Archive for January, 2016

Lobbying in 2015

Wednesday, January 27th, 2016 by Matthew Barnes

A new report by the Center of Responsive Politics has found that the lobbying industry continued to contract in 2015. According to the report, “Overall spending dipped just slightly last year, from $3.24 billion in 2014 to $3.20 billion, but the number became the latest data point in the long, slow slide in total outlays by clients lobbying the federal government.” Similarly, the number of registered lobbyists has continued to fall. In 2015 there were 11,465 registered lobbyists, 1,489 less than were reported in 2010.

Despite some negative figures from the report, not everyone on K Street had a bad year. In fact, a number of big firms including:  Akin Gump, BGR Group, Brownstein Hyatt, Cornerstone Government Affairs, Covington & Burling, Greenberg Traurig, Ogilvy and Venable were all able to bring in over $1 million more from clients in 2015 than they did in 2014.

In 2015 the energy and natural resources industry suffered the biggest decline in lobbying spending.  Contributing to this decline, the “oil and gas companies extended their lobbying slump for a third year…. That decrease is reminiscent of the downward slope in lobbying by electric utilities after a 2010 nosedive.” Much of the slump from oil and gas companies can be attributed to the collapsing price of oil in 2015. According to the Wall Street Journal, “After plunging from more than $100 a barrel to nearly $50 a barrel last year, U.S. oil prices fell 30% in 2015 to $37.04 a barrel. Brent, the global benchmark, fell 35% to $37.28 a barrel.” Currently, oil sits at $30.97 a barrel.

In 2016 we will continue to monitor the industry and report on the latest lobbying trends, news, and rules and regulations.

2014 Revolving Door Is Open For Business

Thursday, January 21st, 2016 by Matthew Barnes

After completing the mandatory “cooling off” period, members of the House who retired, resigned or lost re-election in 2014 are now officially able to lobby. According to House ethics rules, senior aides and former members of Congress are prohibited from lobbying their former colleagues for one year after leaving the Hill. Former senators are prohibited for two years after they leave the Hill. According to analysis from The Hill, “Roughly one-third of the former lawmakers in that group have gone on to work for companies, universities, trade associations or firms that lobby the federal government.”

During the “cooling off” period some former lawmakers have “refrained from speaking with former colleagues since leaving office, even about matters that did not pertain to business.” The Hill reports former Rep. Buck McKeon saying he “avoided even seeing them [other Members] because I didn’t even want the appearance” of impropriety.” However, other former members comply with the regulations, but still take an active role in advocacy. For example, former Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) joined his son’s boutique lobby firm, Waxman Strategies, and has been actively working on advocating before the executive branch, which former lawmakers are not restricted from in any way.

In recent years a number of former Members of Congress have gravitated to non-lobbying roles after leaving the Hill. Former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) has joined the investment bank Moelis & Co. as a vice chairman and managing director and Former Rep. Steven Horsford (D-Nev.) returned to Nevada-based public relations firm R&R Resources, where he worked before running for office.  However, according to The Hill, “law and lobby shops remain the most common destination for former lawmakers. Former Reps. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) and Jim Matheson (D-Utah) landed at Squire Patton Boggs, which has a lobby shop led by former Sens. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and John Breaux (D-La.). The Louisiana-based shop the Picard Group hired former Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-La.), and Rep. Robert Andrews (D-N.J.) went to Dilworth Paxon.”

Missouri & A Different Meaning of Gift

Wednesday, January 13th, 2016 by Matthew Barnes

In the latest change to state lobbying requirements, last week in Missouri, Representative Bart Korman (R-Mo. 42nd District) introduced legislation that defines sex between lobbyists and lawmakers as a gift. This means lobbyists in the state will have to report any “sexual relations” with state legislators as a “gift” in their state ethics commission disclosures. According to the bill, (House Bill No. 2059), “the term “gift” shall include sexual relations between a registered lobbyist and a member of the general assembly or his or her staff. Relations between married persons or between persons who entered into a relationship prior to the registration of the lobbyist, the election of the member to the general assembly, or the employment of the staff person shall not be reportable under this subdivision. The reporting of sexual relations for purposes of this subdivision shall not require a dollar valuation.”

Last year Missouri went through several sexual scandals involving its lawmakers. According to the Associated Press, in July 2015 “Missouri state Sen. Paul LeVota submitted his resignation…following allegations that he made unwanted sexual advances toward interns.” This followed hot on the heels of a scandal in May, when a sexually charged relationship between House Speaker John Diehl and an intern was uncovered. Politico reported that “Missouri House Speaker John Diehl resigned Thursday, the day after a report surfaced that he had exchanged sexually charged messages with a 19-year-old intern in his office at the Capitol in Jefferson City.”

Explaining his decision to report sexual relations as a gift Rep. Korman has said, “We’ve already got a lobbyist gift reporting requirement and so that’s how I worked it in there, by treating it as a definition of gift…I hope it deters any of that activity, but that if activity does occur, it’s at least transparent.”

Turf Wars

Thursday, January 7th, 2016 by Matthew Barnes

Since reports have come out allegedly linking synthetic turf surfaces to toxic substances the industry has begun to fight back, hiring lobbyists to help brief those on the Hill about synthetic turf and its safety. According to The Hill, multiple reports have “found a number of young athletes who contracted cancer that they and some environmental advocates say is linked to the rubber infill, which is frequently made from recycled vehicle tires.” These reports drew the attention of the House Energy and Commerce Committee leading Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and ranking member Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) to write to the EPA in October asking the agency to “evaluate where its scientific work stands in terms of turf infill, and asking whether the EPA’s last study on the matter, finished in 2009, needs updating.”

This issue is of serious concern as The Hill reports there are “more than 12,000 athletic fields use turf in North America, including at high schools, colleges, municipal parks and the stadiums of 13 NFL teams, according to the industry group.” In December the Thomas Burke, the Deputy Assistant Administrator of the EPA responded to Chairman’s Upton’s questions writing, “We have information from a number of limited studies and they do not shoe an elevated health risk from playing on fields with synthetic turf containing tire crumb. However, the studies have various limitations and do not comprehensively address concerns about children’s health risks from exposures to tire crumb.”  Nevertheless, NBC reports other toxicologists such as Dr. Laura Green are more confident in the safety of the tire crumbs saying, “It’s always been true that a carcinogenic gas has been used to make tires, but it’s never been true, never, that once tires are made, once they are in use, and once they are crumb balled that they liberate that or any other carcinogen…There’s zero reason to be concerned that playing on synthetic turf will put your child at risk for cancer,” she added. “It’s simply not true.”

Commenting on the Synthetic Turf Council’s retention of a lobbying firm, Al Garver, President of the Council said, “We utilized Clark Hill in October and November to advise us on the best way to brief key offices on the Hill to ensure they had the most current studies available on crumb rubber infill and to let them know that the industry was available to help in any way it could to support further studies,” according to The Hill.

The lobbying battle over synthetic turf has not just been restricted to the federal level. NBC reports, “Terry Leveille, president of the California-based lobbying firm TL & Associates, helped defeat [California State Sen. Jerry] Hill’s bill in Sacramento. It never got out of committee. At a scrap recycling conference this year, Leveille told industry representatives that he and the Synthetic Turf Council, an industry group, had also lobbied successfully against legislation in Virginia, and deflected a Minnesota bill with “a promise to fund a new $50,000 study.”

LobbyBlog will continue to monitor this issue and report the latest lobbying news.