Archive for December, 2012
Thursday, December 27th, 2012 by Geoffrey Lyons
FORMER SENATOR Bob Bennet (R-Utah) will return to Washington as a lobbyist, ending what he calls a “let's-punish-politicians-for-being-politicians” cool-off period. The Examiner’s Tim Carney shared a few words on Bennet's appeal to the first amendment for the right to lobby.
Georgia will begin 2013 with a $100 gift cap.
The Maryland Ethics Commission released its list of top-paid lobbyists.
A petition to deport CNN's Piers Morgan “for attacking [the] 2nd amendment,” made the White House petition page, and has since (as of this posting) garnered over 82,000 signatures. A less successful counter-petition aims to keep Morgan in the U.S., partly “to see how loads of angry Americans react.”
Congressman elect Joe Kennedy III (D-Mass.) has become a “how to get your ex back
184800091.html”>Congressional Friend” of the Irish National Caucus. His soon-to-be predecessor, outgoing Online Pokies Congressman Barney Frank, has been sitting for numerous exit interviews. In this one, Frank is asked “what grade do you give yourself? 1-10?” His reply: “I give myself a 10 for being smart enough not to answer that question.”
According to The Atlantic, lobbyists should expect incoming Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), who is replacing the late Daniel Inoyue, “…to be a consistent liberal in a reliably Democratic state. He supported a 2009 bill to legalize civil unions that was vetoed by then-Gov. Linda Lingle. In keeping with his work in saving beaches, he's also emphasized environmental concerns and served on energy- and environment-related committees in the Hawaii House.”
Looming over all of this is the fiscal cliff. The Wall Street Journal's fiscal cliff graphics page makes an otherwise tiresome and complicated subject intelligible. (Also see the Nov. 30 LobbyBlog).
Tags: bennet, bob bennet, brian schatz, congressional friend, daniel inoyue, fiscal cliff, Georgia, gift cap, gifts, irish national caucus, joe kennedy, joe kennedy iii, k st., lobby, Lobbying, lobbyist, petition, Piers Morgan, senator, the atlantic, the examiner, tim carney, washington
Posted in Lobbying News | Comments Off on Lobbying at a Glance
Tuesday, December 18th, 2012 by Geoffrey Lyons
AS A SWELLING chorus of voices rises in support of stricter gun laws, it’s helpful to know what it’s up against. The pro-gun lobby in Washington has spent over $15 million in lobbying expenditures since 2010, which dwarfs the anti-gun lobby by a degree of 22. In other words, the pro-gun lobby is 2200% the strength of the anti-gun lobby, and can spit out 66-years-worth of anti-gun lobby expenditures in just three years. (These terms, pro-gun and anti-gun, are used for brevity’s sake and should not betray any bias on the part of your humble blogger).
But better predictors of how vigorously these lobbies will spend in the wake of last week’s tragedy are in the numbers from 1999 and 2007, the years of the Columbine and Virginia Tech shootings respectively. In 1999, the pro-gun lobby spent just over $8 million (in current dollars), which is about 150% the amount it spent in 2010. In the same year, the anti-gun lobby spent roughly $1.2 milli
on, which is over 400% its 2010 number.
In 2007, however, the pro-gun lobby spent only (if that’s the word) $4.4 million, while the anti-gun lobby put in $217,405: both well under 2010 expenditures. The difference in spending between the two years can be rooted in a variety of factors – Columbine arguably kindled a more vehement public response than Virginia Tech; Republicans controlled Congress in ’99 whereas Democrats had it in ’07 – none free from the charge of speculation.
There thus remain only two unequivocal patterns that can be expected to persist: the pro-gun lobby’s consistent outspending of its rival, and the NRA’s inordinate contribution to this phenomenon. Besides this, anything can happen.
Data are from the Center for Responsive Politics and the much-needed guidance of a four-function calculator. See also POLITICO's recent assessment of the gun-rights lobby.
Tags: anti-gun, columbine, gun activists, gun control, gun laws, gun rights, guns, k st., lobby, Lobbying, lobbyist, newtown, NRA, politico, pro-gun, virginia tech
Posted in Lobbying News | Comments Off on What to Expect from the Gun Lobbies
Thursday, December 13th, 2012 by Geoffrey Lyons
“FISCAL” AND “CLIFF” may be the two most common words in Washington today behind “and” and “the,” “the” being most frequently used to furnish “the fiscal cliff.” Yet one has to plow through a lot of weeds to discover the context in which they are used or alluded to by top lobbying firms (googling “fiscal cliff” sure doesn't help). Here I've done just that:
Patton Boggs –In November, Patton Boggs released a post-election forecast of what to expect in the months and year to come. From the report: “Many Senators and Representatives recognize the irony that the best way to prevent going over the fiscal cliff this year is to cut a deal that merely creates a bigger cliff that would arrive in another six or twelve months. But doing so would at least keep us at the precipice.”
Akin, Gump – Arshi Siddiqui, a partner at Akin Gump and former aide to Nanci Pelosi, expressed some optimism in a November National Journal article: “I was happy about the rhetoric from the last meeting. Everyone realized that they needed a nice tone, and the markets responded nicely. There will be lots of up and downs before we get to a successful resolution.” By contrast, these meetings were described in the author’s terms as “Kumbaya rhetoric,” resembling “a stand-off in an old black-and-white Western movie, with two cowboys looking for the other to make the first move.”
Podesta Group – In a recent Politico article, Tony Podesta, Founder and Chairman of Podesta Group, alluded to the business opportunities the cliff presents: “This is a once in a generation opportunity to reform the tax code. Companies I would imagine will put in extra resources. There will be plenty of opportunities.”
Holland & Knight – In the same vein (a
nd in fact the same article) Rich Gold, Partner at Holland & Knight, said “it's springtime in Washington in January”—a rather candid allusion to the gains lobbying firms stand to make by year’s end.
Van Scoyoc – Jeffrey Trinca, vice president of Van Scoyoc Associates, offers a unique perspective on the cliff as a longtime Senate tax counsel. In a November Government Executive article about the administrative complications a delayed tax deal would bring to the IRS, Trinca said that “Congress is adding to the risk at IRS during the filing season.” (Now quoting from the article…) “In the “good old days,” he said, Congress would finalize tax changes by the end of November or earlier, and IRS would make the necessary program changes in its computer systems. At the end of November, officials would say “no more” and, barring new legislation, they would “pause everything and focus on load testing,” Trinca said.”
Alston & Bird – Earl Pomeroy, former North Dakota Congressman and current Senior Counsel at Alston & Bird, deems Boehner the central figure in talks: “He has got one whale of a situation on his hands.”
U.S. Chamber – Not a lobby firm but certainly a lobby spender. President and CEO of the Chamber, Tom Donahue, had this to say in an op-ed entitled “America’s Looming Fiscal Cliff”: “We must adopt a fairer, simpler tax system that lowers marginal rates, encourages economic growth, promotes competitiveness and eases compliance. We must make sensible changes to Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and other mandatory spending programs, which make up nearly 60 percent of our budget. Reforming entitlements is essential not just to our nation’s long-term fiscal health but to the future of the programs themselves. We must reform them to keep them solvent for other generations.”
Tags: akin gump, alston & bird, jeffrey trinca, k st., lobby, lobby firm, Lobbying, lobbying firm, lobbyist, Patton Boggs, podest, Podesta Group, politico, tom donahue, Tony Podesta, U.S. Chamber, van scoyoc associates, van scyoc
Posted in Lobbying News | Comments Off on Top Lobby Firms on Fiscal Cliff
Tuesday, December 11th, 2012 by Geoffrey Lyons
A RECENT article for Global Research attributes (albeit cynically) the success of Syrian rebels to “clicktivist” website Avaaz.org:
Avaaz has become so influential that they were involved in disseminating propaganda with the proxy war in Syria. In fact, Avaaz has been supportive of the manufactured uprising in Syria that has made the Free Syrian Army (FSA) so successful.
Statements like this tempt one to place Avaaz and its kin – YouGov, change.org, MoveOn.org – into the same fraternity as Facebook, Amazon, YouTube, and Twitter—sites often called “revolutionary.”
But does such a site exist for lobbying?
“Absolutely,” says Marci Harris, CEO and co-founder of POPVOX, a site committed to “solving the problem of communication with Congress.”
POPVOX – derived from the Latin phrase vox populi, or “voice of the people” – provides an online venue for citizens to voice their opinions to Congress. As an alternative to constituent letters and phone calls, which today do little more than exasperate congressional offices and occupy their interns, POPVOX aims to become the standard tool by which congressmen “measure the pulse of their district.”
Though this may be worrisome for lobbyists, Harris is quick to temper the implication that they would be usurped by her site. “There is a sea change,” said Harris in a November Washington Post article, “[but] it doesn't mean professional lobbyists are obsolete. It’s about a different kind of public involvement in policy-making that technology makes possible.”
LobbyBlog recently caught up with Harris to ask a few questions…
LobbyBlog (LB): The [Post] article mentions how the 2011 Mobile Informational Call Act was halted by activists who opposed the measure through POPVOX. Have there been similar cases since?
POPVOX CEO Marci Harris (MH): The Mobile Informational Call Act was one of the more clear-cut cases. I think the real story is less about POPVOX being the sole reason for a particular effect, but rather the activity on POPVOX serving as a transparent proxy for the overall advocacy on an issue. Some other examples are:
You can even look at the 15,000+ people who sent a message to Congress on The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). While there were countless ways that people contacted Congress on that issue, no other platform allowed you to see comments for and against, and how they broke down by Congressional district. Certainly no other platform allowed that data to be compared and contrasted with advocacy for other bills to see how it stacked up. That information will be archived once this Congress ends, and can be referenced by academics or the media for years to come as we finally have the data to study advocacy patterns (and maybe even the actual effect of that advocacy on outcomes).
For bills that are pending at the moment, I would point to the sentiment coming in on both the how to get your ex back
m/bills/us/112/s3412/report#nation” target=”_blank”>MiIddle Class Tax Cut Act, and the Violence Against Women Reauthorization.
For all of these cases, POPVOX is obviously not the only source, but it serves as the only neutral, transparent proxy.
LB: You’ve mentioned that you don’t think professional lobbyists are obsolete, but do you foresee a day when they will be? And is this a good thing?
MH: No, I don't see a day when professional lobbyists will be obsolete, at least in the near future. Digging into legislative details and procedure is very hard work. I think some of the more clichéd tactics of traditional lobbyists are becoming obsolete – technology and gift rules are a big part of that – but that leaves the true “in-the-weeds” legislative work that is most valuable.
The lobbying industry needs a re-branding and it probably should start with that word. DC legend has it that the word “lobbying” comes from those hanging out in the lobby of the Willard hotel back in the time of President Grant. You can't paint a more insular picture than that. Apparently that story is not actually true and the actual origin of the term refers to the lobbies in the House of Commons where constituents could go talk with their representative. Technology is providing a virtual version of the latter sense, the original “lobby,” and it's a good thing.
As for the lobbyists of today, their functions in the truest sense is to understand what is going on, explain it to their clients, and explain their clients' positions to Congress and congressional staff. They provide information: research, institutional memory, and relationships. That will always be valuable. Now, information and relationships are moving online in most areas of our lives, so I don't think it is a stretch to assume the same will be true with lobbying.
In lobbying (and everything else), I strongly believe that any business model based on closed access or asymmetric information is probably not very sustainable in the long-run.
LB: How can today’s lobbyists adjust to the technological changes affecting their work?
MH: It's a great question, and one that people in every industry are asking. I think there will always be early adopters who set a pace for others to follow, and this blog does a great job of keeping people informed about what's out there.
I think one of the most important things lobbyists can do is form a relationship with their grassroots/web/outreach team. The “kids” (who are not all kids) handling online outreach were at first resigned to basements or closets or cubby holes and unappreciated by their organizations. Electoral campaigns have finally figured out that the grassroots teams not only deserve a seat at the adult table, but that they can also be the key to a winning strategy. The same is true for advocacy campaigns. This is a new world. Lobbyists need to understand that their relationships may go back thirty years and they may be able to cite chapter and verse of parliamentary rules, but without a way to make their case to Members' constituents (and demonstrate to Congress and the media that the case has resonated), all bets are off.
LB: Here’s a quote from the Post article: “In July, House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) announced that House Democrats would begin using POPVOX to feed into the official intranet for House Democratic staff” …Have Republicans come on board with POPVOX?
MH: POPVOX delivers messages to every Congressional office, regardless of party, with 100% delivery guarantee. There is no need for Congress to “adopt” POPVOX. The House Dems have opted to receive POPVOX information in an additional way, through APIs that feed directly into their staff intranet, DemCom. This means that any Democratic staffer researching a bill on DemCom will see the POPVOX pie chart, heat map, and a list of the organizations signed up through POPVOX to endorse or oppose the bill. We have shared those APIs with all caucuses (House and Senate). We've gotten a tremendously warm response on the Hill from both sides of the aisle, not just to our APIs, but to our mission of working to make constituent input come into offices in the most easy-to-process way possible.
For more on POPVOX, visit www.popvox.com.
Tags: Marci Harris; popvox; lobby; lobbying; lobbyblog; lobbyist; online advocacy; the research works act; global research; vox populi; moveon.org; the washington post
Posted in Lobbying News | Comments Off on The ‘Vox’ of the People and the Vanguard of Lobby Technology
Wednesday, December 5th, 2012 by Geoffrey Lyons
EXAMINE THE FOLLOWING passage from this morning’s The Hill, which despite its verbiage is furnished with a simple truth about lobbying:
“[Wayne] Abernathy is one of a few lobbyists who are considered close to [Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas)], a former aide to ex-Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Texas) who has served five terms in the House. Lobbyists say several former Gramm aides who are now on K Street remain close to Hensarling.”
Translation: if you’re in with Phil, you’re in with Jeb, and therefore – considering the latter’s ascent to the chair of the House Committee on Financial Services – you’re in.
Lobbying is often blithely described as being “about who you know” (though it should be whom). But if it’s “about” anything, it may rather be whom they know. Though H
ouse Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) can be reached via his Chief of Staff, Alexis Covey-Brandt, a lobbyist might opt for a more kindred spirit in ex-Chief of Staff Cory Alexander, now Senior VP of Government Affairs for UnitedHealth Group. In another vein, someone once in business with ex-Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.) shouldn’t mourn a loss of influence. Her replacement is Rep. Ron Barber, who formerly served as her district director.
Gaining access to the circles in which a lawmaker walks is therefore aided by an understanding of their range. Some politicians may stay in touch with their bosses (Hensarling), some their staff (Hoyer). Some may pass the torch to a campaign director (Giffords), some their son (Bud Shuster, succeeded by Bill Shuster). If you know these things, and you leverage them correctly…you’re in.
Tags: alexis covey-brandt, bill shuster, bud shuster, gabby giffords, gramm, jeb hensarling, lobby, Lobbying, phil gramm, steny hoyer, the hill, united health, unitedhealth
Posted in Lobbying News | Comments Off on A Friend of a Friend is a Friend
Tuesday, December 4th, 2012 by Geoffrey Lyons
Meredith McGehee is the Policy Director of the Campaign Legal Center and principal of McGehee Strategies. She has been named five times by The Hill as one of the top nonprofit/grassroots lobbyists in Washington. McGehee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
IT'S A TRUISM that Members of Congress greatly depend on lobbyists for campaign fundraising. This is because lobbyists can do more than just give direct contributions: they can solicit the support of the entire company, industry, or organization they represent.
Until recently, this was a relatively coherent process. Lobbyists would help channel money to the right PACs, give advice to executives on individual contributions, and aid in managing bundling efforts. All of this was done under the fundraising restrictions imposed by the FEC, such as the $2,500 limit for individual candidates.
But things are different now, and $2,500 looks like chump change.
After the Citizens United
and SpeechNow.org court decisions, meaningful limits are gone. Members of Congress are still turning to lobbyists for campaign funds, but now the “ask” is for $10 million instead of $10,000. The pressure to deliver this money will only grow as Democrats begin to fully embrace Super PACs, which they originally shunned.
Also burdening lobbyists is the rise of “dark money” groups that aren't required to disclose their donors. Members of Congress see these as excellent avenues to get funding from a company or industry that they’d rather not associate with publicly.
Lobbyists at the center of the Washington money game will therefore be spending more time than ever figuring out how to respond to Member’s demands for money. So too will they be occupied trying to decipher who is behind the funds pouring in against their clients.
For the lobbyists who believe more in their powers of persuasion than their ability to solicit contributions, now is the time to speak up and support the American Bar Association's proposal to detach lobbying from fundraising.
Tags: campaign legal center, Citizens United, FEC, fundraising, Lobbying, lobbyist, meredith mcgehee, Speechnow.org v FEC, Super PAC, Super PACs
Posted in Lobbying News | Comments Off on Meredith McGehee: Lobbyists Shouldn’t Let Lax Fundraising Rules Complicate Their Work