Archive for December, 2014
Posted in Lobbying News | Comments Off
JUST LABEL IT, A GROUP which advocates for the labeling of genetically engineered foods, has hired its first lobbying firm, Mehlman Castagnetti Rosen Bingel & Thomas. According to the firm’s lobbying disclosure form it will help Just Label It with “support [for a] legal petition to the FDA calling for the mandatory labeling of GE foods.”
The hire of Mehlman Castagnetti Rosen Bingel & Thomas is most timely; the House Energy and Commerce Committee is holding a hearing on the Food and Drug Administration’s role in regulating GMO food ingredients today. The focus of the hearing is on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s current “authority over foods from genetically engineered plants and what the agency has learned about the safety of such products” according to a letter from the Majority Committee Staff to the Members of the Subcommittee on Health.
Congress has shown an increasing interest in addressing the GMO labeling debate. In April, Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) and Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.) introduced H.R. 4432, Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2014. Source Watch reports that “the bill would prohibit states from passing their own state-wide laws to label genetically modified organisms (GMOs), prevent states from ensuring that GMOs can’t be labeled as “natural,” and make “voluntary labeling” the continuing federal standards.”
The Associated Press has reported that “Rep. Henry Waxman of California, the top Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee, said he is concerned that labeling could be “inherently misleading.” Rep. G.K Butterfield of North Carolina, a Democrat who represents a heavily agricultural district, said he is worried the costs of labeling would be passed on to consumers.”
Mehlman Castagnetti Rosen Bingel & Thomas certainly have their work cut out for them. They face opposition from other powerful and experienced outside influence groups who oppose the need for mandatory labeling of GE products. The “Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and dozens of other food groups,” have all come out in opposition of measures introduced by states which attempt to create mandatory GMO labeling, reports Politico.
WE’VE FREQUENTLY WRITTEN IN this space about the revolving door between Congress and K Street, but it would seem there’s a new revolving door in town. The New York Times reported Monday that some banks and Wall Street firms routinely pay executives special bonuses and compensation packages if they receive a high-level government job. The Times article comes in the wake of a POLITICO report noting that President Obama’s nominee for Treasury undersecretary, Antonio Weiss, would receive a multi-million dollar bonus from his firm, Lazard Ltd. if his nomination is confirmed.
Is this just a sneaky way for Wall Street to broaden its influence in Washington, or is it a way to encourage qualified executives to go into public service? For the progressive wing of the Democratic party, led by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the answer is very clearly the former. The Hill notes that although Warren (D-Mass.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) have formally opposed Weiss’s nomination, it seems likely that broader opposition will emerge as confirmation hearings approach in 2015. Indeed, POLITICO reports that Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) has also voiced his disapproval of the nomination.
Weiss is far from the first Wall Street insider to land a top position in the Obama administration, however. As The Hill notes, SEC Chairman Mary Jo White spent a portion of her career as an attorney representing major financial firms and banks such as Morgan Stanley and Bank of America. Likewise, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew was a top executive at Citigroup before joining the administration, and several other prominent executive branch officials have strong ties to Wall Street.
But should having ties to the industry an agency is tasked with regulating automatically disqualify a candidate? In an article for the New York Times, Andrew Ross Sorkin argues that it should not. In fact, Sorkin asserts that the most talented and qualified candidates, like Antonio Weiss, often come from executive-level positions and should be encouraged to pursue public service.
While it’s likely unavoidable that executives will be appointed to senior executive branch positions, bonuses such as the one Weiss is purportedly due should he be nominated give the appearance of attempting to influence the federal government in an underhanded fashion. According to The Hill, firms are already doing away with such bonuses. While the eventual outcome remains to be seen, it seems likely that the practice will gradually diminish, given the outcry from progressives over Weiss’s nomination.