Archive for February, 2012

Lovable Lobbyist Profile: Jocelyn Bissonnette

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012 by Vbhotla

Jocelyn Bissonnette speaks at a NAFIS conference.

It’s been more than a year, but Lovable Lobbyist is back with a special Valentine’s Day Lovable Lobbyist edition!

With education reauthorization being worked on this year, we wanted to introduce you to one of the people that will be helping to make a difference in the lives of students across the country. Meet Jocelyn Bissonnette, the Director of Government Affairs with the National Association of Federally Impacted Schools, a non-profit that works to ensure that students across the country get the education they deserve, particularly those from military families.

Do you have a personal connection to the nonprofit you work for?

Education has long been a passion of mine. I studied economics and political science in college, but my interest in federal education policy was piqued by a course on social mobility and social change and reinforced through my participation in a literacy-focused tutoring program. I spent a summer teaching middle school in Providence, RI and while that was an incredible experience, I realized that although I wanted to pursue my interests in education, teaching was not for me. I’m fortunate to work for an organization that advocates for and protects the interests of school districts.

What positive things Online Casino would you like people to know about lobbying and advocacy?

My organization lobbies on Impact Aid – an education program that reimburses school districts for the lost local tax revenue associated with the federal presence in their district (anything from military installations to Native American reservations to national parks). I see myself as an advocate: the voice of these school districts on Capitol Hill, protecting their interests and ensuring their voices are represented. NAFIS provides district-specific analysis and legislative expertise vital to the policy-making process. Our members are busy running school districts, and my organization exists to monitor congressional activities on their behalf.

What can people do to get involved in advocacy activities with Impact Aid schools?

NAFIS has a website ( and a Facebook page where we post advocacy activities and action alerts. You can donate to the Federally Impacted Schools Educational Foundation, which provides workshops and training to school personnel. NAFIS also works with the Committee for Education Funding, a broad coalition of educational groups (

What else makes you lovable outside of your regular work?

I love cooking, cheering on New England sports teams, and seeing shows at local theatres in DC and Northern Virginia. Because of my Armenian heritage, I also enjoy discussing Armenian history and culture.

Top 5 Presidential Campaign Ads since 1984

Friday, February 10th, 2012 by Vbhotla

While Super Bowl news usually fills the front page and sports section, rarely does it reach the political pages. This year, the superbly done Clint Eastwood ad for Chrysler did just that. “It’s Halftime in America” might be the best political ad that isn’t really a political ad at all. To find out, Lobbyblog constructed a list of the top 5 Presidential Campaign Ads since 1984.

5. 1988 – “Willie Horton” – One of two H.W. Bush ads to make the list, Willie Horton is something that belongs in any 80’s political time capsule, right next to a picture of Gary Hart and the “Monkey Business.” Very contemporary, it perfectly meshed with crime spikes of the 80’s and the public fears that came with them, which everyone at the time knew was entirely due to liberals. However, what really gave the ad staying power was how controversial and racially charged it was (and the fact that it got a second life when claims that it violated FEC laws were filed).

Use of controversial ads continues to this day (why not, Bush did win after all) with ads such as Jesse Helm’s (won) “Hands”, Corker’s (won) anti-Harold Ford Jr. ad, and Rep. Hoekstra’s (may win?) new “Spenditnow.” Aside from running the gauntlet of “kind of racist” to “did I just see that?!?” for the most part what bothers me is that unlike Willie Horton, they are really just poorly constructed campaign ads. However, the fact that we’re talking about them (Spenditnow has well over 1 million hits in less than a week) might just prove the saying there’s no bad press. NOTE: Of course it was never be mentioned in the ad, the furlong program that release Willie Horton was signed by a Republican governor of Mass, not Dukakis.

4. 1984 – “Morning in American” – When I saw the Clint Eastwood ad this past weekend, this ad was the first thing that went through my head. In my opinion, the brilliance of this one is that you can remove Reagan’s name and it would fit perfectly for a majority of politicians in almost any election. It is a great example of an ad that brands a candidate and creates positive emotions. While attack ads can help erode support for an opponent, they rarely motivate volunteer work on the ground outside of one or two groups that might be directly affected by the attack ad. Reagan, with his background in advertising, perfectly understood that a positive brand would (and did) translate into a very strong volunteer numbers. “Morning in America” was less about voting for Reagan and more about voting for an idea.

3. 2004 – “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth” – There were really three that I wanted to put here, this, Kerry Windsailing (hit home the flip-flopping) and Wolves (one of Online Blackjack the best last-minute ads and taken directly from Reagan’s successful “Bears in the woods”). However, this one won out for three reasons: it was incredibly successful for what it was aiming to do, it helped to launch a national debate on 527 Groups (a debate that we are currently having and will have for the rest of the year) and, most importantly, my editor made me pick it.

The Swift Boat ads (there were a series of commercials) was so successful it made it seem that one of Kerry’s strengths going into the election (his wartime service) was actually one of his liabilities. If Willie Horton shows how to use an ad to hit an opponent’s weakness, the Swift Boat series showed how to nullify one of their strengths.

2. 2008 – “Yes, we can” – The only Democratic commercial on the list, (I can’t tell if that is good or bad) I consider this the evolutionary “Morning in America,” another great example of voting for an idea over a candidate. The star-studded ad based upon President Obama’s New Hampshire primary speech, much like the campaign itself, became as much a cultural phenomenon as a political one. This kind of simplicity was an easy, positive message that was missing from previous Democratic candidates Gore and Kerry. “Yes, we can” and the culture that it created showed that a good, positive message can win a campaign much better than a negative one. So why isn’t it #1 on the list?

1. 1988 – “Dukakis in a Tank” – There is a centuries old saying in American politics, don’t get in a tank or land on an aircraft carrier unless you are sure you are going to look awesome while doing so. (ed- I’d stress the ridiculous helmet over the tank. Tanks are cool, comically big headwear isn’t) Candidates that don’t heed this advice can watch as their own media stunt is turned into an effective ad for their opponent; and it is times like that things can go horribly wrong. And when Dukakis got in a tank, things went horribly wrong. Things went so wrong that even 14 years later the cartoon Futurama was making jokes about the tank incident. Though often used as a punch line now, it is easy to forget that at one point Dukakis was ahead in the polls by as many as 20 points at one time. However, by the end of the race, his VP candidate Lloyd Bentsen had appeared more presidential, even receiving one of his Electoral College votes.

BONUS: 2008 – “Rock” – I dare anyone to watch this ad and “Fire” and not ask themselves “How is Mike Gravel NOT the president right now?”

What did you think of the list? Love it? Hate it? Confused? Let us know by e-mailing the writer here.

5 Best Amendments to STOCK that would have never happened

Friday, February 3rd, 2012 by Vbhotla

Last night S.2038, the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act of 2012 (better known as STOCK), passed the Senate in a 96-3 vote. Introduced by Sen. Lieberman (I –Conn.) just over a week ago on the heels of the State of the Union, STOCK will introduce new regulations on Members and select staff regarding the insider information they receive during the course of their jobs. As insiders expected before the amendments began, it also doubled as a referendum on the lobby industry.

Over 40 amendments were offered to the bill (and that was with the limited number set by Maj. Leader Reid), most dealing more with lobbying than insider trading by those on Capitol Hill. As usual with Congress there were some good/interesting ideas introduced and were promptly voted down. So, without further ado, here are the top 5 good ideas that didn’t make it in to STOCK (and were D.O.A. anyways):

5. SA. 1480 – Sen. Heller – No Budget, No Pay. Despite how hard I’ve tried to the contrary, like a lot of Americans I don’t get paid for not doing my job. The populist in me loves when I see bills or amendments like this that will “stick it to those fat cats in Washington.” This amendment would have stopped Member’s pay for as long as they didn’t pass a budget, which has become an increasingly common occurrence. The realist knows that the budget and Approps process isn’t really the fault of individual offices when these things don’t get passed. Additionally, not all Members are rich enough to work for free (though that seems to be quickly changing) but those that do have money would have the upper hand in negotiations because they would have the ability to hold out. That aside, the reason 1480 made the list was because I love the message it sends to people: “not even Congress thinks Congress will do Congress’s job.”

4. SA. 1472 – Sen. Toomey – Earmark Elimination. Ever notice how we always seem to keep talking about the same issues over and over again each year? Like the above, this is one of those things that comes up on the campaign trail when you say how you’re trying to change the system but the old guard won’t let you. For most Members, earmarks are kind of like the cool party. You don’t like them till you can get past the bouncer, but once you get through the door you don’t want to leave. And you sure aren’t about to let someone kick you out once you get in.

3. SA. 1474 – Sen. Coburn – Legislation online at least 72 hours before votes – Talk about the ultimate double edged sword. Everyone has had a situation where this would help out and another it would kill their issue. It doesn’t seem like expanding the timeframe would really help most offices out (it is already required to be online, just buried on the House Rules website), but it would help outside activists and organizations organize their groups for letters and calls. The insider in me thinks a good compromise here would be required the bills to be printed up in a short run with first-come-first-serve and online earlier, just make them harder for outside sources to find.

Interestingly, they set-up this amendment so that it can be ignored if either body has a 2/3 vote, which just shows how both bodies still want the ability to push things through in the middle of the night.

2. SA. 1473 – Sen. Coburn – Preventing Duplicative and overlapping government programs – I firmly believe that Coburn got robbed on this one, which actually did end up with 60 votes (though it required 66 under a technicality about changing Senate rules). I think what gets under online blackjack wiki people’s skin the most about Coburn (aside from, of course, his politics) is that in a very short time in the Senate he has acquired an incredibly good grasp of the rules and procedures. He’s not afraid to take on popular issues or projects, even those that would give dollars to his own state. And Lord knows he has no problems with being unpopular, either among his colleagues or the press, which I think he feeds off of at times.

Having said that, I really wish he would pick his fights better. I get that part of his “charm” is that he’ll always fight any fight that needs fighting, but would it kill him to be a little less contrarian sometimes? I felt like 1473 was kind of an example of his reputation coming back to haunt him. If he was a different senator, I feel like the 66 (Senate rule change needs aside) would have been waived and the amendment gone through. But his relationships with other senators didn’t afford him this generosity, and the requirement to require the 66 kind of felt like a “haha, back at you.” It gave people cover to vote for it while knowing it would never go anyplace. That it even got to 60 made it feel like a taunt.

For the record, I haven’t really heard a good counter-argument to the amendment, though I will admit cleaning up duplicate programs would take a large amount of time and effort when the Congressional Research Service has little to spare. In this election year where we are trying to watch government and spending, it just seems like bad politics to be against this. Maybe the solution is to just not introduce bills for things that are already working…

1. SA 1490 – Sen. Paul – To require former Members of Congress to forfeit Federal retirement benefits if they work as a lobbyist or engage in lobbying activities. I know the idea and similar ones have been floated before, but it seems like kind of a $1,000 solution to a million dollar question. If Members want to lobby, fine, but make them spend at least a minute considering the decision. As written, it is one of those bills that looks much better than would actually work out, and sounds better as a campaign line. Also, with the income an ex-member can make in the private sector, it also would have a muted impact on their bottom line.

If this was going to be more seriously considered, I would consider changing the threshold around a little bit. Maybe set a cap for how much you can receive through lobbying activities before you get kicked off the benefits. Also, do away with trying to pass waiting laws so that ex-Members can maximize their value if they do decide to go that way. Either way, this is a topic that should be brought up and discussed but any answer needs to be decided fairly, both for the public and the Members. It would never in a million years get passed by itself and I respect Paul for trying to ride this one, after all, you can only shoot what is in front of you. But it needs to be work-shopped before it has a chance of passing.

BONUS: SA.1493, Sen. Grassley, DID go through (with 60 votes) and requires the disclosure of “political intelligence activities.” I couldn’t have supported this amendment anymore wholeheartedly than I currently do. Anything that makes being a staffer or lobbyist sound more like something out of an Ian Fleming novel should always be a Congressional priority and being involved with something as shady as “political intelligence” (though the phrase itself might be an oxymoron) perfectly fits that bill.