Archive for September, 2011

Environmental Group calls for Probe into Lobbyist’s Activities

Thursday, September 29th, 2011 by Vbhotla

Friends of the Earth, a national pro-environment group, has asked the Department of Justice to investigate the lobbying activities of TransCanada official Paul Elliott.  The group contends that Elliott, who was once an aide to Hilary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign, failed to register as a lobbyist for over a year while he petitioned the Obama administration (including Clinton’s State Department) to approve a TransCanada pipeline.

Friends of the Earth accuses the State Department of granting “inappropriate favors,” “coaching” responses to probes” and maintaining a “cozy relationship” with Elliott and TransCanada.  The group says that Elliott “sought to exploit his campaign ties to secure high-level meetings,” and violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act by failing to disclose his interests as a foreign agent and subsequently register with the Department of Justice under the Act.

Office of Government Ethics Unveils New Proposals for Government Employees

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011 by Vbhotla

The Office of Government Ethics has announced proposed amendments to the current ethics guidelines applicable to federal employees.  A few of them actually relax what the government has been practicing for the past year, but overall, the proposed changes would put stricter limitations on some political activity.

American League of Lobbyists president Howard Marlowe says, “The proposed rule would prevent federal employees from having even casual social contact with registered lobbyists.  There is no evidence that the current overly-restrictive rules are being abused or are inadequate[, and t]he American League of Lobbyists strongly objects to this proposed rule. Unfortunately, it is another in a long series of moves by this Administration to reduce the mutual flow of information and expertise between lobbyists and friendly employees.”

Among those amendments:

– Excluding from the definition of registered lobbyist or lobbying organization the following types of organizations, even if these organizations are registered under the LDA: “nonprofit professional associations, scientific organizations, and learned societies.”

– Abolishing the requirement that an invitation to an event not come directly from a registered lobbyist. In other words, if the gift of the invitation comes from a 501(c)3, even if the organization is registered under LDA, the gift is allowed.

– Limiting the use of the gift exceptions for all government employees; formerly these applied to political appointees. No government employee would be able to use the following electronic cigarette comparison exceptions for gifts from registered lobbyists or lobbying entities: the $20 de minimus exception, the widely attended gathering exception and the social invitation exception.

-The widely attended gathering exception applies to training and professional development activities; it should not apply to purely social events, such as gala dinners, fundraisers, parties, etc.

– Trade associations would be excluded from the list of organizations that can extend invitations to government employees to attend widely attended gatherings. In its reasoning, OGE states that, “Trade associations may sponsor educational activities for their members and even the public, but the primary concern of such associations generally is not the education and development of members of a profession or discipline, which is the focus of the proposed exclusion.”

– The proposed rules seem to allow attendance at such activities held by professional societies, though both trades and professional groups are organized under 501 (c)6 tax code.

– If the government employee is speaking at an association event, attendance in that instance is permitted, because a speaking engagement is not considered a gift.

The association community is also upset about the proposal, and some have referred to it as “a call to arms” for the business community.  ASAE has requested a meeting with OGE acting director and general counsel Dawn Fox to express concerns and gain clarity on the issue.

OGE is accepting comments through Nov. 14.


Hoops for Hope Honors Late ALL Executive Director

Thursday, September 15th, 2011 by Vbhotla

For the first time in several years, the lobbyists roundly defeated the members of Congress team in the Monday’s Hoops for Hope Foundation All-Star Classic basketball game.  The lobbyists handled the Members team, 48-35, for their first victory in several years, putting a stop to any talk of throwing this annual game.

But the fun charity event had a somber note this year, as the late executive director of the American League of Lobbyists was memorialized.  Patti Jo Baber (r) died of cancer in December. As the longtime ALL executive director, Baber “helped set [ALL] on the successful path that it’s on today,” and “she played a large role in helping so many kids the Foundation supports,” read a tribute poster displayed at the game in Baber’s honor.

The Classic raises money for underprivileged children in DC. At this year’s event, winners of the Kids Cover Contest for The Original US Congress Handbook were recognized, including overall winner Sasini Wiekramatunga, an eighth-grader from the DC area. Click here to see the winning entries. To preorder The Original Congress Handbook with the winning cover, go to; 15% of the profits from those preorders will go to the Hoops for Hope Foundation. Details:


Back to School Advocacy Review

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011 by Brittany

What is Advocacy?

According to the American Heritage Dictionary, advocacy is: “the act of pleading or arguing in favor of something, such as a cause, idea, or policy; active support.”

Under this definition, there are many types of advocacy, including:

  • Legal Advocacy:  Arguing on behalf of a client in the legal environment
  • Child Advocacy:  Making the case for children in a child-oriented venue, such as a school or in the context of child protective services
  • Patient Advocacy:  Helping individuals navigate through the increasing complex medical arena and safeguarding their rights
  • Casework / Social Welfare Advocacy:  Working with low-income or otherwise disadvantaged individuals to be sure they have the services they need
  • Corporate Advocacy:  Efforts by corporations to promote a specific cause or idea for the benefit of the general public (also related to the idea of “Corporate Social Responsibility”)

In each of these circumstances, one person or a group of people pleads or argues in favor of a particular cause, idea, or individual.  The difference between these types of advocacy candid pokies and advocacy in the policy arena are matters of topic, scale, and audience.

Advocacy in the policy arena can be defined along the following lines:

  • Topic:  Improvements to public policy or funding for public programs at the local, state or federal level
  • Scale:  Focused on benefits for a group of people as opposed to an individual
  • Audience:  Primarily targeted at policy makers at the local, state or federal level.  Secondary targets may include opinion leaders, business interests and citizens in an effort to elicit change with relevant policy-makers.

In addition, the use of the term advocacy refers specifically to advocacy that is done by non-professionals as opposed to the “direct lobbying” done by government relations professionals across the country.  A fourth area of differentiation, therefore, would be:

  • Advocate:  An individual, such as an association member, company employee or citizen, who pleads the public policy case to a policy maker, often in concert with a larger organization.


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

Members of Congress See Value in Lobbying Expertise

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011 by Vbhotla

A new study by Legistorm reports that 605 current congressional staff have been lobbyists in the last 10 years.  The study goes on to say that this number adds to the list of over 5,400 former lobbyists who have gone on to serve as congressional staff members in the last decade.  In 2011, 155 former lobbyists have returned to Capitol Hill as staffers, which “puts this year on pace to be second only to 2007 [which saw 206 lobbyists employed by Congress], when Democrats won not only the House but the Senate too,” in terms of number of lobbyists working as staff.  Of those lobbyists taking Hill jobs after last year’s wave election, an 8:1 majority were Republicans enjoying their party’s switch to power.

Additionally, 393 current and former members of Congress in the last decade were lobbyists or foreign agents, and 388 congressional aides have made the trip through the revolving door from Capitol Hill to lobbying for the first time this year,” leveraging their Hill expertise for other professional endeavors.

This report finds more lobbyists and staffers have used the revolving door than was found in previous studies, underscoring the fact that Congress and K Streeters alike agree that the expertise and contacts one can attain on either side of the revolving door are invaluable, as each side works with the other Buy Viagra to further the national agenda.

The rules on revolving door employment are as follows:

  • House Members and very senior staff (those paid 75% of the Member salary for any 60 day period during the previous 12 months) cannot negotiate post-congressional employment unless they disclose the communications.  However, there is a distinction made in the House ethics guidance between “negotiations” and “preliminary or exploratory discussions.”
  • A former House Member, Elected Officer of the House, Very senior staffer — either in personal, committee, leadership, or other legislative office– may not lobby any member or employee of Congress on any business for one year after leaving the Hill.  Assisting any foreign government official in contacting a U.S. government official is also not permitted.  There are no prohibitions for non-senior staff.
  • Senators may not engage in discussions or negotiations for post-Senate employment as a lobbyist until after their successor has been elected, and are subject to a two year (versus one year) prohibition on lobbying the entire Congress (including Members, officers or employees of Congress).
  • Very senior Senate staff (those paid 75% of a Member’s salary), elected officers, and non-senior staff are prohibited from lobbying any Member, officer, or Senate employee for one year.  They are also prohibited from assisting any foreign professional.
  • Recusal is expected in legislative matters that might present a conflict of interest with prospective employers.

Back to School Lobbying Registration

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011 by Brittany

There are multiple factors – all of which must be present – in order for an individual to trigger registration as a lobbyist. In the case of a lobbyist or entity reporting income from lobbying activities, once the triggers are met by one individual in the firm (if more than one employee in the firm), the lobbyist or firm must register within 45 days of the first lobbying contact.

RULE:  Generally, to trigger registration, an individual

1.)   must spend  20% of his/her time for a particular client during a quarterly period engaged in lobbying activities for that client

2.)   make more than one lobbying contact to a covered executive or legislative branch official, and

3.)   receive lobbying activity income of $3,000 or more during that quarter


Twenty Percent of Time Engaged in Lobbying Activities for the Client

An individual must spend 20% of his/her time engaged in lobbying activities for a particular client in order to meet the necessary time thresholds for registration as a lobbyist.   This does not mean that an individual must spend 20% of his/her total time in a quarter engaged in lobbying activities for that particular client. Rather, it is measured in terms of the time spent by the lobbyist for the specific client

“Lobbying activities” are defined as “lobbying contacts and any efforts in support of such contacts, including preparation or planning activities, research and other background work that is intended, at the time of its preparation, for use in contacts and coordination with the lobbying activities of others.”

Lobbying Contact to a Covered Executive or Legislative Branch Official

A lobbying contact is any contact with a “covered executive or legislative branch official” as that term is defined in the LDA. 

Covered executive branch officials are:

1.  The President

2.  The Vice President

3.  Officers and employees of the Executive Office of the President

4.  Any official serving in an Executive Level I-V position

5.  Any member of the uniformed services serving at grade 0-7 or above

6.  “Schedule C” Employees

Covered legislative branch officials are:

7.  a Member of Congress

8.  an elected officer of either the House or the Senate

9.  an employee, or any other individual functioning in the capacity of an employee who works for a Member, committee, leadership staff of either the Senate or House, a joint committee of Congress, a working group or caucus organized to provide services to Members, and

10. any other legislative branch employee who, for at least 60 days, occupies a position for which the rate of basic pay is equal to or greater than 120 percent of the minimum rate of basic pay payable for GS-15 of the General Schedule

Communications with any of the persons serving in the jobs listed above are most likely “lobbying contacts” unless the communications are specifically exempt from that definition. 

Income of $3,000 or More During a Quarter 

It is very important to remember that a lobbyist is someone who is compensated by a client to engage in “lobbying activities” and make “lobbying contacts.” HLOGA reduced the calculations for determining compensation from $5,000 during a six-month period under the old law to $2,500 during a three-month period, effective January 1, 2008. An adjustment made in accordance with the Consumer Price Index increased this threshold to $3,000 as of January 1, 2009.

How is the $3,000 calculated in most circumstances? If a client retains a lobbyist and agrees to pay an amount equal to $3,000 over a three-month period, then that is sufficient to meet the monetary test.