Archive for March, 2013

A Brawl Brewing Over D.C. Food Trucks

Thursday, March 28th, 2013 by Geoffrey Lyons

LET THE LOBBYING commence in D.C., where administrators are proposing parking regulations that are distressing food truck vendors.  According to the Washington Post:

The regulations, which require D.C. Council approval to become law, offer a two-tiered system in which food trucks would still be allowed to sell from any legal parking space , as long as they follow the posted time limits. But truck operators would also be able to apply for a permit for a specially designated spot that would allow them to vend from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The city has also proposed “mobile roadway vending” zones in the more crowded areas. “The zones were offered as a way to alleviate congestion and prevent fights among vendors for prime parking spots.”  The best bite-size primer is offered by the Young & Hungry blog at Washington City Paper:

As a refresher: The proposed regulations call for 23 mobile vending zones throughout the city where limited numbers of food trucks would be allowed to sell food. Each zone would have a minimum of three parking spots; the cap is still unknown. A monthly lottery system would determine who got the spots for each weekday, and those who don’t win zoned locations would have to park at least 500 feet away from the zones. In the central business district, mobile vendors would also be limited to metered parking spots with less than 10 feet of unobstructed sidewalk.

So how will all of this affect mobile vendors?  It will render them immobile, and thereby obsolete.  At least that’s what Doug Povich, Chairman of the Food Truck Association, avers.  “You’ve effectively taken away our ability to roam and meet demand,” said Povich “You’ve effectively turned us into stationary roadway vendors.”  The D.C. Food Truck Association’s homepage blares, “Proposed Food Truck Regulations Would Make Food Trucks Illegal in Most of Downtown.”

The blame is flatly laid upon the District’s restaurant association, which the vendors believe wants to “flatten the tires of these “mobile interlopers” [who are] stealing their customers and cluttering their sidewalks.”  (The Washington Examiner calls the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington the food truck vendor’s “natural foe.”)

Since the D.C. Council cannot amend the proposed rules, those who fear for their business have no option but to lobby for a ‘No’ vote.  A map of would-be affected zones can be found here.

Amy Showalter: The One Thing You Aren’t (But Should Be) Thinking About When Hiring a Lobbyist

Monday, March 25th, 2013 by Geoffrey Lyons

Amy Showalter is an author and grassroots and PAC influence expert who founded The Showalter Group to help associations and corporations increase their grassroots and PAC effectiveness.  Her blog, Politicking the Bottom Line is published on

A REFRESHING ARTICLE in the January 25 issue of CEO Update entitled “Some Lobbyists Chart a Different Course to Career Success” explores whether one can have a career in lobbying without “doing time” on the Hill. The article profiles various lobbyists who did not have prior Hill experience before becoming lobbying professionals, all of whom are obtaining results for their organizations without doing harm to the environment, kittens, or young children.

Yet it remains conventional wisdom that a lack of Hill experience is an instant blight on a lobbying candidate’s credentials. This sort of belief overlooks more important candidate characteristics, one of which I uncovered in a proprietary research project.

Why the “K Street Project” was a dumb idea

Remember former Congressman Tom Delay’s “K Street Project?” It was a campaign to “encourage” K Street firms to hire former GOP congressional staffers. Delay wanted the Republican team to have jobs with companies and organizations whose issues aligned with the GOP. But if the purpose of hiring a lobbyist is to persuade people who disagree with you, then the K St. project was misguided from the start. It ignored a key element of persuasion, which is the principle of similarity.

Dr. Kelton Rhoads and my colleague from USC’s Annenberg School for Communications and I conducted research several years ago  to determine the factors that change a legislator’s mind on an issue. We asked the respondents to include examples from a winning effort (the targeted legislator changed his or her mind) and a losing one, and found that the more similar a lobbyist is to the opposed or undecided legislator, the more likely that lawmaker is to change his or her mind. In fact, similarity was one of the top five factors that successfully changed a legislator’s mind. If only Tom Delay knew that…

High-Priority Persuasion Requires Different Tactics

When an organization that leans right hires lobbyists who lean right (which was exactly the strategy of the K Street Project) there is a political soul mate match. But for high priority persuasion, the decision should be based less on the organization’s philosophical match and more on a match with the opposed or undecided lawmakers.

Depending on what’s at stake, you should consider hiring lobbyists who, regardless of Hill experience, share the value system and philosophy of your high-priority influence targets. Many organizations take care of this through contracting with outside firms that have a stable of bi-partisan experts. But hiring in-house those who typically have a different perspective sends a very different message. The commitment level is different because you are making more of a long term decision to win your opponent over.

You need someone who can flip the predictable opponent. A major piece of that puzzle is acquiring someone who has a shared value system with those you are trying to persuade.

Think about it. Otherwise, you’re leaving a major influence tool in the tool box.

POLITICO on Why K St. = (R) St.

Friday, March 22nd, 2013 by Geoffrey Lyons

THIS MORNING, POLITICO’S Anna Palmer and Elizabeth Titus published an article entitled “Why Republicans still run K Street.”  In about 1,400 words, they offer eleven possibilities:

  1. K St. bet red in 2012 – “Some companies bet that Republicans would take back the Senate and the White House in 2012, beginning the process of scooping up talent months ahead of the election.”
  2. K St. is plain bias – “’There seems to be a philosophical and political bias against Democrats,’ McCormick Group’s Ivan Adler said.”
  3. K St. bet red in 2012 AND K St. is plain bias – “The bias toward hiring Republicans was on display over the past two years when corporations and trade groups continued to bet on Romney and Republican chances of taking back the Senate when making hiring decisions and in choosing to retain their top GOP talent.”
  4. There’s a shortage of Dems – “There are also fewer Democrats coming off the Hill or out of the White House who want to pursue corporate lobbying.”
  5. Republicans = business (1 of 2) – “The business world tends to hire more Republicans, anyway, since their beliefs align more closely with those of corporate clients, and potential Republican hires tend to have more corporate experience or a proven record leading an association or in-house team.”
  6. Republicans = business (2 of 2) -“Former Rep. Billy Tauzin told POLITICO that Republicans may dominate downtown ‘because most associations are business groups, which have, generally speaking, a closer association with the Republican Party.’”
  7. Tom DeLay – “[AKA the] K Street Project, in which then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) helped lead an effort to install Republicans in many of the top trade associations.”
  8. K St. hires Dems, just not for No. 1 roles – “Many Democrats are hired instead to be the No. 2 lobbyist in the shop, giving associations and companies plenty of political cover on Capitol Hill.”
  9. K St. is dominated by Republican issues – “There are also many industries — such as oil, financial services and health care — that a significant number of Democrats are unwilling to represent.”
  10. Administration officials are loath to lobby – “Democrats leaving the Obama White House have also been more reluctant than previous administrations of either party to join the influence-peddling ranks.”
  11. Powerful friends happen to be Republican – “Veteran Republican Frank Fahrenkopf said personal relationships and the scope of each group’s work matter more than partisan affiliation.”

Brief Profile of the Super PAC of Super PACs

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013 by Geoffrey Lyons

RESTORE OUR FUTURE, the largest Super PAC to date, is the fundraising behemoth that was behind the Romney campaign.  Its millions buttressed the ad blitz that arrested Speaker Gingrich’s primary momentum.  Its donors have included millionaires, billionaires, federal contractors, and a phantom company that PAC, American Crossroads). A no less cogent designation has been applied to RoF’s very own Larry McCarthy, “attack ads’ go-to guy.”  McCarthy is none other than the man who created the paragon of attack ads, the 30-second Willie Horton broadcast  that knocked the wind out of Michael Dukakis.  Though the Horton bit remains matchless, McCarthy’s Iowa ads stirred just as much frustration in their target (Gingrich), and in the fact-checkers who bestowed them with four Pinocchios.

The Sunlight Foundation has a webpage called “Follow the Unlimited Money,” which reveals how RoF’s cash is spent. So far 90% of its expenditures have been piled on attack ads,  $89 million of which opposed Democrats and  $40 million of which opposed Republicans.  The remaining 10% went to positive ads for Republicans.  A Democrat has yet to receive a dime.

Rep. Berman to Join Covington

Thursday, March 14th, 2013 by Geoffrey Lyons

FORMER FIFTEEN-TERM Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), who lost his 2012 primary bid to fellow Democrat Brad Sherman, is joining Covington & Burling LLP as a lobbyist. The news comes a mere week after the firm picked up former Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), which compels one to ask, “who’s next??”

“Often dubbed half of the “Waxman-Berman machine” that dominated California politics for decades, Berman and longtime ally Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Los Angeles) are credited with bringing “Hollywood issues” like digital piracy to Washington.” – The Washington Post

“Although Kyl and Berman served in different parties and chambers, both said they have established a good working relationship over the years….Berman and Kyl were hired months after the firm brought on Dan Bryant, former senior vice president of global public policy and government affairs at PepsiCo, to lead its public policy practice in Washington and Brussels.” – POLITICO

House of Cards: Fact or Fiction?

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013 by Geoffrey Lyons

DESPITE PROFUSE PLEAS from friends and family, your humble blogger hasn’t seen House of Cards. According to Roll Call, that amounts to repeated missed opportunities to catch a glimpse of Cassidy & Associates’ G St. facade. According to The Economist, it means passing up scenes of politicians:

…lying, leaking secrets to lobbyists, framing rivals, indulging in fistfights (one in front of wide-eyed children) and snorting cocaine, as well as sleeping with prostitutes, their own staff and a story-hungry reporter.

While the Cassidy building’s existence is undisputed, it’s dubious whether any lawmakers are snorting coke. So what’s the veracity of the show?

It’s pretty accurate…

“Honestly, the egos and the quest and thirst for power is very prevalent in Washington…just the drive, you know, the drive to the next position or the drive for the position of power” Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.)

“The accuracy of the props—from congressional doorplates to visitors’ badges—is much discussed, and praised.” – The Economist

“…after the first couple of shows, [Underwood’s] office starts looking like my office. I have this big map, right, sitting in there. I look over on the wall, he’s got that whip sitting up there….Then in the ninth episode, he’s trying to pass this bill, and he says, ‘I’m going to tell you one thing: You vote your district, you vote your conscience. Just don’t surprise me.’ [I said that.]” Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) 

“It’s like evil ‘West Wing.’ And some of the shadier parts are so realistic.” – GOP strategist Amy Thoma

It’s fantasy…

“In real life, says a Democratic campaign aide, members of Congress are too nannied by staff to stride about hatching plots, one-on-one. In the real Washington, says a Republican staffer, leadership coups take longer to ferment….Other errors fall under the heading of flattery: the clothes are too elegant for DC, and the ratio of sexual trysts to committee meetings is strikingly high.” – The Economist

“The notion of any of our leadership team having sex with a reporter makes me laugh out loud.  And besides, everyone knows there is no decent barbecue in Washington.” – Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.)

“[The characters] do mix fundraising and legislation far more than people would do…offering x dollars to anyone who would support this bill.  That would never occur in real life.” – Thoma

“If I were to make one criticism of the show, it’s [that] a South Carolina congressman’s barbecue of choice appears to be fairly sticky ribs, when true South Carolina barbecue uses a mustard-based sauce and even when it’s not that, it’s a more North Carolina vinegar mop.” –  Mike BoberMeat Week founder and Capital Spice blogger

Keystone Part Deux

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013 by Geoffrey Lyons

KEYSTONE XL IS reemerging as a central environmental issue after the State Department released a Draft Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement (DSEIS) last Friday.  Environmentalists are “fuming”  and green groups  “reeling” at the Department’s findings.  According to The Hill:

Opponents of Keystone are furious at State’s environmental assessment of the project, which brushed aside  one of their central arguments against it: namely, that it would exacerbate clime change by expanding the use of oil sands.

It can easily be expected that Keystone advocates and opponents alike will shower more money on the issue as a direct result of the report, the former feeding their momentum and the latter doing all in their power to starve it.  Here are last year’s numbers, from CRP:

Oil and Gas Lobbying in 2012

Royal Dutch Shell $14,480,000
Exxon Mobil $12,970,000
Koch Industries $10,540,000
Chevron Corp $9,550,000
BP $8,590,000


Environmental Lobbying in 2012

Environmental Defense Fund


Nature Conservancy


BlueGreen Alliance


Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund


Defenders of Wildlife



Heard in D.C.: McCutcheon, et al. v. FEC

Monday, March 4th, 2013 by Geoffrey Lyons

WHEN  NOT DISCUSSING Bob Woodward, some in the beltway have entertained how a ruling for the plaintiffs in McCutcheon, et al. v. FEC (see last post) would affect campaign finance.  Paradoxically, lobbyists have premonitions about such a scenario, hinting that it would erode rather than enhance their leverage.  Here’s a flavor of some of the early chatter:

“I like the limit because it gives me an excuse not to give more. If there was no limit, I would give more. Not $100,000 more, but more like $40,000 or $50,000 more.” – Republican lobbyist (The Hill)

“The ceiling is helpful to fend off entreaties from candidates who need more money. If the limits were invalidated, it could create a real problem….I had a friend who would max out very early in the cycle — give away all his money in the first two months — so he could say, ‘you’re too late,’ to the candidates.” – Tony Podesta, Founder & Chairman of Podesta Group (The Hill)

“If the limit is eliminated, I think you will see a proliferation of joint fundraising committees. The members who are good fundraisers and politically savvy will offer their less successful colleagues a chance to tap the ‘star power’ and reach into the lead member’s donor base.” -Pat Raffaniello, a principal in Raffaniello & Associates (The Hill)

“And because lobbyists do tend to support parties, getting rid of the cap could give political parties more power to compete with super PACs, which can accept unlimited corporate contributions. Without an overall spending cap, in theory any donor could give the maximum permissible $32,400 to a number of parties or even max out to every congressional or presidential candidate.” – Janie Boschma (OpenSecrets blog)

“In a rational universe, candidates and political parties would be more central to our system. They are the most accountable and the most transparent. The candidate is the one going into office, not the super PAC.” – Jim Bopp Jr., conservative lawyer and plaintiff. (The Washington Post)

“[I]f the court changes the standard of review to a stricter review for contribution limits, it could have a ripple effect and ultimately threaten the constitutionality of other limits, like the $2,600 individual limit.” – Rick Hasen, Chancellor’s Professor of Law and Political Science, the University of California, Irvine (Campaigns & Elections)

“Dismantling the federal limit also could cast into doubt on state laws around the country. In New York, for instance, an individual cannot contribute more than $150,000 to candidates and political committees in the Empire State.” Fredreka Schouten (USA TODAY)