Archive for January, 2015

Lobbying Without Lobbying

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015 by Matthew Barnes

New analysis from the Center for Public Integrity (CPI) has found that trade groups are relying more heavily on advertising than traditional lobbying for influence and to achieve their goals. CPI’s analysis of the tax records of 144 trade groups from 2008 to 2012 found that trade groups spent 37% of their total contractor budgets on advertising, PR and marketing. In total trade groups spent $1.26 billion on advertising, public relations and marketing services, nearly twice as much as the $682.2 million that was directed toward legal, lobbying and government affairs.

The heavy reliance on the use of advertising can be at least partly attributed to the greater freedoms the advertising industry has when compared to lobbying, due to lack of regulation. According to Erin Quinn and Chris Young , the authors of the report,  “Public relations work, unlike lobbying, is not subject to federal disclosure rules, and PR and advertising campaigns can potentially influence a broader group of people.” Similarly, Edward Walker, a sociology professor at the University of California, Los Angeles argues that, “The trade associations that rely most on PR and advertising campaigns are usually those representing industries facing the heaviest regulation and the most public contempt.”

In the end, the overall effect this trend will have on the lobbying industry remains to be seen. However some people, such as Doug Pinkham, President of the Public Affairs Council, have suggested that “The gradual shift from a focus on traditional lobbying toward greater use of the “outside game of politics,” or communications like PR, has been going on for at least a decade…but is now accelerating with advances in technology, social media and digital strategies.” Nevertheless, lobbyists should note that while lobbying expenditures peaked in 2010 at $3.6 billion, have they have since declined steadily, falling to $3.24 billion in 2013 and $3.21 billion in 2014, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Meanwhile in 2013, the global public relations industry grew 11% over the previous year to $12.5 billion, according to trade journal The Holmes Report.

Congress All A-Twitter

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015 by Vbhotla

TWITTER HAS BECOME A key way for Members of Congress to communicate with their constituents, both on the campaign trail and in office. In fact, all but one of the incoming Congressional freshmen for the 114th Congress already has a Twitter account. Although many Congressional Twitter accounts are likely run by staffers, some (notably @ChuckGrassley) are run directly by the Member. In either case, these accounts are valuable sources of news and Member viewpoints.  So, without further ado, Lobby Blog presents  a list of the Twitter accounts for all of the freshmen Members in both chambers, compiled using data from


Dan Sullivan  (R -Alaska)
Tom Cotton  (R -Ark.)
Cory Gardner  (R -Colo.)
David Perdue  (R -Ga.)
Joni Ernst  (R -Iowa)
Bill Cassidy  (R -La.)
Gary Peters  (D -Mich.)
Steve Daines  (R -Mont.)
Ben Sasse  (R -Neb.)
Thom Tillis  (R -N.C.)
James Lankford  (R -Okla.)
Mike Rounds  (R -S.D.)
Shelley Moore Capito  (R -W.Va.)



Gary Palmer  (R-Ala.)
Martha McSally  (R-Ariz.)
Ruben Gallego  (D-Ariz.)
French Hill  (R-Ark.)
Bruce Westerman  (R-Ark.)
Mark DeSaulnier  (D-Calif.) No account available
Steve Knight  (R-Calif.)
Pete Aguilar  (D-Calif.)
Ted Lieu  (D-Calif.)
Norma Torres  (D-Calif.)
Mimi Walters  (R-Calif.)
Ken Buck  (R-Colo.)
Gwen Graham  (D-Fla.)
Carlos Curbelo  (R-Fla.)
Buddy Carter  (R-Ga.)
Jody Hice  (R-Ga.)
Barry Loudermilk  (R-Ga.)
Rick W. Allen  (R-Ga.)
Mark Takai  (D-Hawaii)
Bob Dold  (R-Ill.)
Mike Bost  (R -Ill.)
Rod Blum  (R -Iowa)
David Young  (R -Iowa)
Ralph Abraham  (R -La.)
Garret Graves  (R -La.)
Bruce Poliquin  (R -Maine)
Seth Moulton  (D -Mass.)
John Moolenaar  (R -Mich.)
Mike Bishop  (R -Mich.)
David Trott  (R -Mich.)
Debbie Dingell  (D -Mich.)
Brenda Lawrence  (D -Mich.)
Tom Emmer  (R -Minn.)
Ryan Zinke  (R -Mont.)
Brad Ashford  (D -Neb.)
Cresent Hardy  (R -Nev.)
Frank Guinta  (R -N.H.)
Tom MacArthur  (R -N.J.)
Bonnie Watson Coleman  (D -N.J.)
Lee Zeldin  (R -N.Y.)
Kathleen Rice  (D -N.Y.)
Elise Stefanik  (R -N.Y.)
John Katko  (R -N.Y.)
Mark Walker  (R -N.C.)
David Rouzer  (R -N.C.)
Steve Russell  (R -Okla.)
Ryan Costello  (R -Pa.)
Brendan F. Boyle  (D -Pa.)
John Ratcliffe  (R -Texas)
Will Hurd  (R -Texas)
Brian Babin  (R -Texas)
Mia Love  (R -Utah)
Don Beyer  (D -Va.)
Barbara Comstock  (R -Va.)
Dan Newhouse  (R -Wash.)
Alex Mooney  (R -W.Va.)
Evan Jenkins  (R -W.Va.)
Glenn Grothman  (R -Wisc.)



The ‘State’ Of Lobbying

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015 by Matthew Barnes

WITH ALL OF THE ATTENTION lobbyists in Washington, DC receive, lobbying on the state level is often overlooked. Lobbyists who focus their attention on the state level must comply with different regulations than federal lobbyists, which are created on a state-by-state basis. Despite very little change to the regulatory framework for Federal lobbyists, states have taken their own initiative in developing new legislation to regulate lobbying.

On November 4th, 2014, voters in Arkansas approved a constitutional amendment, HJR 1009, which affects the lobbying arena in the state in several ways, including prohibiting lobbyists from “giving gifts to lawmakers under a new “no cup of coffee rule”—so named because there is no allowance for gifts of nominal value, so even a cup of coffee would be a prohibited gift.  The amendment prohibits all gifts from lobbyists and lobbyist employers to the Governor, other statewide elected officials, and members of the General Assembly.” Moreover, as part of the new regulations in Arkansas, “Corporations and labor unions may not make candidate contributions (but may still give to state-registered PACs).”

Similarly, on January 1, 2015 new provisions came into effect in Maryland which focus on the political contributions of government contractors. However, the law also brings changes to the contribution limit for both individuals and business entities.  According to Venable, “an individual or an entity formed for a genuine business or organizational purpose may contribute up to $6,000 per four-year cycle to any one candidate for state or local office, or any one state PAC. The current election cycle began on January 1, 2015, and runs through December 31, 2018. The prior limit was $4,000. There are no longer aggregate contribution limits as a result of a Supreme Court decision in 2014.” Importantly, for the first time, under the new laws the “State Board of Elections is empowered to issue civil penalty citations, on a strict liability basis, for a variety of violations, including failure to maintain a proper bank account and failure to maintain accurate books and records.”

With the regulatory environment constantly shifting in many states, lobbyists who focus on the state level face a constant battle to make sure they remain compliant. However, that battle just might pay off as companies such as Uber turn to state-level lobbying efforts to reach their corporate goals. In Virginia, Uber mounted a successful lobbying campaign after the state attempted to make the company cease all of its operations in the commonwealth in June. According to The Washington Post, “Uber’s approach is brash and, so far, highly effective: It launches in local markets regardless of existing laws or regulations. It aims to build a large customer base as quickly as possible. When challenged, Uber rallies its users to pressure government officials, while unleashing its well-connected lobbyists to influence lawmakers.”

Cheap Oil, Expensive Lobbying

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015 by Vbhotla

PLUMMETING OIL PRICES are good news for drivers—and for lobbyists. With oil prices continuing to drop, the Houston Chronicle reports that, although the price drop is hurting drilling companies, the oil industry plans to ramp up lobbying efforts in favor of continued tax breaks and decreased regulation.

The industry argues that these elements are necessary to keep prices low.  The Associated Press reports that Jack Gerard, CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, claims that while the low oil prices will hurt some companies in the short term, the U.S. is on its way to becoming a global leader in oil production as long as it continues to offer the industry tax breaks and no new regulations.

Oil companies are certainly willing to spend to ensure that beneficial policies stay in place.  According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the oil and gas industry spent more than $50 million on lobbying in 2014, and with the Keystone XL pipeline still in limbo, it seems likely that they’ll continue to be big spenders in 2015.

By the same token, the sudden drop in oil prices is actually harming green energy policies that were put in place as a result of high oil prices. The Wall Street Journal notes that the Obama administration spent billions on initiatives to boost sales of electric and hybrid vehicles, along with consumer rail projects, but as gas prices fall, consumers are again returning to trucks and SUVs. Although gas prices are expected to remain low throughout 2015, many of the policies

Given the impact of gas prices on the daily lives of most Americans, it’s no surprise that a sudden fluctuation can throw lawmakers and lobbyists into policy limbo. Whether the steep decline of oil prices will have longer-term policy implications remains to be seen, but both oil companies and  environmental advocates will try to make themselves heard on Capitol Hill.