Archive for the ‘Executive Branch’ Category

White House Reverses Lobbying Ban

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014 by Linnae O'Flahavan

THE WHITE HOUSE HAS REVERSED part of its ban preventing registered lobbyists from serving on advisory panels. Lobbyists may now sit on advisory panels “so long as they’re examples of evaluation essays acting on behalf of a corporation, trade association or industry group and not as private citizens or representatives of the government,” reports POLITICO.

The original ban was put in place in 2010, but has been challenged in court by 6 lobbyists who, as a result of the ban, were kicked off advisory panels. Those lobbyists include Erik Autor, Nate Herman, Cass Johnson, Stephen Lamar, Bill Reinsch, and Andrew Zamoyski. The courts ruled against the White House by refusing to dismiss the case, and as a result, the Office of Management and Budget has eased up on restrictions by publishing the new rule in the Federal Register.

There appears to be significant criticism of the Obama administration for easing up on promised ethics reforms regarding K Street’s influence, although it is important to note that the reversal in policy is coming after court decisions going against the ban. Bloomberg quotes OMB’s Communications Director Melanie Roussell, who defends the ban, clarifying that “the purpose of the prohibition is ‘to restrict the undue influence of lobbyists on the federal government’ and was ‘not designed to prevent lobbyists or others from petitioning their government.’” Nonetheless, many lobbyists are up in arms about the ban, claiming constitutional rights violations, and are glad to see the White House reversing part of the ban.

It remains unclear exactly how far the White House will retreat on this issue since the administration is admitting defeat by reversing even part of the ban. In addition, POLITICO reports that the Obama administration has hired over 70 previously registered lobbyists including Broderick Johnson, Melody Barnes, James Kohlenberger, and Sean Kennedy. President Obama ran for office on a platform vowing to keep K Street influence out of the White House, but his plans seem to be failing, regardless of his intentions. It’s hard to say what Obama truly intended to accomplish, but quite easy to say that his ethics reforms aiming to minimize special interest influence on government policy are not really working.

Insights and Top 3 most likely Vice Presidential candidates

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012 by Vbhotla

With the GOP primary all but over, the focus has shifted from how will the Republican primary end to who will be the eventual VP pick. Usually, when picking VPs there are two schools of thought, does the person help you govern (a Dick Chaney or Joseph Biden pick) or does the person help you win the election (Sarah Palin). Given his background and how close this election is looking, most people are expecting Romney to make an “election” pick rather than a governing one. After all, it doesn’t matter how good at governing someone is if they don’t win.

However, unlike most lists, this one is about who is the most likely (not best), which why Sen. Rubio (R–FL), for example, is not on the list. This is certainly not because he wouldn’t be a good VP candidate, so before everyone jumps up and down, let me explain.

Two points: first if you’re Rubio, why would you want to tie your extremely bright future to a candidate you could have beaten in the primary? The last VP candidate on a losing ticket that went on to become president was FDR, and that was part of the 1920 ticket with James Cox. (I must confess, I had to look this obscure stat up.) Not exactly the kind of statistic you want to hang your hat on.

Second, if you’re Romney, why do you want someone who is just going to take all the headlines and might not do all the dirty work needed from a VP candidate in the general? You’d know that Rubio is going to be thinking about running someday so that will constantly be playing into all the decisions. (Like Palin) It would be like putting two candidates on the same ticket and just hoping they would work things out. Besides, there would also be the embarrassing fear that Rubio would come off as the better candidate and syphon off an electoral vote like Bentsen did to Dukakis. Much of the same case can be made for Paul Ryan (also, who picks Representatives?). So who does make it onto the list:

1. Bobby Jindal – Since the State of the Union rebuttal, Jindal has been building a very good VP resume. (Even if he did endorse Rick Perry first) He has the sold conservative credentials that Romney would be looking for. Also, he’s proven that he isn’t afraid of getting his hands dirty and is more than able to do the traditional offensive role of a VP nominee. Moreover, he would help close the “enthusiasm gap” that Romney is currently stuck in. Lastly and most importantly, but I don’t know how to say this in a politically correct way… he isn’t white. Which, if you’re the GOP candidate against President Obama, is kind of a big deal.

2. Bob McDonnell – Romney isn’t winning the election without winning Virginia, and McDonnell is a nice compromise between new and old Republican. He can help bridge the gap with the base without going too far to the right, has some national appeal, and can point to a growing VA economy during his time in office. The recent fight in VA over abortion will be an issue, but I don’t know if it is enough to disqualify him.

3. Rob Portman – The “traditional thinking” pick, which is also why I think he is likely. Also, he helps out in a desperately needed way in Ohio, which also needs to be won for Romney to have a shot. I like Portman, but he’s as inside Washington as VP picks gets and in a year with Congressional approval in the toilet that’s not a good thing.

Final note: if his last name wasn’t Bush, I would have Jeb as my #1 pick by a landslide.

Presidential and Congressional Budget in the real world

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012 by Vbhotla

During the recent budget and upcoming Appropriations Committee hearing, a question has been floating around the Hill: has the budget process become irrelevant? There is certainly an argument to be made for it. This year’s Presidential budget was received by many as a political document that was never to be taken as a serious proposal that could ever have the chance of going somewhere. As for the Congressional Budget, aside from the fact that there hasn’t been one for some time, it is pretty much accepted that it as well would be dead on arrival. So without budget resolutions, what’s still important to know about the budget process?

To put it simply: a lot, though not necessarily for the reasons that are traditionally associated with the budget process. To illustrate, 2007 was the first time Congress passed a year-long quasi-continuing resolution (aka the ‘Cromibus’) since the 1980s. Because of the way it was written, the Executive Departments decided to exercise some funding latitude on programs based on the proposed Presidential budget. The Department of Indian Affairs, for example, temporarily withheld funding for some programs that had been zeroed out of the President’s budget, claiming Congress had not given orders to the contrary in their budget. Though eventually the funds were paid out, the damage had been done to some programs.

With the constant possibility (especially in an election year) of a Continuing Resolution, this year’s Presidential budget free electronic cigarettes deserves inspection, especially if your programs are part of the more than 200 that have been eliminated or cut. Here are few highlights to be aware of moving forward in the process:

– Health spending was cut across the board, but most notably the Center for Disease Control took a $664m cut, the largest of any discretionary health spending.

– Low Income Home Energy Assistance with HHS was cut by more than $450m.

– Department of Transportation Grants-in-Aid programs received a $926m cut.

– Of the almost $8 billion in total savings, $4 billion is expected to come from cuts to the Defense Department.

– Department of Treasury is expected to have a more than $240m cut, particularly its vehicle procurement.

With the upcoming funding sequestration, important funding decisions are going to be made in the next year and some programs are going to be left without chairs when the music stops. Even if your program saw a positive number in the budget, the programs that didn’t are going to try to get their money from somewhere. can get you prepared for the rest of this year and into the next Congress by showing you who is being hired by whom and let you know what you and your clients need to be watching out for. Additionally, register now to learn more about the budget process and practical tips and tricks you can use in the upcoming audioconference.

Top 5 Presidential Campaign Ads since 1984

Friday, February 10th, 2012 by Vbhotla

While Super Bowl news usually fills the front page and sports section, rarely does it reach the political pages. This year, the superbly done Clint Eastwood ad for Chrysler did just that. “It’s Halftime in America” might be the best political ad that isn’t really a political ad at all. To find out, Lobbyblog constructed a list of the top 5 Presidential Campaign Ads since 1984.

5. 1988 – “Willie Horton” – One of two H.W. Bush ads to make the list, Willie Horton is something that belongs in any 80’s political time capsule, right next to a picture of Gary Hart and the “Monkey Business.” Very contemporary, it perfectly meshed with crime spikes of the 80’s and the public fears that came with them, which everyone at the time knew was entirely due to liberals. However, what really gave the ad staying power was how controversial and racially charged it was (and the fact that it got a second life when claims that it violated FEC laws were filed).

Use of controversial ads continues to this day (why not, Bush did win after all) with ads such as Jesse Helm’s (won) “Hands”, Corker’s (won) anti-Harold Ford Jr. ad, and Rep. Hoekstra’s (may win?) new “Spenditnow.” Aside from running the gauntlet of “kind of racist” to “did I just see that?!?” for the most part what bothers me is that unlike Willie Horton, they are really just poorly constructed campaign ads. However, the fact that we’re talking about them (Spenditnow has well over 1 million hits in less than a week) might just prove the saying there’s no bad press. NOTE: Of course it was never be mentioned in the ad, the furlong program that release Willie Horton was signed by a Republican governor of Mass, not Dukakis.

4. 1984 – “Morning in American” – When I saw the Clint Eastwood ad this past weekend, this ad was the first thing that went through my head. In my opinion, the brilliance of this one is that you can remove Reagan’s name and it would fit perfectly for a majority of politicians in almost any election. It is a great example of an ad that brands a candidate and creates positive emotions. While attack ads can help erode support for an opponent, they rarely motivate volunteer work on the ground outside of one or two groups that might be directly affected by the attack ad. Reagan, with his background in advertising, perfectly understood that a positive brand would (and did) translate into a very strong volunteer numbers. “Morning in America” was less about voting for Reagan and more about voting for an idea.

3. 2004 – “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth” – There were really three that I wanted to put here, this, Kerry Windsailing (hit home the flip-flopping) and Wolves (one of Online Blackjack the best last-minute ads and taken directly from Reagan’s successful “Bears in the woods”). However, this one won out for three reasons: it was incredibly successful for what it was aiming to do, it helped to launch a national debate on 527 Groups (a debate that we are currently having and will have for the rest of the year) and, most importantly, my editor made me pick it.

The Swift Boat ads (there were a series of commercials) was so successful it made it seem that one of Kerry’s strengths going into the election (his wartime service) was actually one of his liabilities. If Willie Horton shows how to use an ad to hit an opponent’s weakness, the Swift Boat series showed how to nullify one of their strengths.

2. 2008 – “Yes, we can” – The only Democratic commercial on the list, (I can’t tell if that is good or bad) I consider this the evolutionary “Morning in America,” another great example of voting for an idea over a candidate. The star-studded ad based upon President Obama’s New Hampshire primary speech, much like the campaign itself, became as much a cultural phenomenon as a political one. This kind of simplicity was an easy, positive message that was missing from previous Democratic candidates Gore and Kerry. “Yes, we can” and the culture that it created showed that a good, positive message can win a campaign much better than a negative one. So why isn’t it #1 on the list?

1. 1988 – “Dukakis in a Tank” – There is a centuries old saying in American politics, don’t get in a tank or land on an aircraft carrier unless you are sure you are going to look awesome while doing so. (ed- I’d stress the ridiculous helmet over the tank. Tanks are cool, comically big headwear isn’t) Candidates that don’t heed this advice can watch as their own media stunt is turned into an effective ad for their opponent; and it is times like that things can go horribly wrong. And when Dukakis got in a tank, things went horribly wrong. Things went so wrong that even 14 years later the cartoon Futurama was making jokes about the tank incident. Though often used as a punch line now, it is easy to forget that at one point Dukakis was ahead in the polls by as many as 20 points at one time. However, by the end of the race, his VP candidate Lloyd Bentsen had appeared more presidential, even receiving one of his Electoral College votes.

BONUS: 2008 – “Rock” – I dare anyone to watch this ad and “Fire” and not ask themselves “How is Mike Gravel NOT the president right now?”

What did you think of the list? Love it? Hate it? Confused? Let us know by e-mailing the writer here.

State of the Union

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012 by Vbhotla

Every time I watch the State of the Union address, I always wish I was a more optimistic person. I remember being genuinely excited when President Clinton used the line (not very original) “the state of our union is STRONG” in 1998. I have always believed, whether a Democrat or Republican is speaking, that the State of the Union address should be used to inspire and present the ideas that we should aspire to. Basically, I think the perfect State of the Union should make me want to sing out a certain “Team America” song whose name I can’t print here. Last night, while listening to President Obama, I kinda, sorta felt that way.

And I don’t mean that in a partisan way. Like most of the people now on the outside looking in, I’ve always believed that for President Obama to maximize his potential in office, he needs to be more combative. Even when I disagree, I’d rather he or the Republicans in Congress take a bigger chance; it isn’t like either side’s poll numbers are that great now. At the moment, it feels like I am watching a football game where both sides are so scared of turning the ball over they punt every 1st down.

What’s more sickening is the idea that we need a rebuttal response from the opposition. The idea that it is even needed in the first place just rings of two kids going “No, you’re wrong!” Can’t we put aside partisan bickering for one night and let the President, whichever party they are from, have the limelight? Even when President Obama said something that traditionally is “right of center” he couldn’t catch a break. I really don’t know why you’d even want to respond. It seems like the better political strategy is to just let it go, not seem contrarian, and move on to the next thing. Also, because it airs right after the State, there is no way for them to truly prepare online casino poker to “respond” to whatever the President actually says.

Why do I say that? Because the rebuttal is just another chance to make a mistake when you don’t have to. Michelle Bachmann’s ‘tea party’ response last year was a great example of this. Also, despite popular opinion, it isn’t like it really makes a difference in the polls. The historic “bump” that people believe the State of the Union gives the incumbent (especially during an election year) is minimum, if at all. Gallup did a great break down in 2010. (Already two years ago!)The biggest bump since the ‘70s came from that ’98 Address, though granted it was the first time in most people’s lives they were hearing or remembering the President announcing a balanced budget.

One last thought. Legislatively, it seems like the big issue the President pushes for each State of the Union has just around a 50/50 shot of working out well. Just ask President Bush about Social Security. Even when it does work, like Obama’s health care plan, it can seem like a Pyrrhic victory. I think it is just hopeful thinking that in the Halls of Congress we’d all have a “come to the light” moment where everyone goes “Oooooohhhhhh, that’s what we should be doing! OK”.

While President Kennedy didn’t declare we would end up on the moon in his State of the Union Address (I’m cheating here because it was still a joint session when he did it) that is what I believe the Address should be about. It is supposed to be a night where we come together and say “ok, this is where we are as a country.” Now we can’t even agree what our problems are, much less the solutions. As an American, I want to hear the unbridled and hopeful optimism regardless of the “political lean” of the idea. For me, the State of the Union has always been about defining the impossible: and how we will turn it into possible.