secondly, board members of any association or organization that employs or retains lobbyists cannot be reimbursed by the association or the organization for expenses associated with taking a member or staffer to lunch, or a similar expense.  It is the organization (or company) itself which is precluded from making those kinds of payments, and so the fact that such expenses would not be reimbursable would apply not only to employees but also to board members.

Have a question for Compliance Q&A? Email your questions to:

Weekly Lobbying News Round-Up

Friday, June 25th, 2010 by Vbhotla

DISCLOSEd. HR 5175, this season’s signature campaign finance bill is (finally) passed. Nancy Pelosi and Chris Van Hollen are probably having a little celebration over on the Hill, while those opposed to the measure say “the fight isn’t over.” (Roll Call article here, subscription required).

According to the Indy Star, an online Indianapolis lobbyist database is greeted a bit skeptically – by the public, who think the reported numbers are much too low.  Visit the disclosure site at

Roll Call reports on the future of cases based on the Honest Services Fraud statute, after the Supreme Court’s decisions in Skilling, Black and WeyhrauchThis could have big consequences for former Jack Abramoff associates charged under the statute, including Michael Scanlon and Todd Boulanger; Covington & Burling produced a “client alert” which takes a more detailed look at the Honest Services Fraud statue, click here for the PDF.

The Times profiles administration officials hitting up the Caribou Coffee for a little caffeine buzz… and (cue the sinister music) undisclosed meetings with corporate lobbyists!!

Dan Coats’ past as a lobbyist continues to produce headaches for his campaign manager. Now the Indiana Senate hopeful’s previous lobbying filings were discovered to have listed him as a lobbyist for certain clients – nothing wrong with that – but when contacted about the filings, Coats’ former lobbying firm employer then claimed that Coats did not actually lobby for those clients. Politico rightly points out that knowingly having false information on your LDA forms is, in fact, illegal.

ALL’s President Dave Wenhold went to visit Croatia’s lobbying community. Pics up on the ALL website.

Hold on to your hats. Kevin Spacey as Jack Abramoff (boy, there’s a lot of Abramoff news recently; perhaps he is readying for a big comeback) in the upcoming feature film “Bagman.” It looks pretty similar to the documentary Casino Jack and the United States of Money, but with less emphasis on… well… facts.

No Pork on This Pizza

Thursday, June 24th, 2010 by Vbhotla

The influence-peddling, tax-evading, godfather-quoting disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff is out of prison and into the pizza business, the Baltimore Jewish Times reported earlier this week.

Tov Pizza, a kosher pizzeria in Baltimore, has recently taken on Abramoff, perhaps in the hope that his experience cooking books and greasing palms will translate well into cooking crusts and greasing pans. Abramoff, who was convicted in 2006 of corruption and fraud (among other convictions) has served over three years in prison and will complete the remainder of his combined six-year sentences living in a halfway house.

Don’t expect to see Abramoff flipping pies, though: the man who once took Congressional leaders on Scottish golfing trips will be working in the back office on “marketing and strategy.”

Abramoff is himself an orthodox Jew. He starred (perhaps against his will) in the recent documentary Casino Jack and the United States of Money.

Can you lobby the military?

Thursday, June 24th, 2010 by Vbhotla

Washington is abuzz with the resignation and replacement of Gen. Stanley McChrystal with Gen. David Petraeus as commander in Afghanistan (pending Petraeus’ Senate confirmation).

As lobbyists keep up with the changing environment, here’s a reminder: when lobbying top level executive branch officials, including those in the military, lobbying firms must disclose and report such lobbying contacts on their lobbying expenditures.  According to the LDA statute, “uniformed military personnel, rank 0-7 and above” are considered reportable.

What constitutes a lobbying contact? Almost all communications with an executive branch official would be considered reportable under LDA reporting guidelines, with a couple of statuatory exemptions:

  • A status request
  • A scheduling request
  • A contact made at a widely-attended event or as a member of the news media

If reporting lobbying expenditures (i.e., if you are a trade association or corporation with an in-house lobbyist for your own issues), the reporting rules vary if you opt for the LDA reporting or the Internal Revenue Code reporting. If you opt to use the LDA, the rules are the same as for someone reporting lobbying income. If you opt to use the IRC method, you do not have to report meeting with “members of the uniformed services serving at grade 0-7 or above.” However, be careful in when lobbying other executive branch officials – see below for some examples. You must report contacts with:

  • The President, Vice-President, any officer or employee of the Executive Office of the President (EOP)
  • The two most senior level officers of other agencies in the EOP
  • Cabinet officers (e.g., Secretary of Defense Robert Gates)
  • Any individual designated by the President as having Cabinet-level status
  • Immediate deputies of Cabinet level officials (e.g., Deputy Secretary of Defense William Lynn)

The information in this post is from the Lobbying Compliance Handbook.

CRP Releases Report Exploring Congress-Lobbyist Ties

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010 by Vbhotla

Since the financial reform debate kicked off in 2009, 1,447 former federal employees were hired to lobby Congress and federal agencies. Out of these, at least 73 were former members of Congress, accounting for 47 percent of overall former members who registered to lobby during this period. Their party affiliations are almost equally divided; 35 Democrats and 38 Republicans.

This is according to a report from The Center for Responsive Politics and Public Citizen covering ties between Congress and lobbyists in the financial sector. The report contains data from the past year and spans organizations in the financial services sector, including banks, investment firms, insurance companies, and associations that commissioned former federal employees to lobby in 2009-10.

The report also said 17 of these former members have at one point or the other served on House or Senate banking committees, while 42 of the lobbyists had formerly served in some capacity in the Treasury Department.

The members of Congress currently lobbying on behalf of the financial sector include Steve Bartlett, Rep. (R-Texas), 1983-1992, lobbying for Financial Services Roundtable; Birch Bayh, Sen. (D-Ind.), 1963-1981, lobbying for Beacon Capital Partners and Equity Office Properties; and Dennis Eckart, Rep. (D-Ohio), 1981-1992, lobbying for CP Development Co. Read the full list and report here.

Tuesday Ethics Tip: Filing Deadlines Edition

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010 by Vbhotla

Quick refresher for your Tuesday afternoon: LDA filing deadlines.

Lobbying Disclosure (LD) Form 1
Definition / issues disclosed: The form filed by any entity or individual lobbyist at the outset of commencing activities that trigger lobbying registration. (See here for registration triggers).
Recurrence: filed once

Lobbying Disclosure (LD) Form 2
Definition / information disclosed:

  • Particular issues and agencies lobbied
  • Income/expenditures related to the issues lobbied
  • Identity of individual lobbyist employees engaged on the particular issues

Recurrence: Quarterly
Filing deadlines:
Quarter 1 (Jan. 1 – Mar. 31): April 20
Quarter 2 (Apr. 1 – June 30): July 20
Quarter 3 (July 1 – Sept. 30): Oct. 20
Quarter 4 (Oct. 1 – Dec. 31): Jan. 20

Lobbying Disclosure (LD) Form 203
Definition / issues disclosed: Report of specific political contributions by each individual lobbyist and lobbying firm. (See here for list of required disclosures).
Recurrence: Semi-annual
Filing deadlines:
Jan. 1 – June 30: July 30
July 1 – Dec. 31: Jan. 30

BP Brings Out the Big Guns in DC

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010 by Vbhotla

Power lobbyist Tony Podesta (Podesta Group) and legal advisor Jamie Gorelick (WilmerHale), a top Justice Department official in the Clinton administration, are part of the formidable team of Democrat lobbyists running Operation Damage Control for British Petroleum, the Washington Post reported on Monday. Facing one PR crisis after another since the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, BP was struck by yet another gaffe this weekend after CEO Tony Hayward was photographed watching a yacht race along the British coast, displaying a remarkable tone-deafness to the political atmosphere.

BP has spent nearly $20 million on lobbying from January 2009 through March 2010, ranking as one of Washington’s top corporate lobbying clients.

Other key players who were involved in the incident have also increased their efforts to avert the disaster spilling over to them.  Jeffrey Turner (Patton Boggs) has been hired by engineering giant Halliburton, which was in charge of cementing the well just before the April 20 explosion, to handle legal and congressional inquiries.

Insiders in the teams representing the embattled companies told the  Post that the emphasis of the lobbying push right now is on giving as much information as possible to lawmakers, as opposed to affecting policy changes. According to the sources, the lobbyists’ attitude at this time is ‘deferential,’ in response to lawmakers’ impatience with the oil industry at present.

Source for lobbying information: & Senate Office of Public Records; Washington Post article is here.

Lobbyists banned from advisory boards

Monday, June 21st, 2010 by Vbhotla

President Obama formalized his administration’s policy of excluding registered lobbyists from executive branch advisory boards and commissions on Friday afternoon.

The White House blog announced that the President has directed advisory boards and commissions to not re-appoint currently serving members if they are also lobbyists, and not appoint new members who are lobbyists. This is a continuation of the September 23 White House directive that “strongly discouraged” the appointment or re-appointment of lobbyists to the boards.

The American League of Lobbyists’ Dave Wenhold, who pushed back against the policy when the less formal version was announced in September, said that he still believes the policy is a bad idea, because organizations that could not afford to have multiple subject specialists could now be excluded from the process.

The White House blog commented that while some lobbyists have made positive contributions, “phasing out those who simultaneously serve as lobbyists will have the added benefit of opening these boards up to fresh faces and engaging more Americans in our governing process.”

Read the memo from the White House here.


Monday, June 21st, 2010 by Vbhotla

The DISCLOSE Act has encountered some difficulties navigating through the world of lobbying. Democrats, who have been pushing the legislation as a fix to January’s Citizen’s United Supreme Court decision on campaign finance, have amended their bill several times in the past weeks – leading to grumbles about the manner of passing the bill, and one postponement of the floor vote.

The National Rifle Association has successfully defended their desire to see a disclosure exemption for large organizations with a specific budget, number of members, and number of chapters. The problem for several advocacy groups which previously supported the bill seems to be that the exemption really only covers one organization – the NRA. This leads to charges of buddying up with the very special interest groups whom the bill purports to police.

Most legislators have not expressed a problem with the way the bill stands now – with the controversial NRA exemption. But it could be a problem for Speaker Pelosi’s attempt to pass the bill before July 4; and on Thursday, the floor vote on the legislation was pushed back a week.

Some public interest groups have expressed disappointment with some provisions of the bill but recognize that the overall legislative package helps to accomplish their stated desire for more accountability and disclosure.

A Politico story with full background is here.

Lobbying Moves & Changes

Monday, June 21st, 2010 by Vbhotla

Research in Motion has hired Republican Jason Scism to fill the slot vacated by Democrat Brian Peters, who went to Franklin Square Group. Scism joins RIM from the office of Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.).

Nick Tzitzon, government policy advisor at Dykema Gossett PLLC, is leaving. He is a former chief of staff at the Office of Justice Programs, Department of Justice; and former deputy director of intergovernmental affairs at the Office of the Secretary, Department of Health and Human Services

The Mortgage Bankers Association has snagged Bill Killmer as its senior vice president of legislative and political affairs. Killmer, who will start on July 5, spent the past 20 years with the National Association of Home Builders, ending his tenure there as executive vice president for advocacy.

Covington & Burling has hired Capitol Hill veteran Muftiah McCartin as special counsel in the law firm’s government affairs practice in Washington. McCartin had most recently been staff director of the House Rules Committee and, earlier, on the staff of the House Appropriations Committee.

Alan Reuther, the top lobbyist for the United Auto Workers, is stepping down, his office confirmed Tuesday.

Don’t forget to file: LD-203 reporting requirements stressed

Monday, June 21st, 2010 by Vbhotla

All lobbyists must file a report on their political contributions, the Clerk of the House and Secretary of the Senate stressed in their semi-annual guidance for lobbyists.  Two changes were made in this cycle to the guidance (first released after HLOGA was implemented) – a modification of language to stress the importance of filing the LD-203, and a clarification of the requirement for disclosing former positions in the government.

In Section 6 of the guidance, the Clerk of the House clarified that “once a filer has met the previously described statutory requirement for listing a new lobbyists’ previous covered position(s), then the filer does not have to list those positions again for subsequent reports concerning the same client.” A different client for the same lobbyist would require another listing of the lobbyist’s previous covered positions. In other words, once filed on an LD-1, the covered positions do not need to be disclosed on subsequent LD-2s for the same firm/client relationship.

Section 7 of the guidance stresses that “sole proprietors and small lobbying firms are reminded that two reports are required: one filed by the registrant and one filed by the listed lobbyist (even if the lobbyist is the registrant and vice versa).”

The Clerk and Secretary work to implement changes to the non-legally binding LDA guidance issued every six months. Lobbyists and others with interest in the LDA may submit comments to the House Clerk.  This June 15 guidance supersedes all previous versions (the guidance is typically released every 6 months).

View the guidance online at

Weekly Lobbying News Round-Up

Friday, June 18th, 2010 by Vbhotla

DISCLOSE Drama. Will they or won’t they? I’m not sure anyone knows what’s going on with the DISCLOSE Act these days. A Politico story with full background is here. (Eric Brown does an excellent round-up of news reports, here).

C St. Scandal: OCE drops it like it’s hot. According to Roll Call, OCE will drop an investigation into a potential violation of the gift rules. News reports around several member scandals indicated that a house on C Street in Washington DC was owned by a private organization called “The Fellowship” and was providing housing for members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, under-cost – a potential violation of the gift rules.

Hey lobbyists! LD-203 NOT optional. Yes, we already posted on the LDA guidance update, but we don’t want you to forget. Scan the changes, study the PDF, just just read our post!

Norm Eisen: scary individual. Did we get your attention? We’re just kidding, Norm Eisen seems like a nice guy, and he is an excellent “ethics czar.” But some watchdog groups fear for the future of his office if he is confirmed for an ambassadorship to the Czech Republic.

Patton Boggs’ Nick Allard does a Bulletproof Blog video interview on lobbying, and says the American public does not understand lobbying.

Take a number. The FCC wants lobbyists and others with an interest in shaping FCC processes to sign up for meeting time slots online. The Hill has the story.

Quote(s) of the Week:

“We investigative specific allegations. We do not conduct fishing expeditions.” OCE spokesman Jon Steinman, Roll Call June 14

“The “wink-wink-nod-nod” game we have all known to exist with regard to earmarks and campaign contributions is well-documented, and the ethics committee’s definition of “financial interest” needs to be updated to reflect these findings.” – Jeff Flake, Roll Call, June 17

“Is the NRA exception ideal, or pretty? No. Is it likely to complicate the defense of the DISCLOSE Act when it is challenged? Yes. But, is it worth dropping support of the legislation altogether? No.” – Scott Thomas, Of Counsel, Dickstein Shapiro, National Journal’s Under the Influence Experts Blog, June 16