Archive for April, 2013

Assessing the Q1 Slump

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013 by Geoffrey Lyons

IT’S DIFFICULT TO say whether last week’s lackluster first quarter numbers are indicative of a general demise in lobbying activity.  Insiders are providing the press with abundant reasons to eschew the data, among these the assertion that Congress is nursing a hangover from the fiscal cliff, and that lobbying traditionally picks up in springtime.

Perhaps.  These arguments, though seductive, will only be well-founded if Q2 numbers reveal a dramatic rebound.  Some are certain this will happen.  Rich Gold of Holland & Knight told The Hill that “the second quarter is when it’s going to hit.”  He told The Washington Post that “a lot of hiring occurred in March, so you’re not collecting the dollars until the second quarter.”  And The Post itself followed up with this argument: “The true test for firms may come in the second quarter, after companies and associations have a chance to review new legislation and take positions on which portions of it they want to oppose or support.”

Until then, however (Q2 ends in two months), the numbers remain strikingly low.  Even compared to other first quarters (see graph), the last few months were a pitiful showing.  Finally, the argument (articulated by one prominent lobbyist) that the opening of a new Congress is the most likely cause for this kind of slump simply doesn’t hold water.  At the start of the 111th and 112th Congresses, the top ten lobbying firms spent over 1.5 times as much as they did this time around.

Q1Spending

First Glimpse at 2013 Expenditures

Thursday, April 25th, 2013 by Geoffrey Lyons

FIRST QUARTER LOBBYING disclosure was due Monday. Here are some of the highlights:

Facebook spent $2.4 million for lobbying in Q1 2013, $1 million more than it spent in Q1 2012, and over $1 million more than it spent in all of 2011.

The NRA spent about $800,000 in the first quarter, over $100,000 more than it did in Q1 2012. OpenSecrets blog calls this slight uptick in spending “surprisingly little” given the intensity of the lobby’s rhetoric after Sandy Hook.

The most targeted issue for lobbying spending was (surprise) pharmaceuticals, where over $22 million was spent.  Merck & Co Inc bested the rest of the industry by spending $4 million, roughly what Phrma spent in Q4 2012.  This time around, Phrma spent a relatively meager $1 million.

Here are the top ten spending firms in 2013 so far:

PATTON BOGGS LLP

$7,712,500

AKIN GUMP STRAUSS HAUER & FELD LLP

$5,382,500

HOLLAND & KNIGHT LLP*

$4,195,000

VAN SCOYOC ASSOC INC

$3,767,500

BGR HOLDING LLC 

$3,422,500

CASSIDY & ASSOCIATES INC 

$2,997,500

ERNST & YOUNG LLP (WASHINGTON COUNCIL ERNST & YOUNG)       

$2,930,000

CORNERSTONE GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS LLC 

$2,787,500

BREAUX LOTT LEADERSHIP GROUP 

$2,632,500

FIERCE ISAKOWITZ & BLALOCK 

$2,542,500

*bold = firm jumped in rankings from previous quarter

On the Latest Political Intelligence Scandal

Thursday, April 18th, 2013 by Geoffrey Lyons

LOBBYIST MARK HAYES, a hired gun for the health insurance company Humana and former aide to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), is at the center of an insider trading scandal and preliminary probe by the SEC. The Wall Street Journal broke the story Wednesday:

His [Hayes's] email to Washington investment-research firm Height Securities, alerting it to a government decision that will save the industry billions of dollars, was a final piece of confirmation Height received before blasting a news alert to its clients, according to emails and people familiar with the matter.

The government decision, made by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and not yet public at the time of Hayes’s email, reversed earlier plans to reduce Medicare Advantage payments, a big surprise to the industry.  As The Hill explains, “the case has prompted criticism of political intelligence firms, which can easily trigger movement in the stock market using insider information but are not required to register or publicly disclose their lobbying work.”

Mike Mayhew, Chairman of Integrity Research Associates, contributed to this criticism: “I don’t believe that the political intelligence and policy research industry has done a very good job of policing itself. Part of that is that it’s a gray area, so they don’t know how to police themselves.”

So did Larry Doyle, blogger for Daily Markets:

[T]rade and activity of this sort falls under the heading of trading based on “political intelligence” emanating from Washington. The STOCK Act, heretofore known as The MOLDED SWISS CHEESE Act, does not directly address this stench….Financial reform? Yeah, right!!

Perhaps the most interesting twist to the story, as the reporters at POLITICO Pro pointed out, is that Sen. Grassley began his own investigation on the leak before realizing that his former aide was involved:

Pro’s Jason Millman has an amazing story about what happened when Chuck Grassley went looking for the source of a leak of sensitive details on Medicare Advantage payment rates — and seemed to be zeroing in on a former aide. In a letter, Grassley asked whether a lobbyist at Greenberg Traurig tipped off Height Securities, a political intelligence firm, about a soon-to-be-announced increase in Medicare Advantage rates. The Wall Street Journal identified the aide as Mark Hayes, a long-time senior aide to Grassley on health policy and Medicare.

 

Lobbyist Registration Meter

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013 by Geoffrey Lyons


Lobbying at a Glance

Friday, April 12th, 2013 by Geoffrey Lyons

JACK ABRAMOFF  penned an advice column in Businessweek titled “How to Get Your Perk Into a Bill.” “In most cases,” he argues, “you won’t worry about members of Congress who are opposed to you. If you do your job right, they’ll only find out about it once it’s already the law.”

Mark Zuckerberg hired a couple of lobbyists for his new advocacy group. “Zuckerberg is teaming with other Silicon Valley execs like Joe Green to start the group, which is expected to broadly focus on economic issues like immigration and education reform.” The lobbyists were picked up from Fierce, Isakowitz & Blalock and Peck, Madigan, Jones & Stewart.

From The Hill: “The beer giant Anheuser-Busch Companies Inc. has added lobbying help as it tries to acquire the producer of Corona and other popular beer brands.” See an earlier LobbyBlog post “Beer Industry Infighting Returns to Congress.”

“I’ve decided not to be the model penitent for your unconstitutional tribunal,” said a gun lobbyist in Colorado before walking out of an ethics investigation exploring whether he violated a rule against intimidating legislators. “Neville [the lobbyist] was escorted from the capitol that day and Gerou [Rep. Cheri Gerou, a Republican legislator] filed an ethics complaint against him, alleging that his mention of sending mailers to her constituents violated an ethics rule — Rule 36 — against attempting to intimidate or influence legislators.”

On a humorous note, Dog the Bounty Hunter lobbied the Oklahoma legislature for tougher bail enforcement. “The state Senate took the occasion to pass a resolution honoring the 27-year bounty hunter and former bail bondsman. Presumably, lawmakers were scared not to do so”

Introducing “The State Lobbying Compliance Handbook”

Thursday, April 4th, 2013 by Geoffrey Lyons

In mid-January, this blog announced that a new publication called The State Lobbying Compliance Handbook would be available for pre-order.  The motivation for the project was described as follows:

Until now, there have only been feeble attempts to conglomerate the disparate and contradictory elements of state lobby law. Yet the appetite for such a project has grown in recent years. Post-recession stimulus provoked a clamoring for clout in state legislatures and governors’ offices. Washington gridlock has driven many to look elsewhere.  State and local government affairs operations have sprung up to compete with their federal counterparts….The State Lobbying Compliance Handbook, published by Columbia Books in collaboration with Holtzman Vogel Josefiak PLLC, is a deliverance from these woes.

Now the book is fresh off the press and ready for delivery.  For customer convenience, we’ve even included a sample of the content on our order page.  This is a highly recommended resource that is well on its way to becoming an indispensable guide for anyone with a stake in state lobbying.  Don’t miss out!

Beer Industry Infighting Returns to Congress

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013 by Geoffrey Lyons

POLITICO AND THE HILL have recently reported on the Small Brewer Reinvestment and Expanding Workforce Act (Small BREW), and how it is becoming the focal point of an advocacy battle between big-name beers and their smaller counterparts. POLITICO notes that “the Craft Brewers Association sent 243 of its members to Capitol Hill this week to lobby [for the bill...]” which, according to OpenSecrets, the association’s leader (Bob Pease) is calling “the biggest-ever lobby day — setting up meetings for 250 brewery owners with 90 Senate and 250 House offices.”

The aim of Small BREW, which has just recently been revived after its introduction in 2011,  is to “amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide for a reduced rate of excise tax on beer produced domestically by certain small producers.”  “If enacted,” according to the Hill:

…the Small BREW Act would cut the federal excise tax on beer from $7 a barrel to $3.50, which is placed on a small brewer’s first 60,000 barrels produced per year. After that initial 60,000 barrels, small brewers must pay $18 per barrel, which would be lowered to $16 under the bill.

The Beer Institute, whose members include corporate mammoths like Heineken USA, MillerCoors, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., and Anheuser-Busch, is opposed to the bill on the grounds that it divides the industry.  It instead supports an alternative measure – the Brewer’s Employment and Excise Relief (BEER) Act – which would lower excise taxes on all brewers, not just the small ones.  But whereas The Beer Institute will “actively oppose” Small BREW, the Brewers Association supports both bills.  It just prefers its own.