Archive for June, 2017

Shadow Lobbyists on the Rise?

Thursday, June 29th, 2017 by Allison Rosenstock

Trump promised to drain the swamp, and by the numbers, he has done just that. 448 individuals who lobbied in the third quarter of 2016 did not report activity during the next two quarters. However, according to the Center for Responsive Politics and Open Secrets, “for the first time in five years,” the amount of money spent by organizations that were already registered went up in the first quarter of this year compared to the same period the previous year.”

While the lobbying firms are spending more money, and over half of the lobbyists are working for the same employer, twelve percent of the registered lobbyists are unaccounted for. Companies are claiming that their employees are moving to other parts of the company. David Whitrap, Vice President of corporate communications for Vertex Pharmaceuticals claims that, “it is quite common for our employees to move from department to department as they see opportunities to expand their experience and skill set.”

According to Bloomberg Politics, Trump’s ethics pledge could have opened the door to increased shadow lobbying. While many on Trump’s team came from lobbying backgrounds, such as Taylor Hansen and Byron Anderson. His pledge requires all appointees to not engage in lobbying activity for five years after they leave the federal government. However, many federal government employees have yet to sign the agreement.

The Center for Responsive Politics concludes that even though the number of registered lobbyists is decreasing, that does not mean that lobbying activity is declining. Rather, many lobbyists are continuing to work with the same employer, regardless of both former President Obama’s and President Trump’s attack on lobbyists. They also claim that “although we do find some differences by partisanship, the bigger picture is that despite denunciations of lobbyists by senior politicians in both parties, more and more lobbying goes on beyond public scrutiny, making it harder to hold those in power to account.”

The Future of Digital Advocacy

Thursday, June 22nd, 2017 by Allison Rosenstock

This year, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg vowed to use Facebook as a tool to increase civic engagement among users.  According to Tech Crunch, in part, this decision is a reaction to the role that Facebook played in U.S. elections, especially the 2016 Presidential election.  In March, Facebook released a new feature called “Town Hall,” which allows users to easily locate, follow, and contact their representatives at the local, state, and federal levels.

Because Facebook was accused of helping Donald Trump win by “doing nothing to prevent the spread of fake news and disinformation across its network,” Zuckerberg and his team have released new controls. These include PSAs on how to identify inaccurate reporting and downranking unreliable news stories from its Trending section.

In addition to the new censoring system, Facebook is making it easier for constituents to contact their representatives.  Now, you can share your rep’s contact information on your posts.  Elected officials can also communicate directly with constituents, and better understand them based on their digital footprint. Facebook has done this through the addition of three new features: constituent badges which allow elected officials to track constituent activity, constituent insights which allows elected officials to stay current with local news stories in their district, and district targeting which allows elected officials to receive feedback from constituents through Facebook directly.

Many in Washington now claim that “social media and digital advocacy, not traditional lobbying, as the fastest-growing segments of the influence industry according to a recent survey of Washington lobbyists, lawyers, association executives, and think tank leaders.” The greatest percentage of respondents- 38%- said they expect organizations to increase their social media presence to influence policymakers. The next largest percentage- 21%- believe organizations will increase their digital capabilities over the next five years.

Lobbying in the Wake of the GOP Baseball Practice Shooting

Thursday, June 15th, 2017 by Allison Rosenstock

According to an AP Report, following the shooting, the lobbying effort and a related hearing on gun silencers were canceled following the shooting on Wednesday. However, gun control lobbyists have not given- both on the federal level and the state level. They do not have a specific strategy moving forward to challenge the Trump administration and the Republican-led Congress. After the shooting, gun-control groups immediately showed support for the victims, then called for Congressional action. Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in 2011, also tweeted her support for her former colleagues.

The National Rifle Association has gone on the offensive stating that the Capitol police were the “good guys with guns [and] kept this from getting worse.” The NRA plans to push gun-friendly legislation at the state and federal level and argue against new gun-control measures. Trump allies appear to agree with this sentiment, including Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., who has a permit to carry a gun. He also claimed that he will be carrying his gun with him at all times from now on. According to the LA Times, Rep. Mo Brooks, who was shot at this Wednesday, continues to be pro-gun, pro-2nd Amendment. Further, according to a Washington Post report, the guns the shooter used were purchased from licensed dealers.

Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., introduced the Hearing Protection Act to remove silencers from the National Firearms Act, which has regulated silencers and machine guns for more than 80 years. It is backed by the NRA. However, gun-control groups claim the bill puts gun manufacturer’s profits over safety. President Trump also signed a bill in February which blocked a rule that would have kept guns out of the hands of certain people with mental disorders.

From all the staff at, our thoughts are with all the victims, including lobbyist Matt Mika.

The Administration and Lobbying Activity

Friday, June 9th, 2017 by Allison Rosenstock

While previously reported that President Donald Trump had a negative view on the lobbying industry on the campaign, the administration now finds themselves at the helm of three lobbying skirmishes.  First, which could prove to be positive, the administration has floated the idea of including solar panels on the planned Mexican border wall.  According to Politico, the solar power lobby is on board with the idea. The Solar Energy Industry Association appreciates President Trump’s apparent appreciation of the benefits of solar energy. While the border wall has not yet been approved, Trump may now have the support of the solar lobby.

Second, Democrats are starting a new nonprofit in the wake of the Obamacare debate. The nonprofit, Consumers for Quality Care, will be led by former Del. Donna Christensen and Jim Manley, former senior advisor to Sens. Harry Reid and Edward Kennedy. Scott Mulhauser, who was senior adviser to the Senate Finance Committee and former Vice President Biden, will also be involved.

Regarding the Travel Ban and Open Skies conflict, the Air Line Pilots Association accused U.S. Travel Association of essentially lobbying on behalf of the UAE. ALPS is now calling on U.S. Travel to register itself as a foreign agent and list the UAE on lobbying disclosure forms. Trump’s travel ban appears to have caused some controversy among the travel industry.

All three examples are tied to Trump administration policies or efforts. However, Trump is also involved in lobbying on a personal front.  According to the Wall Street Journal, Trump Hotel received $270,000 from a lobbying campaign tied to Saudi Arabia. The contribution was disclosed to the Justice Department, however it has sparked the interest of many in Washington. Lobbyblog will follow the story.

Mixed Results for Lobbyists So Far Under Trump

Thursday, June 1st, 2017 by Matthew Barnes

After the outcome of the 2016 election many in Washington, D.C. expected a flurry of lobbying activity under the new 115th Congress and Administration. Republicans finally had control of the White House and both chambers of Congress. Many industry experts talked about the end of gridlock and a steady flow of legislative accomplishments. In fact, LobbyBlog has previously posted about the need to re-write one’s lobbying playbook under the Trump Administration. Some evidence, does point in this direction. As previously reported, “the lobbying industry has recorded its highest earnings in the first quarter for the past five years as many companies have invested heavily in lobbying activities aimed at the new administration and the Republican controlled congress.” However, per a new report in Roll Call, “clients have been hiring lobbyists at a reduced rate compared to 2009.”

According to the report, “Lobbyists and organizations that employ them filed 1,578 disclosure forms to indicate new client relationships beginning between January and April of this year. That’s only slightly higher than the number of clients in the same time period in 2015 — after the 2014 midterm elections — and 2013 — after Obama’s re-election victory. In both those years, the president’s party did not have a majority in both chambers of Congress. The last time one party controlled both chambers of Congress and the White House, the number of new clients was noticeably higher. Lobbyists took on 3,433 clients in 2009 in the months after Obama won his first presidential election — more than double the amount after President Donald Trump won.”

Not only has the rate of companies looking to hire lobbyists reduced when compared to 2009, “From January to March, the number of registered lobbyists dropped 10.3 percent compared to 2016’s first quarter, with only 9,175 official lobbyists on record. That number has been declining in recent years, but this is the biggest drop since lobbying reports started being reported quarterly,” according to Center for Responsive Politics report.