NFL Fight Presses On

February 25th, 2011 by Autumn

In addition to the AFL-CIO, several Indiana state Delegates have gotten involved in the labor fight between the league and its players union.  The AP reports that both of Indiana’s senators and all nine of its representatives have penned a letter to both Roger Goddell and players union president DeMaurice Smith indicating their concern that “a failure to complete a new agreement could lead to a work stoppage affecting the upcoming 2011 NFL season and Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis,” which, according to a Ball State University study, could deprive the state of an estimated $365 million in revenue.

Representatives from the interest of tax payers, NFL fans and the impact a lockout could have overall.

While Congress has steered clear of intervening thus far, some argue that the millions in subsidies the NFL receives give Congress good reason to get involved.  But the league expends an extraordinary amount of effort to ensure its interests are recognized on the Hill, spending $2.5 million last cycle alone.  And a lot of credit is due to Jeff Miller, the league’s chief lobbyist, for his success in this endeavor.  Miller has said that he will not seek congressional interference on a collective bargaining agreement, believing that the parties should be more than capable of reaching a suitable agreement among themselves.

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Weekly news round-up

February 25th, 2011 by Autumn

They’re at it again: Politico reports yet another favorite off-Campus meeting place White House officials usher their lobbyist guests.  Yesterday’s report suggested that administration officials, who have often been criticized for holding meetings with lobbyists at a local Caribou Coffee to circumvent documenting the meetings, are now holding meetings at local Jackson Place Townhouses, where the White House houses its conference center.  Sentiments on the secret meetings vary.  Some welcome the outreach, despite the secrecy, and others decry the administration’s hypocrisy.

The Obama Effect: Former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel coasted easily to victory in the Chicago mayoral race with 55% of the vote, despite earlier controversy over his eligibility.  The president’s approval rating is obviously favorable in his hometown.

Budget Stalemate: Speaker Boehner (R-Ohio) has said he will not issue another continuing budget resolution if the chambers fail to reach an agreement on spending for FY2011 before the current resolution expires March 4 unless the resolution includes significant cuts.  Some are predicting that with the Senate’s legislative calendar, an agreement within the time constraints is unlikely and a government shut down is all but inevitable.  The New York Times reports that aides to Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) accuse Democratic counterparts of “rooting for that outcome.”

Lobbying through Twitter

February 24th, 2011 by Autumn

When one thinks of “lobbying,” power suits, briefcases, maybe a “K St.” sign, maybe even scowling politicians and news headlines come to mind.  But it is probably safe to assume that the term does not stir up images of little blue birdies.  Yet, increasingly, Twitter is taking center stage in lobbying efforts around the globe.

Twitter was largely credited for the favorable opinion Egyptians received during their revolt for freedom a few weeks ago; had it not been for the American public’s ability to watch the events unfold through the eyes of the citizens on Twitter, the U.S. could have easily (and probably would have) sided with the Egyptian government, as Egypt has traditionally been a key U.S. ally.

In New York, Underheard in New York is trying to bring the plight of the homeless to the forefront of people’s minds in the same way as the Egyptian people.  According to their website, the self-described “Millenials” believe the best way “to help the homeless population is by helping them be better heard and understood.”  To achieve this, the team of young people has armed four homeless men in the city with prepaid cell phones and Twitter accounts, encouraging them to document their struggles.

One, Danny, Tweeting as @putodanny, hopes to be reunited with his daughter through the site.  Albert (@albert814) was laid off as a welder three years ago due to declining eyesight.  He hopes to earn culinary certification and become a chef.  His co0king test is today.  Both Carlos (@jesse550) and Derrick (@awitness2011) tweet often about visiting the library to post resumes.  Carlos has 26 years of experience as a paralegal and is hoping to start his own credit collection agency.  Derrick wants to own a Christian entertainment facility.

They have built Twitter followings of over 3,000 each (except Carlos, who has yet to tweet).  And not only are their stories being told, people are reaching out to help.  Already, Danny has received an offer from a professional writer to help him pen a book.

It is impossible to deny the impact social media sites like Twitter is having on day to day activities, the influence on perspectives.  Congressmen, regulatory agencies, the president are all engaging with followers on Twitter.  If you have yet to embrace social media as an effective avenue to get your message heard, you are missing a world of opportunity.

For more information on social media as an effective Grassroots, Grasstops, and Coalition building platform, join us for our March 28 Lobbying Certificate Program.

Swayze’s widow lobbies for cancer research

February 23rd, 2011 by Autumn

Lisa Niemi Swayze, widow of “Dirty Dancing” star Patrick Swayze, took to the Hill last week to lobby for the Pancreatic Cancer Research and Education Act,  introduced last Wednesday in the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Lisa Niemi Swayze, wife of actor Patrick Swayze, speaks about pancreatic cancer research in front of a projected image of her and her husband, Feb. 16, 2011, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

The bill calls for the National Cancer Institute to develop a strategic plan every five years to conduct and support research and awareness promotion under the supervision of the Department of Health and Human Services.  It would “amend the Public Health Service Act to provide for a Pancreatic Cancer Initiative,” according to the bill’s text.  It also makes provisions for five year research grants, with aniston pokies $5,000,000 in authorized grant appropriations for fiscal year 2012, and an additional $20,000,000 authorized for centers of excellence,  (in the Senate version).

Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) said in a statement, “Despite the terrifying statistics, it’s still one of the most overlooked types of cancer and research continues to be underfunded while the death toll climbs.”  The five year survival rate for those diagnosed with pancreatic cancer is just 6%.

Others active on the issue include the American Cancer Society and its various regional subsidiaries, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, and various universities and cancer societies.

The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network has a lobby day scheduled for June 13-14, 2011 and is urging those impacted by the disease to plan to attend.

Patrick Swayze died in 2009, 22 months after being diagnosed with the disease.

Music, movie, drug industries unite on copyright issues

February 14th, 2011 by Autumn
If the Chamber of Commerce gets its way, Congress will soon be passing a law to mitigate copyright infringement online.  The Chamber is seeking to obliterate websites, such as the already-defunct Limewire, which allow music and movie sharing, or “pirating,” for free, claiming such sites are in serious violation of intellectual property regulations.

Drug companies, record labels and movie studios all see depleted sales thanks to online imitators and “sharers,” which enable consumers to bypass the original distributors for free or significantly discounted prices.  The Chamber is urging President Obama to push for IP protection as well, by enacting his IP enforcement strategy and constructing trade agreements in accordance with IP protections.   Opponents argue that such legislation places unfair limits on free speech.

In other copyright news, cell phone companies, which had banded together to combat copyright charges pending against them, won the battle against a company that sought royalties for features such as camera phones that virtually every cell phone employs, but for which the plaintiffs asserted they were granted a patent which extended into the next decade.

Abramoff associate sentenced

February 14th, 2011 by Autumn

Michael Scanlon is the latest Abramoff associate sentenced for his role in the corruption scheme.  A district judge sentenced the former House aide to 20 months in federal prison.  Scanlon pleaded guilty in 2005 to conspiracy to bribe public officials and honest-services fraud, which his attorney referred to as “extraordinary cooperation,” when he requested a sentence that did not include jail time.  The district attorney requested two years imprisonment, despite Scanlon’s role in aiding the Department of Justice in 20 Abramoff-related investigations. Scanlon said that he is “so sorry, so very remorseful,” at the sentencing.

Fraser Verruscio, another official on the hot seat because of his connection to Abramoff, was also convicted of one count of conspiring to accept an illegal gratuity, one count of making a false statement in failing to report gifts from lobbyists.  His sentencing is scheduled for May 6, and he could be facing up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines for each charge.

Approaching Potential Coalition Partners

February 9th, 2011 by Brittany

Approaching coalition partners is often as easy as simply asking the leader of a group to join your effort.  Answers to the following questions will help the advocate leader in developing a plan:

  • Who are the easiest groups to get?  If the goal is to build a critical mass early, contact the most gettable groups first.
  • Are there groups that will help you leverage participation by other groups?  If so, consider expending some effort to get these “leading” groups.  Once they have agreed to join, others will come much easier.
  • Are there groups that might serve to limit participation by others?  If this is the case, carefully consider whether they should be approached at all.  Sometimes coalitions are not successful because the core set of groups leaves a less than stellar impression.  Conversely, groups that might be considered less than ideal may need to be included for political and/or policy reasons.  In these cases, it may make sense to try to get them on board later rather than sooner.
  • Who is the best person to approach the potential coalition partner?   A member of the organization’s advocate network who serves as a board member, donor or friend of one of the groups that the organization plans to approach may be ideally suited to make the initial contact.  This practice serves two purposes: 1) it engages a member of the advocate network in the policy work of the organization; and, 2) it enhances the credibility of your message with the receiving group.
  • What materials will be available to the groups being asked to join the coalition?  At a minimum, a one pager outlining the mission, goals and basic strategies should be provided.  The one pager should also include details on what might be expected of coalition partners.

For more information or to purchase the Advocacy Handbook click here.

It wouldn’t be football if there weren’t politics!

February 4th, 2011 by Autumn

It wouldn’t be Super Bowl Sunday if there weren’t behind-the-scenes politics involved.  From the president’s beer to no-fly zones, here are some fun facts about some politics behind the Super Bowl:

  • Green Bay’s Hinterland Brewery, which is brewing the official White House Super Bowl party beer, is represented by the Brewers Association before Congress.  The association works on behalf of small breweries to inform Congressmen about not only the brewing process, but the economic plight of the companies, most of which are small businesses.  President Obama’s selection of a Pack-land brewery underscores his jobs message, which has taken a depleted focus in light of the crisis in Egypt.  It could not hurt his standing in Wisconsin, which  is a projected 2011 swing state, either.
  • No love lost: The president reassures Steelers Nation that he’s “got some love for the Steelers.”  Pennsylvania, another key swing state in the coming election, has been a tough state for Obama to win over in the past, thanks to his sometimes-aristocratic language.  The president, who has received an honorary jersey from both teams (one signed Charles Woodson Packers jersey with “see you at the White House” scribbled across the number 21, and a personalized OBAMA Steelers jersey) has said he will remain neutral since his beloved Bears are not competing.
  • 2012 watch:  Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) is hosting a $4,800 (individuals) to $5,000 (PACs) per ticket fundraiser/Super Bowl party in Dallas.  Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.) is also hosting a Super Bowl party/fundraiser in his home state, but at a mere $1,500 for PACs and $750 for individuals, the price tag is nowhere near that of his Michigan counterpart’s event.
  • Texas native Sen. John Cornyn (R) will host guests in the NRSC’s luxury suite at Cowboy Stadium as a fundraiser for the committee.   It is speculated that Jerry Jones, Cowboys owner and prominent NRSC supporter (Jones donated 25,000 to the committee in 2007), may make an appearance.  Cornyn has said he is rooting for the Packers.


    Superbowl Sunday Compliance

    February 3rd, 2011 by Autumn

    America’s Big Game happens Sunday, and some (including Sports Illustrated’s Peter King) speculate this could be the last we see for a year or so.

    Lavish SuperBowl  parties are going to be in full force across the nation.  Many will flock to Dallas to see how they may get in on the action.  People will lose their minds and forget all of the rules.  However, lobbying watchdogs will not forget. And here at LobbyBlog, neither will we.  So, to keep you in compliance this Superbowl weekend, here are some things to remember:

    • You may NOT buy any staffer/member/executive branch appointee a ticket to the SuperBowl.  With tickets quickly approaching $5,000 each, unless the member/staffer/appointee pays for his/her own ticket, this amount far surpasses the acceptable gift limit for 100 (gifts (over 50 years!)!  (Remember, the rule is $50 per occurrence, $100 total per year for gifts, but NO GIFTS FROM LOBBYISTS.)

    –> This does not mean it is okay to invite the staffer to pay $25 for a standing-room-only ticket, and grant him                  full access to your company’s corporate suite, like the Redskins attempted to do a few years back.  It is a bad idea.  Don’t try it.  The fallout will be highly publicized and you WILL go to jail.  (Think no one will know? So  did Abramoff.)

    –> Although exceptions do exist, it is advisable that perhaps a $5,000 SuperBowl ticket is not a good time to try out the personal friendship exemption.  However, feel free to take your staffer/member/appointee staff spouse to Cowboys stadium (or surrounding bars/parking lots) Sunday.  HLOGA implicitly states that gifts from spouses are exempt.

    • The personal friendship exemption is, however, permissible if you are inviting a staffer/member/appointee to your Big Game party, assuming there’s a legitimate history of personal friendship.  If there is no such history, personal hospitality alone will not cut it.  Make the party potluck, and have your covered guest bring a dish.  If it’s the member’s party, costs must come out of his/her personal bank account, not a campaign fund or expense account.
    • Meeting at a bar to watch the main event?  Go ahead and spring for the pitcher of beer at halftime, whether there are covered officials present or not.  Nachos? Margaritas? Go for it, provided they’re of minimal value and offered in a social setting to everyone in the vicinity.  (BBQ chicken nachos with sour cream and refried beans are teetering awfully close to the official definition of a meal, however, so you may want to stick with ordinary cheese-and-jalapenos chips.)  You may NOT invite only the member/staffer/appointee to the bar and pick up ONLY his/her tab.  Unless of course the personal friendship, dating (more than casual), or marriage exemptions qualify as a personal relationship.

    Compliance Tips for Lobbyists and their Congressional Valentines

    February 2nd, 2011 by Brittany

    Love is in the air on Valentine’s Day, and while some lobbyists may cry into a beer on “Singles Awareness Day,” other lobbyists may be out on romantic dates with congressional Members or staff. Yet dates may go awry between lobbyists and congressional employees not because of bad conversation or a case of being “just not that into you,” but because of ethics rules. Some tips are below from the Lobbying Compliance Handbook that will ensure that your date does not end up becoming a scandal.

     

    Dating

    Even before the changes to the ethics rules, lobbyists and Members/staffers had to face and answer to the myriad of social and personal customs, concerns, and expectations that come with being involved in a relationship. However, lobbyists and Members/staffers also now must factor in the application of the House and Senate ethics rules. There is no general exception in the rules for “dates.”  The rules and the exceptions must be applied to the stages of dating: 

    • Getting acquainted dates
    • Personal friends
    • Significant others
    • Fiancé or fiancée
    • Married

    There are exceptions under the gift rules that allow for gifts and entertaining for the advanced stages of dating.  But for first dates, blind dates and the beginning stages of any dating relationship, the rule is simply Dutch treat, period.

    Stages of Dating House Senate
    First dates, blind dates, initial stages of dating Dutch treat Dutch treat
    Personal friends
    • Evidence of reciprocal gift-giving
    • No reimbursement
    • Not related to official duties or actions
    • Evidence of reciprocal gift-giving
    • No reimbursement
    • Not related to official duties or actions
     
    Significant Others Personal friendship rule applies; no specific exception Senate Ethics Committee has granted a waiver which generally permits a Member / staffer to accept gifts from an individual with whom s/he enjoys a significant, personal, dating relationship. 
    Fiancé or fiancée Considered a gift from a relative and exempt but a letter to House Ethics upon receipt of an engagement ring valued at $250 or more is required to avoid disclosure of the ring as a gift Considered a gift from a relative and exempt but a letter to Senate Ethics upon receipt of an engagement ring valued at $250 or more is required to avoid disclosure of the ring as a gift
    Married Gifts from spouses are exempt Gifts from spouses are exempt

    While the Senate has recognized and codified the permissibility of gifts from significant others short of a formal engagement, the House has not done likewise.  Essentially, the personal friendship exception will apply in both instances, but it is important to note that there are always factors that must be present in order for either exception to apply.

    You may ask, “at what point does the ‘personal friendship’ exception kick-in between people who are dating?”

    And the answer is…who knows?  Just be prepared to answer that question under penalty of perjury if anyone with a badge ever asks. Until and unless the dating relationship has moved past the “initial phase” into the “personal friendship phase,” Members and staff must treat a lobbyist-date more as a lobbyist than as a date, which means paying his or her own way.

    For more information or to purchase the Lobbying Compliance Handbook click here.

    Energy lobby energized over State of the Union remarks

    January 31st, 2011 by Autumn

    If there is a group more riled up about the president’s State of the Union remarks than lobbyists, it is the energy lobby; half are outraged and the other half excited about the opportunities it may have yielded.  And almost all of the response is derived from one statement: “I’m asking Congress to eliminate the billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies.  I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but they’re doing just fine on their own.  So instead of subsidizing yesterday’s energy, let’s invest in tomorrow’s,” Obama said Tuesday.

    The gasoline and oil lobby is, predictably, incensed.  American Petroleum Institute CEO Jack Gerard said the president missed an opportunity to speak about how energy development creates jobs, saying “Producing more oil and gas at home, which most Americans want, could create hundreds of thousands of jobs, reduce our deficit by billions, and enhance our energy security. Even better, the government wouldn’t have to invest a single taxpayer dollar – just give industry a green light to invest its own money.”

    Conversely, advocates of clean energy are viewing his remarks as a good launching board for lobbying efforts in favor of alternative energy forms.  Josh Freed, director of the Clean Energy Program at Third Way, a progressive think tank called the president’s goal of producing 80 percent of the nation’s electricity from clean energy by 2035 “ambitious,” and he is excitedly looking to unearth the possibilities the objective creates.

    Sean Garren, clean energy advocate with Environment America, a federation of state-based environmental advocacy groups is one who is leery of the president’s remarks, stating that lumping all of the forms of renewable energy into one standard bill would be difficult and would not garner support from his colleagues.

    American League of Lobbyists reacts to State of the Union address

    January 31st, 2011 by Autumn

    In one of Howard Marlowe’s first acts as president of the American League of Lobbyists, he decried President Obama’s State of the Union remarks as being “inflammatory,” saying “The President’s State of the Union remarks were especially disheartening, because they were made in a speech that was focused on unifying, not dividing our nation.”

    Obama has been notably harsh on lobbyists in his speeches, beginning even with the primary campaign leading up to the 2008 election.  Despite these remarks, there have been multiple reports that he has consulted lobbyists on several matters, including the budget proposal on which he is currently working.  Marlowe mentioned the president’s not-so-quiet history of working with lobbyists, saying “The Administration often reaches out to representatives of industries, labor unions, and other ‘special interests’ to get their advice.”

    He goes on to retort that professional lobbyists provide an invaluable service to citizens, legislators and regulators in addition to the clients they represent.  Marlowe also argues, in what seems to be in response to Obama’s assertion that “lobbyists have rigged the tax code,” that “When members of Congress weigh the information provided by professional lobbyists, it is they and not lobbyists who have the votes to decide what is in the best interests of their constituents and the nation.”

    Marlowe called on Congress to not cede the authority to review, examine and adjust the budget proposals that are submitted by the executive branch.  He states, “ALL is opposed to any action that limits elected officials from fully representing their constituents,” which he contends earmarks help them to do.  Read Marlowe’s full statement on the League’s facebook page.

    House leaders ignore president’s transparency mandate

    January 31st, 2011 by Autumn

    House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) shrugged off the president’s decree in the State of the Union address that Congress should publish its meetings with lobbyists online, saying to The Hill reporters “I think he feigns perfection without having yet achieved it,” referring to reports that Executive Branch officials meet with lobbyists outside of the White House to avoid disclosure of their own such meetings.

    Issa, like much of the Republican majority in the House, believes that the president should reign in his attempts to control Congress, citing the recent election as a message that the American people do not share Obama’s views.

    House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) also seemed to side with lobbyists, referencing the Constitutional right of citizens to seek redress.

    “I’m for transparency. I want to have more of it,” Issa says. “At the same time, if you send me a letter, that letter should not automatically be public. You have an expectation that you can address your member of Congress, and you can do so with a degree of confidentiality. It happens every day. It needs to happen every day.”

    ALL president Howard Marlowe is not opposed to the policy, assuming records regarding meetings with all visitors are published.  “I don’t see why lobbyists who are registered should be singled out,” he said. “If they want to do it for every advocate, I see no problem with it.”

    State of Lobbying: Weekly News Round-up

    January 28th, 2011 by Autumn

    There were not a tremendous amount of headlines about lobbying or lobbyists this week, but the stories that hit the press were big ones.

    First, Howard Marlowe, the new president of the American League of Lobbyists, released his take on Tuesday night’s State of the Union address.  And suffice it to say he was not impressed with the president’s remarks.  In fact, Marlowe reported that the league “deplore[s] the inflammatory rhetoric about lobbyists,” and called the president out on several instances in which he himself has consorted with lobbyists.  He also reiterated the stance that earmarks are a Constitutional right and an important part of the democratic legislative process.

    Also this week, the trial of Fraser Verrusio, a former House aide who is the final conspirator charged in connection with the long-running Jack Abramoff probe, began.  Opening statements took place Wednesday, and neither side mentioned the disgraced former lobbyist.   Verrusio is being charged with public corruption for accepting what prosecutors are calling the “illegal gratuity” that was his ticket to the 2003 World Series.  His defense lawyer, Joshua Berman, called this “a case about nothing,” because the New York trip was “a legitimate, run-of-the-mill, third party trip.”

    Over the weekend, the 2010 lobbying numbers were released: last year, with the combination of stalled Congressional action in anticipation of mid-term elections and the still-slow economy, lobby shops saw a decline in the bottom line.  Large firms saw booming revenue, thanks to acquisition of flailing boutique operations, but as a whole, most lobbying offices saw stagnant or declining numbers in 2010.  The current Congressional climate — including uncertainty about the budget and appropriations process, and a heavy concentration of power within the regulatory agencies — have some concerned that this year may not be much better. Patton Boggs, which acquired Breaux Lott Leadership Group in July, and Akin Gump, which reported a $3 increase over 2009,  remain the top earners, according to recently filed LD-203 reports.

    Lobbying in the 112th: The Budget & Appropriations Process

    January 27th, 2011 by Autumn

    So, you need to influence federal budgetary policy to secure funding for a program.  But earmarks are out (at least that’s what they’re telling you), and you need to find a way to still effectively do your job.

    According to John Scofield of the Podesta Group, “Regulations are the new earmarks.”  What Scofield alludes to is that one way to steer funds your way could be through petitioning the executive branch , particularly the regulatory agencies who are responsible for monitoring the implementation of Congress’s budget decisions.  Lobby the agencies in conjunction with Congress; get a letter or promise of phone call from Members or staffers who are particularly geared up about your cause to support your argument before the executive branch.

    Other useful tips include:

    • Develop coalitions. The more people rallying on behalf of your cause, the broader your reach, and hence, the greater the success.  Enlist stakeholders.
    • Put a personal face to the problem. Elected officials are, well, elected.  If you deploy constituents on your behalf, especially in the current climate with so many Congressional newbies in which things are more likely to happen on merit than rank, the chance of success increases exponentially.  (Advise constituents NOT to threaten not to vote for the Member.  Positive urging is more effective than threats.)
    • Consider multiple approach angles. Repetition is not a bad thing. You may consider a targeted media approach, in which you generate a series of editorials by meaningful contributors in the right publications.  Home district papers, though smaller and of less national attention, will catch the eye of particular Members and staff.  There are, however, occasions when national and online media will be useful.  Know your audience.
    • Get in early.  An appropriation enacted in March 2011 was submitted by the program 24 months earlier.  Now is not a good time to go out for bid with hopes of impacting the FY2011 budget.  And you are behind the curve on the FY2012 budget process.  The best thing to do is to submit requests ON TIME during the subcommittee mark-up.  If you don’t get into a subcommittee bill, you are unlikely to make it in at any later point of the process.
    • Make reasonable asks. Learn what Congress actually has the power to do.  Do not waste your time and energy (and the Member/staffer’s time and energy) petitioning for something the committee simply cannot do.  This is where it may come in handy to build a Congressional champion to pen a letter of support to another entity, like a regulatory agency.
    • Do your homework. Review the president’s budget justifications and incorporate your issues into the supplemental information.  Hold desk-side briefings, ask to testify at hearings.  Provide the staffers with draft questions they can ask during a hearing, whether you are involved or not.  A “protect the budget request” angle will be much more effective than an “add to the budget request.”  Find some way to relate your issue/program into the issues that are already center-stage in the committee’s mind.