Archive for October, 2014

GOP Majority: Scary for Dems, A Boon for K Street

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014 by James Cameron

A POTENTIAL GOP TAKEOVER of the Senate may scare Democrats more than anything Halloween could bring, but  firms on K Street are seeing dollar signs. POLITICO writes that Republican lobbyists have spent eight years in a tertiary role thanks to Democratic control of the Senate, but that may soon change.

The New York Times estimates that there’s a 66% chance that the GOP re-takes the Senate, while FiveThirtyEight projects a 62.3% chance. Whichever model you use, things are looking up for the Republican party, and GOP lobbyists are salivating. Republican-centric firms such as the Nickles Group and Crossroads  Strategies would certainly enjoy a boost in revenue, as well as individual Republican lobbyists and particularly those with ties to GOP leadership. But a Republican takeover of the Senate would impact the entire landscape of K Street.

Firms that aren’t explicitly Republican are still making plans to deal with a Republican majority. As CQ Roll Call notes in its Beltway Insiders Blog, firms would likely hire up to cater to the new majority, but existing Republican employees will also enjoy greater prominence in the K Street power structure.

But it’s not just Republicans who would benefit from a shift in the balance of power. POLITICO makes the point that any change on K Street brings in new business as clients attempt to get a feel for the new regime. Indeed, Roll Call reports that even the possibility of a GOP majority is enough to bring in new business as clients attempt to gain an edge even before election day.

While the possibility of Republicans gaining a majority in both chambers is a scary possibility for Democrats, K Street appears poised to enjoy a hefty bump in business should things go well for the GOP next week.

Battling Ebola On K Street

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014 by Matthew Barnes

THE SPREAD OF EBOLA from Africa to the United States and Europe has become an issue of great concern for governments and health officials across the globe. The Obama administration reacted to the situation, tasking the newly appointed “Ebola Czar” Ron Klain to coordinate the U.S. Government’s response to the spread of the deadly virus.

Many lobbyists have also joined in the battle against the virus. The Hill has reported that approximately a dozen organizations have already begun lobbying efforts around the disease. To many, like Dr. Larry Brilliant, a senior adviser to the Skoll Global Threats Fund, the current outbreak of the virus has demonstrated our need for new technologies and practices in combatting the spread of infectious diseases in our increasingly globalized world.

On Monday it was announced that Squire Patton Boggs signed a new deal with Hemispherx Biopharma Inc. to represent the company to officials both domestically and abroad. Hemispherx has developed two experimental anti-viral drugs, Ampligen and AlferonN, which it wants to test against Ebola virus. Similarly, medical machinery company Zimek has enlisted the help of lobbying firm Dentons US to assist with promoting its infection control and biohazard technologies.

The outbreak, which began in March, originated in Western Africa and has, to this point, claimed the lives of approximately 4,500 people according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

As the Ebola outbreak develops, debate on Capitol Hill will continue on the allocation of funds for both the research and combatting of the disease.  Congressional action on Ebola has significant implications for both the pharmaceutical industry and their lobbyists as firms are increasingly called upon to lobby both Congress and federal agencies like the National Institute of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

 

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Uber, Taxis Get Lift From Lobbying

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014 by James Cameron

RIDE-SHARING COMPANY UBER has been in the news a lot in recent months, and not in a good way. The company has faced backlash from taxi drivers, competitors, and entire countries over what are seen as predatory business practices and attempts to dodge local regulations. And like any embattled company, Uber is upping its lobbying efforts.

In August, Uber hired former Obama campaign manager David Plouffe as Senior Vice President of Policy and Strategy. This high-profile hire sends a clear statement that Uber intends to go on a legislative offensive. Uber is also hiring up for overseas lobbying; the BBC reported last month that Uber has hired a lobbyist in response to Germany’s ban of the service.

But the opposition is also shoring up its advocacy game. Cab drivers in the Washington, DC metropolitan area have rapidly joined unions and formed coalitions to combat Uber’s influence in the area. Meanwhile, the Washington Post reports that cab drivers dramatically outspent Uber at the local level by more than 3,500 to 1. As the Sunlight Foundation notes, this may explain why at least 12 states and the District have attempted to regulate or limit Uber and other ride-sharing services.

It’s clear that the local lobbying battle between Uber and taxi companies will only intensify. It remains to be seen whether the fight will extend to the federal level, but Uber’s hiring of David Plouffe indicates that the company is prepared should Congress and the federal government begin to weigh in on ride-sharing services.

The Lobbying Economy's Shadow

Thursday, October 9th, 2014 by Linnae O'Flahavan

IN A VOX ARTICLE LAST WEEK, researcher and online cialis reporter Andrew Prokop writes about a new research study done by Tim LaPira, a political scientist at James Madison University, which used the Lobbyists.info database to calculate the true lobbying economy, including a massive number of unregistered lobbyists. LaPira’s research found that less than half of federal lobbyists were legally registered to lobby, suggesting that the $3.3 billion officially spent on lobbying in 2012 was likely much closer to $7 billion.

LaPira and his team pulled out a random sample of people with federal lobbying-related jobs from the full Lobbyists.info catalog, and worked to recreate those people’s resumes using Google.

Once it was determined which of those people were engaged in federal public policy, LaPira calculated the percentage of those who were registered to lobby, which turned out to be a bit less than half of those in the sample. LaPira’s research confirms what many already suspected – that there is a massive underground “shadow lobbying” force at work.

This shadow lobbying force may exist for a variety of reasons.

The Center for Responsive Politics counts the number of lobbying disclosure forms filled out, but as LaPira argues in a post for the Sunlight Foundation, the LDA’s definition of a lobbyist is too narrow, and federal lobbyists are able to act as “strategic policy consultants” or “historical advisers” without ever having to register. Not to mention, a number of other factors may be cause for the current underground lobbying trend, including the Obama administration’s efforts to slow down the “revolving door,” new innovations regarding public relations strategies, digital advertising, the defeat of SOPA in 2012, and advances in social media.

Kate Ackley, in an article for Roll Call, suggests that one major cause for the decline in registered lobbyists is the lack of enforcement of lobbying laws. It’s true that Lobbying Disclosure Act violations are rarely prosecuted, although recently the Office of Congressional Ethics referred one case to the District of Columbia’s U.S. Attorney’s Office for failing to register. It’s possible that this signals a new era of harsher penalties and more frequent prosecutions, although it could remain in isolated incident. Understanding the reasons behind shadow lobbying and the de-registration of many federal lobbyists is difficult and complicated, but nevertheless the numbers show a trending increase in unregistered lobbying.

LaPira’s study produced well-researched quantifiable results confirming that despite a decline in the number of registered federal lobbyists, the lobbying economy is booming. While the results are not surprising, they are extremely helpful in better understanding the underground world of shadow lobbying. LaPira’s subsequent paper, co-authored by Herschel Thomas, describes his research methodology and results in even better detail. Here at Lobbyblog we are pleased to see the Lobbyists.info database put to such good use!

A Thirsty State Turns to Congress

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014 by James Cameron

AS CALIFORNIA’S RECORD-WORST DROUGHT continues, local municipalities, farmers, and environmental groups are finding ways to make waves on Capitol Hill. CBS reported Tuesday that 2014 will end as the driest year in the state since 1977—the record-keeping year for water watchers ends in September—and the drought will extend into its fourth winter. As conditions worsen, groups are turning to Congress in an attempt to make themselves heard.

Central to the legislative fight over California’s water is whether environmental restrictions on water use under the Endangered Species Act are partially to blame for water shortages.  At least six bills have been introduced that would loosen restrictions designed to protect fish in the San Joaquin River Delta. However, officials in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and others contend that the ESA has had little impact on water supplies and that the cause of shortages is almost exclusively the drought.

As the Center for Responsive Politics reports, Westlands Water District, the largest in the nation, has spent $600,000 among four different lobbying firms in an effort to secure more water for its farmers, but environmental groups like Earthjustice point out that agriculture already consumes 80% of the state’s water supply.

While Local municipalities might not have that kind of lobbying clout, but the Fresno Bee notes that at least seventeen cities and counties in California passed resolutions  urging Congressional action on the drought. These resolutions were presented before a Congressional hearing earlier this month.

California’s Congressional representatives have been pressing their colleagues to take legislative action to mitigate the drought’s impact, but so far Congress has dragged its feet on the issue. With the August recess just ending and November looming, it seems unlikely that significant legislative action happening anytime soon, even as California closes out one of its driest years ever.