Archive for May, 2015

The Key Is Keeping Clients Happy

Thursday, May 28th, 2015 by Matthew Barnes

THE CLASSIC APPROACH TO evaluating the plethora of lobbying organizations that operate in Washington, D.C. is to simply compare the earnings of the different shops. However, boutique firms have always argued that this is unfair evaluation as it is disproportionately advantageous to the many large lobbying firms that occupy the district. To provide a more balanced and clear picture of the lobbying landscape other metrics must also be taken into account. In the Factors of Influence Report, utilizes more than ten metrics in its analytical model to more accurately assess the amount influence lobbying firms have.

Similarly, a new report by the Hill, it found that lobbying firms considered client retention and satisfaction to be the single metric that mattered most. Donald Pongrace, the head of public law and policy at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP supports this claim stating, “At the end of the day, the critical issue here isn’t what ranking you get, it’s client satisfaction and trust. If clients trust you with their problems, you don’t need to worry about your ratings or chasing the next piece of business.”

In regards to client retention rate it seems that boutique lobbying firms have an advantage over larger, multifaceted firms. This is exemplified by the CGCN group, which preformed remarkably well with a 91% retention rate over one a year period and an 83% retention rate over a three year period. The Hill and Bloomberg Government found that “the data also separates pure advocacy operations from both law and lobby firms — finding the bigger policy and legal shops to have an overall lower three-year client-retention rate and less revenue per lobbyist.”

Clean Water Fight Gets Slippery

Wednesday, May 20th, 2015 by Vbhotla

WATER: ALL LIVING THINGS need it, and it’s become a contentious policy issue for the Environmental Protection Agency and environmental advocates, as well as the developers, farmers, and other stakeholders on the other side. Last year, the EPA proposed a rule known as the “Waters of the United States” which would be part of the Clean Water Act and which is slated to be formalized soon. According to The Hill, the rule would expand the types of water that fall under the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act.

However, the Center for Responsive Politics reports that opponents claim the rule is overly broad; it could be applied to virtually any body of water, including ones as small as ponds or even, supposedly, wet front yards. The EPA, on the other hand, claims that the rule is intended to protect vulnerable headwaters, which flow into other bodies of water and therefore are particularly impacted by pollution.

Naturally, the controversial rule has attracted significant lobbying; opponents include agricultural, mining, and electric utility interests, according to the Center. Some of these groups have spent more than a hundred million dollars opposing the rule.

But the EPA and its allies aren’t sitting idly by. According to the New York Times, the Obama administration gave EPA the go-ahead to mount a significant public outreach program in support of the rule, often in conjunction with supporters such as the Sierra Club, the Southern Environmental Law Center, and the Earth Justice Legal Defense Fund. Critics contend, however, that it’s both unusual and unseemly for an agency to conduct activities that are partisan in nature or in support of specific legislation.

The EPA has defended its actions, claiming that it violated no federal lobbying laws because it did not urge the public to lobby Congress, but rather conducted a public relations and awareness campaign. The Hill notes that the House passed a bill recently that would overturn the regulation, though it’s unlikely that the bill will ever be signed into law. Although it seems likely that the rule will take effect, the fight over the Waters of the United States and the Clean Water Act is far from over.

Because Money Matters

Wednesday, May 13th, 2015 by Matthew Barnes

A GRASSROOTS ADVOCACY ORGANIZATION called “Women on 20s” began an effort 10 weeks ago to replace Andrew Jackson on the 20 dollar bill with a one of 15 inspiring American woman. The organization enabled the public to vote for the final nomination in an online election in which more than 600,000 votes were cast. At the conclusion of the voting Harriet Tubman won election. Women on 20s has since sent a petition of to the White House and is now lobbying President Obama to instruct “Secretary of the Treasury Jacob Lew to use his authority to make this change in time to have a new bill in circulation before the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in 2020,” according to the group’s website.

The group asks that individuals “consider joining our ‘Virtual March’ to the White House to bolster the petition… All you have to do is use the hashtag #DearMrPresident in your social media posts and you’ll be helping us amplify the call for historic change.”

The movement has gathered a substantial amount of support from those in Washington, including the White House. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) introduced S. 925 “The Women on the Twenty Act” on April 14, 2015 which would direct the Treasury Department to convene a panel of citizens to consider the issue of putting a woman’s face on America’s paper money and to make recommendations  regarding the likeness of a woman to appear on the face. In July 2014 during a speech in Kansas City, Mo. President Obama may have tipped his hand saying, “Last week, a young girl wrote to ask me why aren’t there any women on our currency, and then she gave me like a long list of possible women to put on our dollar bills and quarters and stuff — which I thought was a pretty good idea.”

On May 13, 2015 White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said “that Tubman was a ‘wonderful choice’ for the bill, but stopped short of saying whether the President backs putting Tubman on the $20,” according to the Washington Post. Harriet Tubman, who lived from 1822-1913 was an African-American abolitionist and a conductor in the “Underground Railroad” during the Civil War.

In an emailed statement Susan Ades Stone, Executive Director of Women on 20s wrote, “Our paper bills are like pocket monuments to great figures in our history…Our work won’t be done until we’re holding a Harriet $20 bill in our hands in time for the centennial of women’s suffrage in 2020.”

Below are the other influential and iconic women who were considered by Women on 20s.

  • Clara Barton‎, the founder of the American Red Cross
  • Margaret Sanger‎, who opened the first birth control clinic in the US.
  • Rachel Carson‎, a marine biologist who wrote the hugely influential environmental book Silent Spring
  • Rosa Parks‎, the iconic civil rights activist
  • Barbara Jordan‎, a politician who was the first black woman in the south to be elected to the House of Representatives
  • Betty Friedan‎, feminist author of the Feminine Mystique 
  • Frances Perkins‎, the Secretary of Labor under FDR, who was the first woman appointed to the U.S. Cabinet
  • Susan B. Anthony‎, women’s suffrage movement leader
  • Shirley Chisholm‎, the first African-American woman elected to Congress
  • Elizabeth Cady Stanton‎, early women’s rights activist and abolitionist
  • Eleanor Roosevelt‎, human rights activist and former first Lady
  • Sojourner Truth‎, African American women’s rights activist and abolitionist
  • Patsy Mink, the first woman of color elected to the House, and the first Asian American elected to Congress
  • Alice Paul‎, women’s suffrage movement leader


Fighting Disease, Fighting for Funding

Wednesday, May 6th, 2015 by Vbhotla

MOST PEOPLE WOULD AGREE that AIDS research is an important  target for government dollars, but digging deeper reveals the desperate scramble that advocates for various diseases must undertake to secure competitive research funding.

Particularly disadvantaged in this fight are advocates for rare diseases. The Wall Street Journal reports that rare diseases have received between 3 and 15% of NIH funding per year from 1998 to 2008. Much of that funding, according to a study by Management Science, is thanks to lobbying; in that sense, rare disease lobbyists are succeeding. Critics, however, protest that more of those funds should be given to research diseases that have the largest negative impact on the populations, so even rare diseases are not without controversy.

By contrast, AIDS is one of the largest disease beneficiaries of government funds, both through NIH and the Bush administration’s PEPFAR initiative, and the funding, by most measures, has been tremendously successful. In a 2013 report, the UNAIDS initiative reports that 26 countries reduced the number of new HIV infections by 50% since 2001, with a similar global reduction targeted for 2015. Likewise, antiretroviral treatments, reduction of HIV transmission via drug injections, and closing the global AIDS resource gap all enjoyed varying degrees of success. Unfortunately, though, the successful trends that the fight against AIDS is enjoying may come to the detriment of other causes.

Because advocates are often competing for the same money, someone will inevitably lose out. In a recent article, The Hill notes that Alzheimer’s disease is eating up an ever-increasing portion of the Medicare and Medicaid costs: from 18% this year to an estimated 31% by 2050. As a result, Alzheimer’s research funding for the National Institutes of Health has increased to $600 million, but advocates hope that will increase to as much as $2 billion. Still, Alzheimer’s must compete with “scarier” diseases such as AIDS and cancer for funding; as Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) points out, “Are we going to wait until we figure out a vaccine for [AIDS/HIV] before we begin shifting to a new battle?”

There seems to be no easy answer to the conundrum of what portion of NIH funding diseases should receive. Until the social and economic toll of Alzheimer’s reaches an untenable peak, or until Alzhiemer’s lobbyists find a sufficient receptive Congress, Alzheimer’s research may not see the success that AIDS has enjoyed.