Archive for August, 2016

Lobbying Under Pres. Clinton

Thursday, August 25th, 2016 by Matthew Barnes

Lobbyists have started to explore what a Hillary Clinton presidency would mean for the industry. So far, signs have pointed to a thawing of the relationship between a future Clinton Administration and lobbyists, especially in comparison to President Obama’s 2008 presidential election campaign when he pledged not to accept contributions from registered lobbyists.  Moreover, once President Obama was elected the administration issued an “executive order [which] imposed strict rules about lobbyist participation that went farther than previous administrations. It barred political appointees in his administration, if they were registered lobbyists within the previous two years, from working for agencies they’d lobbied during the previous two years,” according to the Washington Post.

In a Time report discussing the difference between President Obama’s policies and Secretary Clinton’s, lobbyists Heather Podesta of Heather Podesta + Partners said, “During Obama Administration I couldn’t give money to the Democratic National Committee, the President, and if the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee was having an event with him I couldn’t go even though I was a maxed-out donor,” she continued. “This year, I’m helping to raise money for Hillary. I’ve known her a long time. I’m really excited about her campaign. I raised for her in 2008 and I’m ready for her to go all the way. So my money is now good.”

So far, according to the Washington Post, “lobbyists have raised about $7 million for the 2016 Clinton campaign so far, and Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta co-founded what became one of Washington’s top lobby firms with his brother, prominent Democratic lobbyist Tony Podesta — a top Clinton bundler.” A Clinton White House may also issue a new executive order on lobbying which would supersede President Obama’s executive order. “There is some speculation that Obama could lift or loosen the restrictions on lobbyists before leaving office, which would save Clinton the political trouble of having to do it herself,” The Washington Post reports.

Earlier this year the Democratic National Committee (DNC) reversed the lobbying donation prohibition policies it adopted under President Obama in 2008.  The Hill reports that Mark Paustenbach, Deputy Communications Director for the DNC said, “The DNC’s recent change in guidelines will ensure that we continue to have the resources and infrastructure in place to best support whoever emerges as our eventual nominee.”

Decreasing Membership is Increasingly a Problem for the Coal Lobby

Thursday, August 18th, 2016 by Matthew Barnes

A new report by the Climate Investigations Center outlines the declining support for the coal mining industry. According to the report, the coal industry’s “growing isolation is reflected in the declining lobbying spending of the US coal industry’s principal lobby groups, the National Mining Association (NMA) and the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE).”

ACCCE is a non-profit, non-partisan partnership of companies involved in producing electricity from coal. ACCCE was most active lobbying from 2005-2012, with a peak of $9.9 million dollar spent on lobbying in 2008 according to the Center for Responsive Politics. In comparison, this year ACCCE has only spent $10,000 on lobbying. Furthermore, “Seven of the twelve companies that gave ACCCE $1 million or more in 2008 are no longer listed as members,” according to the Climate Investigations Center report.  The Huffington Post reports that major membership departures from ACCCE have included Ameren, DTE Energy, Alstom and Duke Energy.

The NMA has also had a shortfall in lobbying, spending only $579,448 so far in 2016 according to the Center for Responsive Politics. This figure is down over $4 million from last year’s lobbying spending.  Like ACCCE, the NMA has also dealt with some big departures. According to The Huffington Post “The carmaker Volvo made a public split last December, calling the group’s position on policies to address climate change “quite crazy.” And the report confirms that one of the world’s largest mining companies, Anglo American, has left ― which the company attributed to both budgeting issues and its decision to move away from mining coal. The bank Wells Fargo and insurance company Zurich have also left the association.”

According to the report there are several reasons why companies have been opting out of their coal lobby memberships including:Increased public awareness of coal’s contribution to dangerous levels of air pollution has also highlighted the broad benefits of a transition away coal. …low natural gas prices and the rapid growth of renewable energy have cut into coal’s market share in the United States; …major banks have curtailed financing for coal mining companies…[and] finally, the Obama administration, many state and local governments, and some major companies have pursued a wide variety of measures to address climate change, reduce air pollution, and promote renewable energy, which have increased these trends.”

Number of registered lobbyists numbers shrinking away as spending decreases

Wednesday, August 10th, 2016 by Vbhotla

 The lobbying sector is now facing impending obstacles due to the decrease in reported spending for their respective services. According to the Huffington Post, “325 fewer lobbyists registered in the second quarter of 2016 than in the first.” This decrease is showcased as the biggest drop in the past four years, and marks the number of registered lobbyists at its west point record wise. In the past, records have indicated that the total account of registered lobbyists have never dipped below 10,000 since 1988. The Huffington Post displays a graphic overview of how these numbers have changed from 2007 to 2016. This year’s average of registered lobbyists have decreased to a shocking 9,726, a major contrast to 2007’s account of 15,000 registered lobbyists.

According to the Huffington Post, a contributing factor for this decease could point to a “set of policies designed to curb lobbying put in place by President Obama, or gridlock Congress”. Apart from this speculation, another contributing factor may be that there are fewer people registering as recognized lobbyists. That’s not to say that fewer people are enacting in lobbying efforts. There is just a decrease in the trend of accurate lobbyist’s registration, feeding into the “shadow lobbying” concept.

The amount of lobbying spending has ultimately decreased in relative to the decreasing accounts of registered lobbyists. According to Huffington Post, “from April through June, lobbying outlays decreased to just more than $779 million, compared to almost $824 million spent in the first quarter of this year”. In conclusion, if lobbying accounts for this year follows past recent quarterly trends, speculations and experiments dictate that 2016’s total lobbying spending and relations will mark at about 3.1 billion, also about 3 percent less than 2015.

Zika Funding Stuck in Congress

Tuesday, August 9th, 2016 by Matthew Barnes

By: Lily McManus,

Congress failed to authorize $1.1 billion in Zika funding before its seven-week recess after disagreement on a host of measures included in the latest version of an appropriations bill prevented its passage.

A conference report approved by the U.S. House of Representatives, “Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Zika Response Appropriations Act Final Conference Report” (H. Rept. 114-640), proposed to reconcile disagreements between the Senate and House on pending legislation (H.R. 2577) by allocating $1.1 billion to Zika-related activities, including $476 million to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, the proposal included several contentious measures that prevented its passage in the Senate before the July 15 recess, including the reallocation of $107 million of Ebola funding, $540 million from Affordable Care Act programs and the lifting of environmental restrictions on pesticide use in order to kill Zika-carrying mosquitoes.

The Zika virus is primarily spread through bites from an infected Aedes species mosquito (which bite during the day and are present in southern and eastern states), but may also be spread through sexual activity, and has been linked to serious birth defects, including microcephaly. Ongoing outbreaks in Puerto Rico and throughout Central and South American and the Caribbean have caused public health officials to plead for federal funding before the disease hits the United States, which is more likely now that mosquito season has arrived. As of August 3, 1,818 travel-acquired infections in the United States had been reported to CDC, and six that had been transmitted locally. In U.S. territories, 5,525 locally acquired cases and 23 travel-associated cases have been reported.

Emergency Appropriations

The Obama administration originally requested that Congress pass a $1.9 billion bill to fight Zika. Although Obama’s proposal would have redirected $600 million from Ebola funding, the bulk of the money would have been authorized as “emergency appropriations,” rather than repurposed from funds that had already been authorized for other uses. The funding would have supported efforts to develop vaccines, study the effects of the virus, eradicate mosquitoes and educate people on how to protect themselves.

The Senate approved a $1.1 bill in May, but the text of the bill has since undergone several changes — including budget cuts and policy revisions — that have prompted Democrats to block the bill from passing. A $622 million House bill, which was strongly opposed by the Administration, also was passed in May; the House bill would have pulled the majority of the funding from other programs like Ebola.

Boeing and Airbus’s prospective deals with Iran stirring opposing lobbying campaigns

Friday, August 5th, 2016 by Vbhotla

In recent events, the U.S Treasury Department have spent a considerable amount of time on contemplating a very controversial business deal: to license sales, via Boeing and Airbus, in funding commercial aircraft to Iran. According to Reuters, the mere contemplation has created controversy in the congressional arena, as opponents of last year’s aircraft deal with Iran step forward to lobby against this prospective deal.

Certain members of Congress have openly opposed this prospect, proposing that the department should ultimately block $50 billion of sales, equaling the manufacturing and selling of approximately 200 jetliners. Controversial arguments have highlighted that there is a strong possibility that this business deal would only internally strengthen Tehran, Iran’s capital and fundamentally growing city. There has also been a concern of how these American purchased aircrafts could be used against U.S troops or other countries and their militia in times of war.

The strike against this deal looks successful at one glance. According to Reuters, the House of Representatives passed two amendments last month that aimed to stop the sales. However, the bill cannot become a law until it is approved by the Senate and signed by President Barack Obama, whose position on the deal has not been stated yet. Democratic Party candidate Hilary Clinton openly supports the deal, contrasting with her counterpart Republican Party candidate Donald Trump.

In addition congressional lobbying and contrasting efforts, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies has pushed its energy against the prospective deal. According to Reuters, the foreign policy research group has collective and dispersed a number of letters that advocates for tougher sanctions on Iran in order to mitigate or halt the Boeing/Airbus dealings. The letters, supported and signed by national security figures, openly express public concerns, and promises to increase pressure on Congress. The letters were directly sent to Dennis Muilenburg, Boeing’s Chairman, as well as Fabrice Brégier, Chief Executive of Airbus’ plane manufacturing department. According to Reuters, the letters main points stated that “this deal represents a legitimization of a State Sponsor of Terror and a direct benefit for a ruling regime responsible for gross human rights abuses, support for terrorism including threats against the U.S. and its allies”.