Archive for December, 2010

Compliance Q&A: Registration Termination

Thursday, December 30th, 2010 by Vbhotla

Q: Is it true that once a nonprofit has registered under the LDA, it will have to continue to register indefinitely regardless of whether it meets the monetary quarterly threshold for lobbying?

A:  No. When there is an agreement that no future lobbying activity is expected for the next quarter or thereafter, or otherwise reasonable expectation that your company will no longer be lobbying on the issue, you would file your LD-2 as a termination.  The absence of activity during a quarter does not relieve the obligation to file.  If there is reasonable expectation that you will commence lobbying in another quarter, you will file an LD-2 form indicating that there was no activity in that period.  If, however, you continued to lobby during that period at a level beneath the amount needed to trigger registration once you are already registered, you will need to indicate the amount spent in that period, because registration has already been triggered and there is a reasonable expectation that your organization will continue to lobby on the issue.

You want to ensure that you DO actually file a termination, as opposed to simply ceasing filings, because failure to file will result in follow-up action by the House Clerk and Secretary of the Senate, who may choose to refer your organization to the Department of Justice.

2010 in Review: The quotes that defined the profession

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010 by Vbhotla

As 2010 comes to a close and we begin to look forward to the new year, we would be remiss if we did not look back on the year that was.  We have counted down our top ten lobbying quotes of 2010.  Enjoy!

10. It is good for guys like us.  I think you will see instead of a flattening or retrenchment of lobbying, you will see an uptick.”Marc Lampkin, a Republican lobbyist with Quinn Gillespie & Associates and former aide to Speaker-elect John Boehner (R-Ohio) on what the 112th Congressional agenda means for lobbyists.

9. “What I don’t want to see happen to transparency is what happened to break dancing…A brief commercial success that becomes not hip in 2012.” – Sunlight Foundation president John Wonderlich.

8. “Some of us are joking that the next proposal [to curb lobbyist influence] will be to put RFD tracking chips in lobbyists’ necks so they know where we are at all times.” – Rich Gold, partner, Holland & Knight

7. “There is no nefarious handshake meeting that is being kept secret.” – Scott E. Talbott, a lawyer and lobbyist for the Financial Services Roundtable.

6.  “The rhythm of the town is going to switch. You walk through the hallways. The rooms are all the same, a lot of people are the same, but there’s a lot of change…You can’t put too much stock in the old ways. There’s going to be a powerful current of change, and you’ve got to adapt to that.” – Jack Howard, lobbyist and former aide to Newt Gingrich on the post-swearing-in changes lobbyists can expect on the Hill.

5. “He exaggerates our power, but he increases demand for our services,” Democratic lobbyist Tony Podesta says of President Obama.  Not only does the president’s agenda include a number of deeply divisive issues, but the exaggerated power “makes people who don’t have a lobbyist want one,” Podesta says.

4. “We have to take action on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue — to end the outsized influence of lobbyists; to do our work openly; to give our people the government they deserve.”– President Obama in the January State of the Union address on the remedy to the “deep and corrosive thoughts about how Washington works” he believes politicians face.

3. “This is not sexy at all. It is a different kind of lobbying…Halftime is over. The legislators have left the field and the regulators have taken over” -Talbott again on the new environment lobbyists will face approaching the executive branch and regulatory agencies.

2.  “Whatever they’re gonna do, they’ll do,” he said. “They can ban lobbyists from having drivers licenses. We’ll all get cars and drivers.” – Podesta again on the increased scrutiny and executive orders banning lobbyists in the Obama Administration and the perseverance lobbyists exhibit in the face of such orders.

1. “Next to God, faith, and country, nothing is more important than influence.” – Jack Abramoff, as portrayed by Kevin Spacey in 2010’s “Casino Jack.”  It’s true.  Influence shapes country and faith.  And for some, maybe even God.

Tuesday Ethics Tip: New Year’s Eve Fundraisers

Tuesday, December 28th, 2010 by Vbhotla

New Year’s Eve provides a good fundraiser occasion.  Virtually no one wants to sit at home, and people are willing to pay to see and be seen as the ball drops on Times Square.

The gift rules for food and entertainment still apply to members of Congress and their staff at charity events and fundraisers.

For charity and political fundraisers, the value of a ticket for Congressional members is the cost of the meal. Note that invitations should come from the event sponsor and not a lobbyist who is buying a ticket from the sponsor to give to the Member.

Other rules of thumb for charity and political fundraisers:

  • When listing Congressmen as honorary hosts, make sure that if a member of the House, other non-House members are also listed as honorary hosts.
  • Representatives from the House can neither be honored nor offered an exclusive ceremonial role not offered to others; Senators may be honored if the title as Senator is excluded and the charity is not receiving any money from a lobbying entities earmarked for the event.
  • Invitations must come from the organization, not individual lobbyists.
  • Meals are allowed.
  • Entertainment can be provided, as long as it is offered to all attendees.  VIP sessions for the member/staffer are not permissible.
  • No tangible gift or goodie bags may be provided.

LDA Compliance Q&A

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010 by Vbhotla

Q: Would a firm that makes $13,000 on lobbying in a quarter have to register, if none of its employees spends more than 20% of their time lobbying?

A: The short answer is no, but the 20% rule is tricky to a lot of people.  Twenty percent of time includes all lobbying activity– time spent in preparation for lobbying, beyond just lobbying contacts.  It is also broken down on a per client basis, meaning that the figure is not calculated relative to your total time in a quarter (meaning you may have to register on behalf of more than one client).  If 20% of your billable hours for that client are spent on lobbying activities, the answer becomes yes, you must file an LD-1.

Affiliated organizations — “an entity other than the client that contributes in excess of $5,000 towards the registrant’s lobbying activities in a quarterly period, and actively participates in the planning, supervision, or control of such activities” — must be disclosed on the report as well.

Tuesday Ethics Tip: Holiday Party Edition

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010 by Vbhotla

This time of year, everyone is throwing parties and receptions to commemorate the holiday season.  And, especially in Washington circles where everyone seems to know everyone else, it may be tempting to invite members of Congress or staffers to these functions.  As innocent as this may be (not everyone is inviting Hillers with hopes to gain favor, some are just being nice), there are still several things to look out for when planning the functions.

  • Follow the “toothpick rule” when planning the menu.  If it can’t fit on a toothpick, it may be consider a meal, and therefore members and their staff are unable to eat.  The good-intentioned gesture that was the invitation turns sour when invited guests are unable to eat.
  • The entertainment should be of a minimal nature.  A jazz trio, harpist, etc are acceptable.  A headliner concert….probably not.
  • Valet, coat check, party favors and gift bags can be accepted by a member or staffer only if the value of the items does not exceed $10.

It is important to note that a holiday reception would not fall under the “widely attended event” exception to the gift rules relative to meals.  A widely attended event must be related to the staffer’s official duties.  A good way to make sure you’re in the clear is to indicate that “light hors d’oeuvres and cocktails” will be provided on the invitation.  Just be sure to make sure the event is not transformed into a lavish party, which could get both you and the member/staffer in trouble.

Tax legislation K Street cash cow?

Monday, December 20th, 2010 by Vbhotla

Washington insiders project that tax code discussions could be to 2011 what healthcare was to 2009 and financial regulatory reform was to 2010: a nationally divisive issue that provides a chance for lobbyists to cash in.  No matter what the political allegiance, this debate has a “something for everyone” feel that will engage lobbyists across party lines scrambling to weigh in on deductions and withholdings.

Though Congress voted to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for two more years, some determination needs to be made regarding what will happen not only in the meantime, but after the cuts expire again (in line, incidentally, with another major election year).  Businesses and associations favor a simplified tax code, but no one is sure about the best way to implement it.  President Obama has also voiced support for a simplified code, but also is not sure of what the best practices would be.

With varied interests at stake, and no one, even Congressmen, sure where to start, there is a unique opportunity for lobbyists to take up almost any issue to promote on the Hill.  And as was the case with healthcare reform and financial industry regulation, no matter what happens, no one will be satisfied, and lobbyists can be sure they will have their hands full peddling for any myriad of deductions (or elimination thereof).

“Superlobbyist” may face imprisonment

Monday, December 20th, 2010 by Vbhotla

Paul Magliocchetti, is seeking home confinement, a $10,000 fine, and probation for his role in what prosecutors are calling “one of the largest criminal schemes in U.S. history to violate federal campaign finance laws,” according to a sentencing memo filed by the Justice Department.

Magliocchetti, who pleaded guilty in September to channeling $380,000 to members of the House in an attempt to secure defense contracts for clients, believes that the sought sentence is more in line with similar crimes than the penalty suggested by the district attorney’s office.  Prosecutors in the case have requested 57 months of imprisonment, saying his greed significantly impugned the image and integrity of the American political process.

American League of Lobbyists loses executive director

Monday, December 20th, 2010 by Vbhotla

Patti Jo Baber, executive director of the American League of Lobbyists, died last week after a valiant battle with cancer.  Patti Jo had been a constant presence with the ALL and the lobbying community at large, “the one constant through all of the [league’s] Boards and Presidents, and [she] gave her all to the lobbying profession,” current president Dave Wenhold said in a statement on the ALL website.

Patti Jo was often described as the “backbone” and “heart and soul” of the ALL.  She will be most remembered for her sense of humor, generosity, “friendly and knowledgeable presence” and ability to uplift those around her.  The memorial service was held Friday in Arlington.  In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Last Chance Animal Rescue, 4499 Leonardtown Road, Waldorf, MD 20601.

Industry Moves & Changes

Monday, December 20th, 2010 by Vbhotla

Jackson Dunn, previously the associate director of public liaison for President Clinton, has been named to lead the public affairs practice at FD Americas.

Billy Piper, former chief of staff to Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), will join Fierce, Isakowitz & Blalock as a senior vice president in January.

Kimberly H. Colton, former deputy chief of staff to Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.), has joined the Sheridan Group as a senior policy and advocacy associate.

Lauri Hettinger, who until recently served as staff director for Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio), has joined Holland & Knight’s Washington office as a senior policy adviser in the firm’s public policy and regulation group.

Brett Loeper, the senior executive vice president at the Advanced Medical Technology Association, is leaving to be Rep. John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) policy director.

LD-203 Filing Bootcamp: Ethics Certification and Training

Friday, December 17th, 2010 by Brittany

Training Date: 1/11/2011     Time: 2:00-3:30 EST   Registration: Click here

Twice a year in partnership with Cleta Mitchell runs an LD-203 filing bootcamp to prepare lobbyists for their filing.

This three-part program ensures that you and your entire staff will come away confident that you understand the rules of ethical conduct for lobbyists and non-lobbying personnel alike.

Part 1: The audioconference: This session engages your team in LD203 training with the nation’s leading authority on the new lobbying ethics laws, Cleta Mitchell. Every participant will learn what’s required for compliance so they can be confident filing — and signing — the LD203.

Part 2: Online assessment: Our online system makes sure each registrant reads the necessary information on the rules and compliance requirements prior to the conference. Then, after the audioconference, participants complete the YES/NO questions on the 10-Point Charter of Understanding.

Part 3: Training certification: When participants successfully complete the Charter, they receive hardcopy Certificates of Training (sent to the main registrant) that may be retained as evidence of good faith efforts at LD203 compliance.

Sign up your entire team to listen in for practical guidance on the LD-203 that can protect contributions — and lobbying careers, including:

  • What your certification “under penalty of perjury” means, and how the government intends to enforce monitoring and breach
  • The specific gift and travel rules for House, Senate and Executive branch “covered” officials for which you must certify your understanding
  • The most likely breaches you may unknowingly have committed — and what to do before you certify to address any problems
  • The supporting records you and your firm must maintain to support the certification

Register today!

Campaign Finance Q & A

Thursday, December 16th, 2010 by Vbhotla

Q: My company operates on a calendar year and is looking for places to unload corporate funds before the end of the tax period.  Can we support the RNC under the Citizens United decision, as long as we disclose the donations with the FEC?

A:  No. Contrary to media reports, the Supreme Court’s decision does NOT permit corporations to make contributions to specific candidates or parties.  In addition to the traditionally-allowed PAC donations and  issue ads, you are now allowed to independently support specific candidates or parties, by urging people to “vote for candidate Johnson” or “remember to support the Republican candidates,” which was not previously allowed.

Be diligent about state disclosure requirements, which have increased since the ruling, in what many view as an attempt to dissuade corporations from increasing political spending.

Spreading Holiday Advocacy Cheer through Social Networking

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010 by Brittany

Social networks (or “socnets”), such as Facebook, Myspace, LinkedIn or the many social networks developed for specific organizations, are useful tools for associations to connect active individuals with the policy and personal interests that concern them most. 

Tips for Social Networks

For organizations unfamiliar with social networks, either in the advocacy environment or in general, following are some ideas for getting started.  In addition, note that the considerations outlined above under “Considerations for Effective Pull Communications” are particularly pertinent for the social networking environment.

  1. Getting started: Advocate leaders can start getting familiar with social networking ideas and approaches by registering on a couple of the most popular sites like MySpace, Facebook or LinkedIn, the latter of which is specifically oriented toward business networking. It is important to gain familiarity with the site’s privacy settings and posting structure in order to understand how these policies might apply to any group or association advocacy-related profile.
  2. Identify existing groups and related organizations:  Take steps to identify related organizations by running a search on the organization’s name and key topic areas.  In addition, most elected officials (often the targets of an advocacy campaign) have pages on these networks.  Take a moment to review the pages of the champions and detractors of your policy issues.  These profiles can offer valuable insights that will enhance the organization’s advocacy efforts.
  3. Assess potential downsides:  For many organizations, there are very few downsides to participating in an online social network.  In most cases, the policy issues with which the organization is most concerned are already being discussed by others.  In a sense, it may be more disadvantageous for the organization NOT to be involved in social network sites.  However, there are a couple of points to keep in mind when using these sites.
    • Legal implications:  Organizations with a concern about liability for potential libelous or slanderous messages posted by others on a social networking site should check with legal counsel before establishing a page.  In many cases, these concerns can be addressed by establishing a strict posting policy.
    • Tax implications:  Certain communications that can be viewed by the general public will be viewed as “grassroots lobbying” under IRS definitions, and, depending on the amount spent on these communications, may impact an organization’s 501c3 status
  4. Set up a page and/or group for your association on an existing network: Once the organization is familiar with the sites and comfortable with any potential downsides, it is time to consider establishing an identity on one or all of these sites. Many organizations have groups and profiles on all the major sites. In addition to reaching a wider audience, this approach allows the organization to protect its brand and be part of policy discussions wherever they occur. If that approach is too broad, the advocate leader can prioritize based on a couple criteria, including a) which sites members or like-minded individuals are already patronizing and b) which sites the organization is most comfortable working with.
  5. Consider starting your own network:  Organizations with a large network might want to consider starting a “niche” network not associated with one of the major networking sites. This would serve not just as an individual page on a site, but as a “hub” where everyone associated with the campaign can gather, post comments, photos, information and the like. Larger organizations with IT departments can consider creating their own social networking tools or working with an outside vendor. Free networking tools like should also be considered (organizations using the free option will have to accept Google banner ads on your site). Through Ning, an organization can set up its own page that includes a variety of tools (blogs, forums, photo sharing, etc.).  Network members can be invited and then, once they join, can participate in forums, post materials and download whatever advocacy resources are made available at the site.
  6. Explore outreach options: Social network sites offer tremendous opportunities for reaching out to like-minded individuals and organizations. Facebook, for example, has started offering users the ability to create banner ads targeted toward members expressing interest in a specific issue.  On LinkedIn, the advocate leader can ask a network- or group-wide question about its issues as a way of introducing the organization. 

For more information or to purchase the Advocacy Handbook click here.

Weekly News Round-up

Friday, December 10th, 2010 by Vbhotla

Outside of the traditional rumblings about congressmen selecting lobbyists to lead their staff despite campaign promises to the contrary, K Street is pretty quiet this time of year.  Here are some things we did find interesting this week:

  • Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s (R-Alaska)  re-election seems ethereal: she lost the primary election, but went on to win in the general contest as a write-in candidate.  There is some speculation that her campaign was bolstered greatly by the changes in finance laws that took place over the last year.  “Super PAC” Alaskans Standing Together raised over $1.7 million toward Murkowski’s campaign, in 38 days to push the incumbent senator to the front of the race.
  • Lady Gaga has again gone on the offensive against DADT, issuing a new video encouraging the Senate to repeal what she calls an “archaic” policy.
  • The Wikileaks era may mean more opportunities for lobbyists to represent foreign governments, “not in the traditional lobbying role, but more communications strategies,” Roll Call reports.

Finance lobbyists weigh in on Dodd-Frank

Monday, December 6th, 2010 by Vbhotla

The passage of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act has made it a great time to be a lobbyist for the financial services industry.  The number of lobbyists retained by the SEC and CFTC rose sharply in the third quarter as the agencies anticipate rules to implement the bill.  The SEC has hired 45% more lobbyists than it sought in the second quarter, and the CFTC called on an additional 22%.

According to a Washington Post story, “experts say these figures likely represent only a fraction of the people appearing on behalf of clients before those agencies because many rulemaking meetings” do not trigger LDA disclosure.   The story goes on to report, that most insiders project the frenzy will last several years, which is good news for newly-in-demand finance lobbyists on all sides of the issues.

With 243 rules and 67 studies already underway, there are quite a few interests to be considered and plenty of work to go around.  Some firms have already sought to hire additional associates to help meet the demand for lobbyists experienced in various aspects of financial affairs and regulation.

Former Oklahoma governor Frank Keating will lead the charge against the bill on behalf of the nation’s banks as the new president of the American Bankers Association, a post he will assume Jan. 1 with the retirement of the association’s current president, Edward Yingling.

Former chief Citigroup lobbyist to head airline association

Monday, December 6th, 2010 by Vbhotla

Come January, Nick Calio will be president of the Air Transportation Association, succeeding current president Jim May.  Calio resigned as head of the global lobbying division at Citigroup, where he grew the company’s PAC and political involvement significantly Wednesday.

The tactical hire seemingly puts the association in a good position to have its interests heard in Congress on both sides of the aisle.  The former chief Congressional liaison in both Bush Administrations is not only a well-known Republican, he is also respected by top Democrats, including Senate majority leader Harry Reid.  A former Democratic lobbyist at Citigroup, who was initially hired by Calio, called the move a “coup” for the ATA, and Reid told Politico, “The ATA is fortunate to have a seasoned hand who understands the importance of finding bipartisan solutions.”

Calio’s top objective will be expanding the association’s political action committee, which he believes will further advance the group’s overall agenda of lobbying for decreased taxes and regulation, and increased infrastructure and access to foreign markets.  He will also seek to grow the membership and broaden the group’s international reach.

In a statement to Politico, he explained the need for a strong PAC, saying, ‘“You’ve got to be part of the political process and contributions and political support are part of the political process.  When you have people who consistently support you on policy issues, they expect you to be part of their political life support system. It’s just that simple.”’