Archive for August, 2013

LAST CHANCE: Nominations for Leading Association Lobbyist Close Monday

Friday, August 30th, 2013 by Geoffrey Lyons

ASSOCIATION TRENDS, another division of Columbia Books, will be accepting nominations for the TRENDS 2013 Leading Association Lobbyists through Monday, September 2nd. This distinction is meant for an on-staff lobbyist of an association that is eligible to lobby, or a lobbyist who is hired to represent an association, such as a member of a lobbying firm or an independent lobbyist.

Submit your nomination via email to Association TRENDS Managing Editor, Ed Dalere.  Nominations submitted after 11:59 PM on Monday, September 2nd will not be considered.

Click here for more details.

ACA Begets New Breed of Experts

Thursday, August 29th, 2013 by James Cameron

IT STANDS TO REASON that the most comprehensive healthcare reform in nearly 50 years comes with a lot of fine print and red tape. What lobbyists and lobbying firms are discovering is that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) also generates a lot of revenue.

The Hill reports that big lobbying firms are clamoring for Obamacare veterans. Many of K Street’s largest firms, including Akin Gump, Alston & Bird, and The Glover Park Group now have someone who was involved in the creation of ACA on their rosters, as do the lobbying wings of a number of major corporations.

Why are Obamacare insiders such a hot commodity? A law with the size and scope of ACA is subject to incredibly complex regulations and fine print, so having someone on staff who can explain that to clients is invaluable to firms. Additionally, much of the law is being implemented by the agencies, which are not subject to the same level of transparency as Congress. From The Hill:

 “Congress is easy to watch,” said Tim LaPira, a politics professor at James Madison University who researches the government affairs industry, “but agencies are harder to watch because their actions are often opaque.”

This is why, as The Hill notes, veterans of the Department of Health and Human Services are among the highest-paid Obamacare specialists.

But the industry experts aren’t the only ones reaping benefits from knowing the ins and outs of the act.  Law firms are also yielding gains by attracting clients from the multitude of industries that will be impacted by the law’s provisions. Although lobbying revenues have been on the decline in 2013, the influx of ACA specialists should help things improve.

Because the implementation of ACA is staggered, with some provisions going into effect immediately while others trigger in 2014 and beyond, it seems clear that ACA insiders will continue to enjoy a high demand for their services.  Whether they’ll be needed in three, four, ten years hence is more dubious.

AP Shines Light on Taxpayer Subsidized Lobbying

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013 by Geoffrey Lyons

AS IF THE lobbyist’s public image weren’t tarnished enough – a shortcoming of conventional belief that LobbyBlog opposes – the Associated Press has published a widely-circulated article that would make even the most accepting among us seethe.

According to the article, private sector lobbyists are receiving government pensions in 20 states.*  Stephen Acquario, the article’s opening example and a lobbyist for New York’s statehouse, earns over $200k (more than Governor Cuomo himself) yet is entitled to a full state pension.

Though it’s difficult to see any sense in this, it’s useful to understand the supporting argument.  Peter Baynes, Executive Director of the New York Conference of Mayors, who “makes $196,000 a year and gets a 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee,” supports this seemingly misguided scheme on the grounds that the lobbyists who benefit can have a positive impact in reducing the overall costs of state pension systems, implying that the pensions they receive eventually pay for themselves.

That is if they have a positive impact in reducing pension costs, which would be woefully difficult to quantify were it even true.  The more probable agenda for many of these lobbyists is actually to cut pensions and benefits received by other government workers, an approach Michael Kink of the Strong Economy for All Coalition calls “do as I say, not as I do,” and which may be more precisely branded as the quintessence of dishonesty.

There are two redeeming factors to this story, the first of which can be generally applied to any lamentable situation.  That is, it could be worse.  As AARP Blog notes, at least this isn’t Celeste Carpiano all over again (who?),

the executive director of the New Jersey Association of Counties, who — after retiring with a $99,000-a-year government pension and lifetime health, prescription and dental coverage and a one-time $53,221 credit for unused sick and vacation time — filed for unemployment benefits.

The other break in the clouds is in how states are responding.  Governor Christie (R-N.J.), perhaps the most vocal opponent of broken pension schemes, has recently signed an executive order creating a Pension Fraud and Abuse Unit.  According to the Governor’s office, “The Unit will recommend all civil and criminal remedies available under the law and petition the appropriate boards as needed for denial of a pension or disability application or revocation of an improperly granted benefit.” (Italics mine).

Despite Christie’s polarizing politics, that’s something all but the unrightful beneficiaries of state pensions can applaud.

*Here’s the full list of states offering pensions to private sector lobbyists.

Ethics Unraveling: On Compliance and Complacency

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013 by James Cameron

LAST WEEK, this blogger wrote on how the government is cracking down on illegal foreign lobbying. In July, the feds came down on Biassi Business Services, Inc. for failing to disclose domestic lobbying activities.  Such cases are usually settled, and in the fifteen years between 1995 and 2010, the U.S. attorney’s office settled with just three lobbyists. In the past three years alone, however, the attorney’s office settled three more cases.

At LobbyBlog, we’ve noticed a general cycle that forms around lobbying violations and the inevitable government crackdown. The cycle kicks off when a scandal erupts, then perpetrators are punished and the government enacts beefier regulations. This happened in 2007 following the Abramoff scandal with the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act (HLOGA).

For a while, lobbyists are on their best behavior (reports from the GAO show that filings increased significantly following HLOGA), but within a few years they start to get complacent, resulting in increased violations, as has been the case since 2010 and particularly as of late.  After complacency comes scandal, and then another crackdown.

We are currently in the middle of the complacency stage, and the federal government is taking notice. If the cycle holds true, a scandal may erupt at any moment.

Despite the recent decline in lobbying, there are more than enough lobbyists who will continue to skirt the law until, once again, the federal government steps in and the cycle begins anew.  The shrewd veteran lobbyist will know when it’s unwise to misbehave.

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Congressman Mixes Million with Billion

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013 by Geoffrey Lyons

IN AN APRIL report by the Government Accountability Office, a quarter of registered lobbyists were cited as having failed to disclose their income and expenditures to the nearest $10,000.  Last week, the second wealthiest Member of Congress, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), made an error on his financial disclosure that makes a $10,000 miscalculation appear astoundingly accurate.  The Congressman, who derives most of his wealth from his wife, the daughter of Clear Channel Communications Chairman Lowry Mayes and sister of Clear Channel CEO Mark Mays, affixed three extra zeros to an asset listed as “Harding Loevner Funds Inc.”

Two days after listing the asset at $1,000,000,000, McCaul filed an amendment asking the Clerk of the House to change this number to $1,000,000.  “[I]t was the intent that the column should read $1,000,000,” writes McCaul.  It’s thus not without humor that one revisits The Hill’s deadpan explanation that such an amendment “reduc[es] the congressman’s wealth dramatically under The Hill’s methodology.”  It’s hoped for the sake of general numeracy that under anyone’s methodology would $1 million appear $999 million shy of $1 billion.

Who are the Preeminent Association Lobbyists? You Tell Us.

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013 by Geoffrey Lyons

ASSOCIATION TRENDS, another division of Columbia Books, is now accepting nominations for the TRENDS 2013 Leading Association Lobbyists. This distinction is meant for an on-staff lobbyist of an association that is eligible to lobby, or a lobbyist who is hired to represent an association, such as a member of a lobbying firm or an independent lobbyist.

Submit your nomination via email to Association TRENDS Managing Editor, Ed Dalere.

Who should be nominated

Any association executive whose job it is to lobby or a lobbyist hired by an association can be nominated. Please note that this is not a distinction for someone who is new to association lobbying.

Past recipients of this distinction include Tom Kuhn, President, Edison Electric Institute; Steven Anderson, CEO, National Association of Chain Drug Stores; and Jim Clarke, Public Policy VP, ASAE.

Who should make nominations

Colleagues, peers, Hill staff, and anyone involved in lobbying.

NO SELF-NOMINATIONS PLEASE.

All nominations are kept confidential. If you wish to be known to the nominee, you must express so in your nomination.

The complete nomination includes:

  1. Basic info: Name, title, association(s) the lobbyist represents, firm (if applicable), email and phone number.
  2. Two accomplishments: Please list two clearly identifiable major accomplishments in the past two years, e.g., authored a bill that became law; turned the tide on a measure; assisted in getting a change of policy or regulation that invariably helped the industry.
  3. Comments: Tell us why you believe your nomination should receive this distinction. Mention character, reputation, activities related to industry, etc. Brevity is best.
  4. Recommendations: The nomination itself is one recommendation; please include at least one other professional recommendation or a contact to whom we can reach out. Recommendations from the association’s volunteer leadership are welcome but should not be entered in place of a recommendation from a professional peer or colleague. Again, brevity is best.

Process

  1. Nominations are sent to TRENDS Managing Editor, Ed Dalere: edd@AssociationTRENDS.com
  2. Finalists are selected from nominations.
  3. Successful finalists will be notified via email, and will be asked for more information as needed.
  4. Successful finalists will undergo a brief interview.

Deadline/notification

Deadline for nominations is Sept. 2, 2013 at 12:00pm Eastern Time.

Nominees will only be notified if they are selected as finalists.  Likewise, nominators will only be notified if their nominations are successful.

Successful finalists will be notified via email by Sept. 23, 2013.

Questions? Contact TRENDS Managing Editor, Ed Dalere: edd@AssociationTRENDS.com

Feds Enforce Rules on Foreign Lobbying

Thursday, August 15th, 2013 by James Cameron

THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT is again cracking down on illegal foreign lobbying.  Covington & Burling’s Brian D. Smith writes that federal prosecutors in Chicago have filed a criminal complaint against two lobbyists – Prince Asiel Ben Israel and C. Gregory Turner – who allegedly violated U.S. sanctions by lobbying on behalf of Zimbabwe and President Robert Mugabe.  (See here a fact sheet on U.S.-Zimbabwean relations).

Two Chicago-area Democrats – Reps. Danny K. Davis and Bobby L. Rush – have been C” from California – has yet to be revealed.

This isn’t the first time that the feds have gone after lobbyists for illegal foreign lobbying. Smith writes that in 2009, Robert Cabelly, a former State Department official, violated U.S. sanctions by lobbying on behalf of Sudan. More recently, several lobbyists were charged with violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) by failing to disclose that they were lobbying on behalf of a foreign country while attempting to influence U.S. officials.

The government is sending a clear message: FARA and sanctions violators beware. As Smith notes, these recent cases demonstrate the importance for lobbyists to follow FARA to the letter.  Noncompliance is simply not worth the risk.

(More) Women in Congress

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013 by Geoffrey Lyons

ONE HUNDRED AND ONE has a significance beyond Cruella de Vil and her evil trade–it’s the number of women in the 113th Congress. Eighty one currently serve in the House (including three delegates), and 20 in the Senate, making female membership 18.7% of Congress’s total composition. This is a record, up from its low point of 0% before 1916, when Jeannette Rankin became the first woman elected to Congress.

A triumph though this may be for women, a victory it is not. Victory calls for something completed, a mission accomplished, and female representation in Congress is neither. Over half the country is female compared to under a fifth of Congress.  As Loyola Law School professor Jessica Levinson put it, “by any stretch of the imagination women are still woefully underrepresented in the halls of Congress.”

Representation, however, is an ambiguous standard and subject to debate. Would women be fairly represented if half of Congress was composed of women ardently bent on passing “anti-women” legislation?  It’s with this sort of question in mind that prompted Toni Morison to call Bill Clinton “the first black president.” (See then-Senator Obama’s response to this claim).

If representation were to be taken literally, as it usually is, it follows that the chief goal for women would be to elect more women, regardless of ideology. This is precisely the aim of More Women in Congress Super PAC, whose mission, according to founder Shannon Meade, is “made clear in the name.” Candidates Alison Lundergan Grimes (Democrat running for Senate, Ky.) and Michelle Nunn (Republican running for Senate, Ga.) are both target beneficiaries for Meade’s funding, and together illustrate her bipartisan (or nonpartisan, given that Meade is “not loyal to a party,”) mission.   The Super PAC is less than one week old, and was apparently inspired by Stephen Colbert.

Advocating on behalf of women is nothing new in Washington.  A stroll past the White House evokes images of suffragists who picketed at its gates.  But advocating on behalf of women candidates with no regard to their political views seems a novelty, at least to this blogger.  It also seems a rather dubious plan, with potentially adverse results.  A case can be made that electing women who aren’t totally committed to women’s issues would hinder progress in the long term.  Then again, their mere presence may be the most forceful of motivators.

There’s a bumper sticker that quips: “A woman’s place is in the House…the Senate, and the Oval Office.”  If Meade and others can successfully stack the first two, perhaps the third will follow.  And if the presidency comes first – as some speculate it will in 2016 – More Women in Congress would likely gain from this as well.  Whether or not Meade achieves her goals, her example belies the popular belief that time itself will cure Congress of being old, white, and male.  It takes organization, too, and plenty of cash on hand.

Summer is No Vacation for Members of Congress

Thursday, August 8th, 2013 by James Cameron

ACCORDING TO The Washington Times, this year’s Congress is set to be one of the least productive in history. But that doesn’t mean it’s set to be the least active.

Far from it, argue Roll Call’s Meredith Shiner and Emma Dumain, who write on how members are milking every spare moment of August recess to reconnect with constituents at town halls, issue summits, and state fairs. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is hosting several summits, including the annual Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas. Meanwhile, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is focusing his schedule on smaller constituent meetings, likely in preparation for his re-election bid.

Lawmakers are also using their time off to plan for what is sure to be a contentious fall session. To this end, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) has drafted a recess “playbook,” a 31-page PDF distributed to GOP lawmakers to keep them on-message.  There’s no evidence that Democrats have drafted a similar document, but they’re certain to have an equally collaborative strategy for August.

It’s no surprise that McMorris’s playbook substitutes “Recess” for “District Work Period.”  For wherever Members of Congress may be, whether in D.C. or elsewhere, they’re guaranteed to be working.

“The Capital’s Oldest Profession”

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013 by Geoffrey Lyons

The following excerpt is from Jack Lait and Lee Mortimer’s Washington Confidential (Crown Publishers, 1951), published in Sunday’s New York Magazine.

Lobbying is as old as Magna Charta, which first granted people the right to petition their sovereign. Ever since, those who wanted something have hired someone to speak up for them. Washington is full of these hucksters. They are about the brightest spot on the glum scene. They spend, entertain, throw wild parties with pretty gals as souvenirs, tip lavishly and keep the hotel and liquor industries going. They are the only cream here in a welter of skimmed milk.

Lobbying can be a delightful and well-paid occupation. The mouthpieces of the industrial petitioners are usually charming gentlemen who know how to entertain. Buying an uninstructed Congressman C.O.D. is obsolete. Giving him a high time will do it, and the lobbyist can pocket the money earmarked for bribing and tell his client he passed on the boodle.

Most solons are lonely uprooted rustics. Usually their wives are away, holy frights they are glad to leave back home. These men want to talk and drink with someone. You don’t even have to get them girls, just invite them to a hotel and spend an evening with them. They’ll be so thankful, they’ll do anything you want.

The average lobbyist doesn’t bother with run-of-the-mill Senators and Representatives, who are in the bag without much trouble. He sets his sights on the key characters like committee chairmen and floor leaders, and even they can be snared at little cost, though naturally to corral a chairman means an even heftier bill to the employer. The procedure used in the case of VIPs is simple and cheap. Each lobbyist is on friendly terms with some local hostess, for whom he does favors or to whom he gives gifts. When he has an especially important deal on, he asks her to invite his prospect to a party. During most of the evening he keeps away from the man he wants to meet, until by a fortuitous accident he is placed next to him at the table. Even then the conversation is kept chatty and frothy. A couple of days later, the lobbyist phones his erstwhile table companion and invites him to a rubber of bridge or a game of golf, and from then on he’s on his own.

We would like to introduce you to some of the boys in Washington who can get things done:

First comes to mind an attorney, Charles Patrick Clark. Mr. Clark is a wonder-­worker. When others can’t score, Clark is called in. Even Max Truitt, the Vice President’s son-in-law, had trouble getting [Spanish dictator] Franco’s loan, so Clark hit in the pinch and Congress voted it. It may be a coincidence, but Clark was a counsel for the Senatorial Committee Investigating War Frauds when Harry Truman was its chancellor.

The business is intensively departmentalized. Different lawyers have ins in different branches of the government. Persuasion on the Department of Justice is handled by Lauchlin Currie, a former Truman appointee, through Tommy “The Cork” Corcoran, a Roosevelt favorite.

Treasury Department matters go through Joe Nunan, former Commissioner of Internal Revenue, who does not practice personally before Treasury yet, because the law requires ex-employees to wait two years before they may represent clients in bureaus to which they were attached. But his associates are not so hobbled.

Former Senator Burton K. Wheeler is the man to see if you have any trouble with the Interstate Commerce Commission. Wheeler can have anything he wants in Washington. President Truman passed the word along. It was Wheeler who advised Truman not to resign from the Senate at the time of the Pendergast scandal. Harry has been eternally grateful ever since.

The law firm of Thurman Arnold, Abe Fortas and Paul A. Porter has practically everything for its field. All three are prominent ex–New Dealers. Porter’s contact is with the Federal Communications Commission. Arnold, once a trust-buster, now defends trusts. Fortas, onetime stooge of Harold Ickes, is the boy to see for anything in the Department of the Interior.

Leon Henderson, the social planner who admits he won World War II single-handed, deserves an important place in this chapter. As one of the brain-trust of the “progressive” Americans for Democratic Action, brother Henderson throws the weight of that organization’s supposed voting strength around Washington for the benefit of his private clients. That is, when he is not too busy making a fool of himself with some young blonde on a New York dance floor.

Lait and Mortimer were famous for their “Confidential” series, which also included New York Confidential (Ziff-Davis, 1948), Chicago Confidential (Crown, 1950) and U.S.A Confidential (Crown, 1952).

Congressmen Put Their Feet Up

Monday, August 5th, 2013 by Geoffrey Lyons

CONGRESS IS BACK home, yes, but that doesn’t mean they’re hiding.  Loads of Twitpics are being posted by Washington lawmakers in their moments of leisure.  There’s Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) with his daughter, Sen. Clair McCaskill (D-Mo.) with her grandson, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) with a chopper, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) with a foul ball, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) with a cookie, and much, much else.

One can feast their eyes on 24 congressional Twitpics (including an additional 21 by Rep. Bill Keating (D-Mass.)) here.

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) with a foul ball.

Pot Lobby Divided

Thursday, August 1st, 2013 by James Cameron

THE MARIJUANA INDUSTRY is again converging on Capitol Hill, and not just to celebrate the grand opening of the District’s first medical marijuana dispensary.   According to POLITICO, pot legalization efforts are facing lobbying opposition from an unlikely source: the medical marijuana industry.

Although it seems counterintuitive, medical marijuana’s opposition to full legalization makes perfect sense. Medical dispensaries currently dominate the billion-dollar (legal) pot market, and stand to lose money and gain competition if pot becomes legal. In the wake of recent victories for legalization advocates in Colorado and Washington state, the medical marijuana industry has sensed a threat and has stepped up lobbying efforts this spring.

How far apart are the two sides on legalization? From a philosophical standpoint, not far. But as Paul McCarrier, a lobbyist for medical marijuana notes, “the devil is in the details.” Many groups in the industry aren’t opposed to legalization as long as it’s implemented carefully and in such a way that their business model isn’t threatened. For example, Colorado’s 2012 ballot initiative contained provisions for the medical industry that allow existing dispensaries and growers to start or convert to recreational stores before anyone else is even allowed to apply for a license.  In fact, legalization groups are making an effort to convince dispensary owners that legalization won’t adversely affect their bottom line.

Since many cities and states have already decriminalized marijuana, and others are considering legalization measures in 2014 and 2016, it’s reasonable to assume momentum won’t be an issue for the legalization movement.  But it remains to be seen whether this momentum can be maintained without conflict.  For all one can tell, the pot lobby’s biggest enemy is itself.