Archive for March, 2016
Wednesday, March 30th, 2016 by Matthew Barnes
In a surprising turn of events, Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) has officially registered as a lobbyist. According to The Hill, “He is part of a team at Baker Donelson Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz that is lobbying for the health insurer Aetna, according to forms filed to the Senate. The disclosure forms say the the team will be working with the insurer — which recently withdrew from a major industry trade group, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) — on issues related to the Affordable Care Act and Medicare Advantage, among other things.”
Prior to his registration as a lobbyist, the term the “Daschle loophole” has become popularized as a way to describe the ability of former officials to cash in on K Street without registering as lobbyists. Politico reports that this is done by either “avoiding direct contact with lawmakers or by spending less than 20 percent of their time lobbying. Daschle always maintained his activities didn’t qualify as lobbying, but those who worked with him said he didn’t want the “Scarlet L” to jeopardize his prospects of returning to public office. His nomination to be Obama’s health secretary was nevertheless thwarted by a tax error.”
Since losing his Senate seat in 2004, Daschle worked at “Alston & Bird, then DLA Piper, and, since late 2014, Baker Donelson, where he set up his own subsidiary, The Daschle Group,” according to The Center for Responsive Politics.
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Thursday, March 24th, 2016 by Matthew Barnes
In a strategic move, Venezuela has registered part of its legal team at Hogan Lovells as lobbyists in its international dispute with a U.S. oil company that could land before the Supreme Court. This move will enable them to “sit down with Justice Department lawyers as the legal fight intensifies,” reports to The Hill. The firm “will seek to meet with the Justice Department’s solicitor general, according to forms filed under the Foreign Agents Registration Act signed by counsel Bruce Oakley, the managing partner of the firm’s Houston office.” In 2015 Hogan Lovells brought in $12.6 million in lobbying revenue according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.
Oil rigging company Helmerich & Payne brought a legal challenge against Venezuela following a drilling dispute in 2010. The Hill reports, “Helmerich & Payne’s local subsidiary — H&P-V — had been operating in the country for decades. But in 2010, following a contract dispute with the state-owned oil company, Helmerich & Payne said its subsidiary would stop drilling in the country. The country’s National Guard then blocked off 11 rigs with its boats, and Venezuela seized the subsidiary’s oil rigs and other equipment. The confiscation was part of then- Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez’s move to nationalize his country’s oil industry.” According to the suit the confiscation of the oil rigs and equipment breached a contract, hurting the Oklahoma-based parent company and violating international law.
As the case progresses Venezuela’s lobbyists will likely urge the administration to ask the Supreme Court to take up the case after filing documents with the court encouraging action.
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Wednesday, March 16th, 2016 by Matthew Barnes
As D.C. emerges from a snowy winter, the legislative fly-in season is already off and running in the warm sunshine of spring. This week the Hill is playing host to the American Bankers Association, which has 1,000 people attending its summit this week according to Politico. For anybody who has organized one of these events, they know it is a painstaking task. To help reduce the stress of running an advocacy day the U.S. Congress Handbook, known for its customizable guides on our members of Congress, has launched their new Advocacy Day Assistant smartphone app. The app allows users to schedule, coordinate and update Hill meetings with ease, stay in constant contact with advocates, upload talking points, and get real-time feedback throughout an advocacy day.
Joel Poznansky, the publisher of the Original US Congress Handbook has said, “After years of working with clients to create custom advocacy tools with our line of US Congress Handbooks, the natural next step was to develop and app. We’ve partnered with the expert app developers at NWYC and fly-in expert Stephanie Vance of Advocacy Associates to put together the most comprehensive and user friendly advocacy day app available.”
The app is full of features that make it the ideal tool for advocacy days on the Hill. You’ll be able to view congressional profiles with biographies, vote history, committee assignments, recent news articles & links to each member’s social media profile, as well as the ability to research bills. These features can also be customized for each individual user based on their meetings schedule. You’ll also never have to worry about your advocates getting lost in the maze of buildings and hallways on the Hill. The app has built in Google Maps integration, allowing users to navigate the corridors of power with ease.
While on an advocacy day you’ll also be able to keep in constant communication with your advocates using the app’s advocate to advocate messaging. The app can also send real-time schedule updates with push notifications allowing users to update advocates about any last minute meeting changes. Moreover, you’ll be able to stay in touch with advocates and receive feedback from them after the advocacy day through post fly-in surveys with push notifications.
As exemplified above, like the U.S. Congress Handbook, the app is also highly customizable. You can customize the look and feel of your app using one of four template options, create a custom splash page for your organization, add your logo and branding within the app, provide space for advertisers & sponsors, pre-load customized hashtags for tweeting, and even upload up to 20 custom documents for your advocates including: talking points, event schedules, handouts, etc.
Utilizing powerful tools like the Advocacy Day Assistant can help to greatly improve an advocate’s experience and the overall success of an advocacy day, while greatly reducing the stress of organizing such an event. Lobby Blog will continue to monitor this space and provide insights into the latest tools that help government relations professionals successfully get the job done.
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Thursday, March 10th, 2016 by Matthew Barnes
For many people lobbying has become a dirty word, alluding to professional government insiders who pull the strings in a defunct Washington. In the ongoing presidential campaigns we have heard candidates from Bernie Sanders to Donald Trump condemn the industry saying, ““I know the system better than anybody. The fact is that whether it’s Jeb, or Hillary, or any of ’em—they’re all controlled by these people! And the people that control them are the special interests, the lobbyists and the donors.” However, we know that this is not the case for majority of government relations professionals. I was fortunate enough to be able to listen to Connie Tipton, President and CEO, International Dairy Foods Association discuss our right to petition the government and the value of lobbying before the American Society of Association Executives’ (ASAE) 2016 Americans Associations Day on the Hill. In her remarks Ms. Tipton did a terrific job of explaining our right to lobby and its value.
Remarks by Connie Tipton, American Society of Association Executives Washington, DC Fly-In, American Associations Day, March 9-10, 2016
“We also have the freedoms granted us in the United States Constitution. Most notable, at least for our purpose at this conference, is our First Amendment right to freedom of speech and to petition our government.
Let’s consider these constitutional freedoms separately for a moment. Free speech is frequently hailed as an unassailable right, supported by many Americans even when they don’t agree with what’s being said.
But petitioning our government through issue advocacy, or lobbying, seems to always get thrown under the proverbial bus as something evil. Even the term “lobbying” has taken on a sinister meaning for some, especially in recent political campaigns.
In fact, President Obama took villainizing lobbyists to a new level when he came to the White House. He loudly threatened that he would bar any former lobbyist from serving in his administration and made sure no one with a lobbying background could serve on any advisory committees. As you may have guessed, that eliminates a lot of extremely qualified and well informed people, so in the end, it was a threat he found impossible to stick with, but he succeeded in putting another black mark on the name of lobbying.
Even in the current presidential primaries, lobbyists are often served up as something corrupt or unscrupulous. Of course there have been “bad apples,” just as there are in any profession or political campaign, for that matter, but the work of our government relies on people representing their interests and those of their constituents in order to arrive at the best outcomes on policies. There is no way members of Congress can imagine all of the tangential impacts a particular proposal may have when it’s put into law. Informing them of the nuances only someone steeped in a particular issue or industry would know is our right and responsibility; that’s why you’re here – and why it is important to share your stories.
It is our right as American citizens to advocate for our interests with our elected officials and to try to have a real impact on the policies and programs that govern our lives.
As Americans we are very fortunate, indeed, to have these freedoms to invest in endeavors we enjoy and believe in, to associate with others we agree with, and to use our collective voices to make a difference in policies that will shape our future.
I have served for a number of years on the board of the Bryce Harlow Foundation, an organization that provides scholarships to people pursuing advanced degrees that will help them in careers as business advocates. Bryce Harlow was an early leader in providing and promoting business advocacy with integrity. Before he became a lobbyist, he worked in the Eisenhower White House as the first congressional liaison. And he spoke often of the importance of maintaining relationships with members of Congress.
In a 1965 speech about business advocacy, Harlow said, it “is not simply good citizenship, it is hardheaded realism. It often means dollars and cents in profits. It may well mean avoidance of economic disaster.” And then he continued, “Many are the times that it means keeping the ‘free’ in free enterprise.”
Simply put, lobbying is advocating a particular point of view. Lobbying is a legitimate and necessary part of our democratic political process. Government decisions affect both people and organizations, and public officials cannot make fair and informed decisions without considering information from a broad range of interested parties. All sides of an issue must be explored to produce equitable government policies.”
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Wednesday, March 2nd, 2016 by Matthew Barnes
On Tuesday, March 1, 2016 FBI Director James Comey and Bruce Sewell, Senior Vice President and General Counsel to Apple, Inc., among others, participated in a House Judiciary Committee hearing on “The Encryption Tightrope: Balancing Americans’ Security and Privacy.” The hearing represents the first confrontation between law enforcement and Apple over accessing the data stored on the iPhone used by Syed Rizwan Farook, one of the terrorists in the Dec. 2015 San Bernardino attack.
The New York times reports, “Many lawmakers at Tuesday’s hearing of the House Judiciary Committee seemed torn over where to draw the line.” Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) asserted “The big question for our country is how much privacy are we going to give up in the name of security, and there’s no easy answer to that.” Providing strong support for the FBI Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) questioned if “We’re going to create evidence-free zones? Am I missing something? How the hell you can’t access a phone, I just find baffling.”
The hearings point to Apple being at a strategic disadvantage in Washington. The Washington Post reports, “Apple’s lobbying presence in Washington is tiny compared to other tech firms. The company spent roughly $4.5 million on lobbying last year.” In comparison Mircrosoft spent 8.5 million, Facebook spent almost $10 million, and Google (now Alphabet) spent over 16.5 million on lobbying in 2015. According to the Post, “In some ways, Apple’s relative dearth of relationships on Capitol Hill makes it a more vulnerable target. Unlike companies with large, well-funded lobbying teams, Apple lacks the means to avoid the government spotlight when it happens to settle upon them. Apple has few lawmakers that it can reliably call to its defense.”
According to Politico, “All eyes are on the hearing today as most tech companies, while quietly sympathetic to Apple, are keeping their heads down. One tech lobbyist said his clients are eager for intel on the proposals but don’t want an advocacy push just yet. As Information Technology Industry Council President and CEO Dean Garfield said in a statement yesterday, “this is the beginning of the conversation.””
Fierce Government Relations and Franklin Square Group represent Apple on encryption.
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