Tuesday Ethics Tip: Grassroots Edition

November 9th, 2010 by James

Tap the power of your roots!

When the grassroots get all fired up, watch out! Most lobbyists would like to tap the power of grassroots advocates – but do you know what exactly qualifies as “grassroots”? And how do you report those activities on your LDA forms?

The official definition of grassroots lobbying is the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) definition: “a call to action to the public or segment of the public asking them to contact a designated official, state, federal, local on a specific item government action, specific legislation, or a nomination, etc.”

What activities are considered “grassroots”?

Grassroots lobbying is: “communications to the general public that refer to and reflect a view on the merits of a specific legislative proposal and a ‘call to action’ directly or indirectly encouraging legislative contact.” So, for example, if you’re XYZ Association, and you ask your members to write Representative Smith on H.R. 1234, that is grassroots lobbying.

Reporting grassroots lobbying

There are two different ways to report – you must make a designation.  If you are filing under the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA) definitions, grassroots lobbying is not disclosed on your forms. Under the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) definition of lobbying the expenses of grassroots lobbying are combined with the total reportable expenditures.  The key thing to remember is that whichever method you chose, you must use it consistently in your filing. Note also that registrants reporting lobbying income (i.e. lobbying firms, including lobbyists acting as sole proprietors) must use the LDA definition and reporting structure. Registrants reporting lobbying expenditures may elect to use the IRC or LDA.

Resources

Amy Showalter, at the Showalter Group, writes an excellent blog on keeping your advocates motivated and engaged.

Another great speaker on advocacy and citizen participation is Stephanie Vance, at Advocacy Associates.

Mail-order Pharmacy Purchase cialis generic online is made easy now. Cialis promises long duration in bodily relationships. Tadalafil Canada Cialis canada cialis online pharmacy In-case you suffer with allergic rhinitis make sure you where to order cialis online safe Sex performance stress sometimes happens to men in any of the situations. The cialis pills for sale Gone are the days when people used to see medical stores situated within buy generic cialis Generally individuals begin smoking to be able to be relieved from the cialis overnight A part of the participants received a placebo pill instead buy tadalafil online no prescription Erection dysfunction is wild in people that smoke cialis 20 mg cost Two adults that are healthy shouldnt have to resort to medications of cheapest cialis What is the difference between on line drugstore medications and other kinds of pharmacy drugs? The major difference Where To where to buy cialis cheap Every once in awhile the main drug stores that are on-line acquire their medicines in bulk, how to order cialis online safely

Industry Moves and Changes

November 8th, 2010 by Autumn

Stephen Jacobs has joined the National Association of Manufacturers as senior director for international business policy. He was previously a deputy assistant secretary at the Commerce Department

David Weiss, a senior policy advisor at DLA Piper, is steping down to become president and CEO of CHF International, a development and humanitarian aid organization.

Coutney Geduldig, chief financial counsel to Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), is departing to be the managing director, head of federal government relations and chief counsel for Financial Services Forum.

Michael Quaranta, who until recently served as chief of staff to Rep. Michael Castle (R-Del.), has joined the Podesta Group as a partner.

Mary Streett, of Mayer Brown, has been named the Vice President of government affairs for Exelon Corporation.

Boehner most “lobby-friendly” in 112th Congress

November 8th, 2010 by Autumn

Proponents (and dissenters) of building new domestic oil refineries, small government, and “winning the global war on terror” should take note: the newly-elected Speaker of the House, whose platform is built around these issues, has been named “one of the most lobby-friendly politicians in Washington.”

The New York Times reports that Boehner has proposed “teaming up” with lobbyists to impact key legislation in the House.  Aides suggest Boehner’s lobbying alliances “reflect the pro-business, antiregulatory philosophy that he has espoused for more than three decades, dating back to when Mr. Boehner, the son of a tavern owner, ran a small plastics company in Ohio,” according to the same story.

Some insiders suggest that K Streeters may be able to find new careers as Hill staffers with the recent Republican power surge. Boehner, for one, is expected to continue to “lean on his industry allies” in his new role as Speaker of the House.  Indeed, Republicans are generally friendlier towards the lobbying profession, and the 112th Congress is expected to bring more opportunities, on and off the Hill, to government relations personnel.

Boehner is also “leading the charge” – along with Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va) and the National Republican Congressional Committee – to fill chief of staff and other top positions with experienced personnel, including lobbyists, Politico reports.  Top Republicans are leery of relying on “newbies” to be expert Congressmen, or to select the best staffs for the job, and are compiling lists of individuals they deem more qualified to assist the freshman senators and representatives.

Supreme Court upholds PAC disclosure requirements

November 8th, 2010 by Autumn

In what many are calling a follow-up to the Citizens United ruling, and a blow to campaign finance reform, the Supreme Court declined to hear arguments in the Speechnow.org vs. FEC case last week.  Many are suggesting this broadens the reach of Citizens United and allows for increases freedom of speech in the electoral process.

The decision allows for unlimited donations to “independent expenditure groups” such as Speechnow.org, and challenges FEC regulation of campaign donations.  While unlimited donations allows for greater spending on campaigns, it also maintained disclosure requirements, noting that continued registration and disclosure will be required.

Under the ruling, Speechnow and similar groups must register as a PAC and disclose contributions.  As a result, over 50 such groups popped up around the country ahead of the mid-term elections, and this election cycle saw record spending. Watchdog group opensecrets.org noted that “significant investments from outside groups helped elect more than 200 federal candidates.”

Though both Democrats and Republicans received outside donations, it was Republicans who saw the greatest benefits of organizations’ ability to receive unlimited donations, and in turn, spend in unlimited proportions.  

Tech Companies Should Bolster Lobbying Budgets

November 8th, 2010 by Autumn

Apple and facebook, both notoriously absent in Washington affairs, have been named as companies who should consider taking up an interest in Capitol Hill proceedings.  Some worry that the companies’ lack of formal lobbying efforts may lead to unfavorable regulations being imposed.

Politico reports that Facebook executives believe that usage of the social media network by politicians speaks for itself.  “We don’t have to spend money, because our users are tremendously happy with our product,” Tim Sparapani, director of public policy told the publication. Sparapani is one of two individuals registered to lobby on facebook’s behalf.  Still, patron satisfaction has not spared facebook from being touted as an example of need for increased privacy regulation.

Fears have also begun to surface about scrutiny Apple may face over antitrust regulation.  Increased popularity of iTunes and the iPhone have opened the door for increased attention from lawmakers and those investigating anti-poaching and antitrust regulations.  To this point, Apple has managed to corner only a small piece of the technological market, and as such, only employs lobbyists on patent, tax, and trade regulation.

The Washington Post reports that the company should consider taking a more active role in studying legislation, noting the fates of companies like Microsoft and Google, each of which has faced FTC probes in recent years, and warns that if it doesn’t step up its lobbying efforts, it will spend more money trying to fight regulation than moving forward with its agenda.

Weekly Round-Up: Corrupt Politicians Election Edition

November 5th, 2010 by Autumn

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has identified four Congressmen-elects as “Most Corrupted Members of Congress.”

  • Roy Blunt, the newly-elected Republican Senator from Missouri, accepted over $217,000 in campaign donations from Philip Morris/Altria, where his then-girlfriend Abigail Perlman was working as a lobbyist.  Just before leaving his wife to marry Perlman, Blunt tried to pass a provision to help the company (at the expense of its competitors) in a Homeland Security bill.  He also used his weight to add earmarks to benefit one of his sons in legislation, and secure campaign donations when his second son ran for governor of Missouri, CREW reports.  As if that weren’t enough, He is also accused of being in cahoots with Jack Abramoff.
  • Timothy Griffin (R-Ark.) will take seat in the House of Representatives during the 112th Congress.  CREW accuses him of “Republican vote caging efforts, a legally questionable direct mail campaign to disenfranchise poor, minority, and military voters” during the 2004 presidential election.  He was also appointed U.S. Attorney in Arkansas under a provision of the PATRIOT Act that did not require his appointment to be confirmed by the Senate.  He resigned less than six months later after the House Judiciary Committee began an investigation into appointment and the surrounding politics.
  • Florida voters are sending Marco Rubio (R) to the Senate despite his current implication in a federal criminal investigation into his misuse of state party funds, and admitting to double-billing for personal expenses.  He provided Florida International University with $29m as he prepared to accept a part-time teaching position with the university once he left office.  Sen.-elect Rubio has been caught time and again misappropriating funds and passing legislation benefiting his biggest donors, yet has managed to make it to the U.S. Senate.
  • Allen West (R-Fl.) is a Floridian transport into the House of Representatives.  West formerly served in Iraq as an Army Lt. Col. , until he was “stripped of his command and forced to resign” for excessive interrogation techniques, though interrogations were not part of his job, CREW reports.  Mr. West’s service record let him off with a slap on the wrist, though a military tribunal found him worthy of court marshal.

Lobbying with Tax Dollars

November 5th, 2010 by Autumn

In reaction to the controversy of National Public Radio’s dismissal of Juan Williams for his comments on Fox News, many prominent politicians have alleged that NPR lacks objectivity and should no longer receive federal money.

Taking it one step further, an article in the Washington Examiner points out that NPR uses its public money and donations to lobby Congress for further appropriations and that its lobbying spending rose sharply during the beginning of the Great Recession.

A variety of taxpayer-funded organizations and institutions have federal lobbyists or are clients of lobbying firms.  Examples include:

Finally, most federal agencies have congressional affairs departments to help steer the executive branch’s agenda through Congress.  And since federal employees are already part of the government, they do not have to report their interactions with members of Congress as private lobbyists would.

New Report on Lobbying Expenditures

November 5th, 2010 by James

We have a new white paper up at www.lobbyists.info.

This white paper covers 3rd Quarter Lobbying Reports: Issues and Expenditures. We profile several interesting issues covered in this quarter by Congress, and talk about top lobbying firms and our continuing case study on Patton Boggs.

Issues that we cover include:

  • “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Lobbying
  • DISLCOSE Act Lobbying
  • Health Care Reform Lobbying
  • Oil Spill Lobbying
  • Patton Boggs Case Study
  • Top Lobbying Firms

If you’re a subscriber, you’ll just want to log in to your lobbyists.info account, or if not, just enter your email address and download your free report!

Compliance Q and A: Fees and Jail Time Edition

November 4th, 2010 by James

Q: What are the penalties for non-compliance with HLOGA?

A: There are criminal penalties for wrongful statements submitted by lobbyists. Since lobbyists must certify that the information they submit is true to the best of their knowledge, a wrongful disclosure a criminal act. Lobbyists must certify under penalty of perjury that they have read and understood the standing House and Senate gift and ethics rules, twice per year, on their LD-203 form.

The statute states that:

“Whoever knowingly fails: (1) to correct a defective filing within 60 days after notice of such a defect by the Secretary of the Senate or the Clerk of the House; or (2) to comply with any other provision of the Act, may be subject to a civil fine of not more than $200,000, and whoever knowingly and corruptly fails to comply with any provision of the Act may be imprisoned for not more than 5 years or fined under title 18, United States Code, or both.”

According to lobbyingdisclosure.house.gov, the Office of the Clerk has referred an aggregate of 887 potential non-compliant registrants to the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia.

Today’s post is condensed from the Lobbying Compliance Handbook

Celebs Lobby Against DADT

November 3rd, 2010 by Autumn

This week, a federal appeals court struck down an earlier ruling repealing the military’s long-standing “Don’t Ask,

Lady Gaga uses her international stardom to speak out against "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

Don’t Tell” policy.  Time magazine reports that the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the court that stayed the ban on openly gay military personnel, is “regarded as one of the most liberal in the land.”  Tell that to Lt. Dan Choi and other gay and lesbian soldiers ousted by the military recently.

Lady Gaga, an openly bisexual pop star, has led the charge of celebrities fighting DADT.  She has been the most vocal advocate on the subject, it seems, pulling stunts like wearing a meat dress to symbolize her belief that if not repealed, the policy reduces the LGBT rights to equal those allotted a piece of meat, and recording a seven minute advocacy video.

Russel Simmons also joined the fight, penning an open letter to Pres. Obama for Huffington Post, urging him to “fix” the policy, and “take the fight to the right.”

Interestingly, neither Lady Gaga nor Russell Simmons has filed an LD-1 or -2 form, making them merely advocates, and not officially lobbyists.  Unless, of course, they are lobbying and think their celebrity status will save them from repercussions related to not filing.

Other entities embroiled in the fight against DADT include the American Nurses Association and the  American Bar Association.

The changing of Congress following yesterday’s election is expected to play a major part in the future of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” legislation.

Tuesday Ethics Tip: Election Day Edition

November 2nd, 2010 by Autumn

There has been lots of talk recently about lobbyists’ campaign contributions to state-level candidates.  For example, the backlash one Tennessee lobbyist received after donating to a gubernatorial candidate’s campaign and the interest in the amount of money donated by PACs to Alabama governor-hopefuls.  Rules on contributions by lobbyists to these campaigns vary from state to state.

The good news is, thanks to guidelines on LD-203 disclosure released June 2009 by the House Office of the Clerk and Secretary of the Senate, these state and local-level campaign contributions do not trigger disclosure on a lobbyist’s LD-203 form. Because these candidates do not register campaign donations with the FEC, any amount a lobbyist contributes to said campaigns is exempt from LD-203 disclosure.

Other exceptions to LD-203 reporting requirements include:

  • Donations to an entity on which a covered legislative or executive branch official serves as an honorary board member with no vote in board affairs,
  • Contributions to a charity established by a covered official prior to his/her term in the covered office,
  • Contributions to a charity to which a covered official makes only “de minimus” donations, and
  • Costs related to sponsorship of a multi-candidate debate.

Though campaign contributions by lobbyists can be virtually unregulated in some states like Texas, it is still advised that lobbyists tread lightly when working on behalf of candidates at the state and local levels.  Candidates are increasingly under fire for accepting special interest money, making them reluctant to be associated with government relations personnel.

“Nobody wants the Brooks Brothers Brigade out there campaigning for you,” Democratic lobbyist John Michael Gonzalez told a Roll Call staffer.

Today’s ethics tip is condensed from the Lobbying Compliance Handbook. New 2010 edition out this month!

Lobbying For Governments That Want To Exist

November 1st, 2010 by David

Often when talking about lobbying in Washington, DC, people’s minds turn to corporations and interest groups – Americans that want to have their voices heard in the capitol and to steer federal policy in what they believe is a better direction.

It certainly is true that major business and large trade and professional organizations comprise the bulk of lobbying clients in DC, due in large part to the important role the federal government has in the commerce and economy of the United States.

But this is not the only influence the federal government has-and businesses are not the only group touched by its decisions. Increasingly over the past half-century, decisions made in Washington have affected people all around the world-something that has motivated foreign nations to want to lobby in DC as well.

Nations small and large, whether they have an expansive embassy in DC (like the United Kingdom) or only a small, sparsely staffed office, have increasingly been signing up with lobbying firms to have their voiced heard in the corridors of power.

Independent Diplomat's FARA filing for the Republic of Somaliland

Possibly the most interesting foreign groups that want to lobby in DC are governments that, well, technically don’texist. One DC-based firm that seeks to give these governments that want to exist a voice is Independent Diplomat, Inc, whose website states their mission as “enabling governments and political groups disadvantaged or marginalized by lack of diplomatic capacity to engage effectively in diplomatic processes.”

They represent, among others:

Such pseudo-governments would want to lobby the United States government both for practical and idealistic reasons. Throughout the world, the United States clearly is in a uniquely powerful position, militarily, economically and diplomatically. These groups seeking international diplomatic recognition know their goals would be much easier to reach with U.S. backing.  But they must also feel that the unique history of the US would make those in power in DC more receptive to the voice of those seeking their independence, democracy, or both.

FARA filings are publicly available. Search the database here: http://www.justice.gov/criminal/fara/links/qs_primary.html.

Weekly News Round-up

October 29th, 2010 by Autumn

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington is seeking information regarding why Jack Abramoff was prevented from talking to the media about his role in what the organization’s executive director, Melanie Sloan calls “one of the largest congressional corruption scandals in history.”  The full complaint filed in a suit against the Department of Justice can be found here.

Following up with a story posted earlier this week, “Campaign Finance Reformers see a tough road ahead,” the FEC has again come under fire for its lax regulation heading into the mid-term elections.  Huffington Post reported, “according to campaign finance experts, it’s unlikely” that the FEC will punish campaign finance law violators any time soon. The article goes on to refer to the FEC as ” a toothless tiger made up of six members that usually deadlocks on the important decisions.”

Lobbyists and organizations may be given a "get out of jail free" card by the FEC and the Obama administration, at least for a little while.

This snowballs into another issue: President Obama’s demonstrated lack of commitment to advance his campaign reform platform.  So far, despite having the opportunity (and perhaps responsibility, since the terms have ended) to replace three commissioners whose aversions to the regulatory laws reportedly prevent them from voting in favor of committee action against potential violators, the FEC’s make-up remains unchanged.

Donald McGhan, who remains a commissioner pending appointment of a successor, once said “[The FEC is] ‘not like other agencies because you have the charge of the fox guarding the hen-house. You gonna appoint your guys to make sure you are taken care of. The original intent was for it to be a glorified Congressional committee. That’s the way I see it,’” according to a column written by Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

The president is reportedly waiting on members of the Senate to recommend new FEC commissioners for him to appoint before replacing any members.

The Veterans’ Alliance for Security and Democracy (VetPAC) is one of several organizations griping about the Chamber of Commerce election spendings.  The group filed suit against the Chamber Oct. 18, alleging its receipt of foreign funds may in some way damage the purity of its campaign contributions.  VetPAC is surely banking on FEC regulation (no pun intended).

Advocacy Halloween Edition: Making advocacy less scary

October 29th, 2010 by Brittany

An excerpt from the Advocacy Handbook:

Depending upon the issue and the nature of the network, advocate leaders may occasionally find themselves needing to either encourage more people to actively participate in advocacy efforts or encourage more quality communications with the target audience.  Outlined below are a few of the key barriers to participation, options for overcoming those barriers and ideas for recognizing advocates’ efforts.

Barriers to Participation
Advocates often cite one of the following reasons to explain why they might be unwilling or unable to participate in efforts to make policy change:

  • Lack of time
  • A feeling that their participation doesn’t matter
  • A feeling that the organization should do the lobbying, not them
  • Unsure what to do / intimidated
  • Advocate fatigue / over-activation
  • Lack of progress
  • Disagreement over policy direction

Overcoming Barriers

  • Quick and Easy Activities: Advocate leaders should look for ways to draw potential advocates in to the network through some quick and easy activities.  These might include sending an e-mail to a legislator through an action alert site, signing a petition, responding to a poll or survey or sending a postcard.  This might be viewed as the “crawl before walking” approach.  Once advocates become familiar with and comfortable with these simple activities, advocate leaders can work to encourage these individuals to engage in more substantive and effective communication strategies.
  • Cultivating the Active:  It’s not the number of communications that have an impact on policy outcomes, it’s the quality. Hence, it may make sense for advocate leaders to focus more attention on the powerful 5 to 20 percent of the network willing and eager to take substantive action, without, of course, ignoring the rest of the network.
  • Training: The following components of a training program will help address some of the more common barriers to participation: why their voice matters, role in the GR campaign, long-term focus, and how to advocate.
  • Engaging Champions:  Legislative or regulatory champions of an organization’s issues can help deliver the message to advocates that their voice matters.  In some cases, advocates may be more apt to believe a legislator than an organization’s government relations staff.  Advocate leaders should consider asking policy champions to speak at events or make public statements about the importance of citizen advocates to the policymaking process.
  • Strategic Activation:  Advocate fatigue can be managed, in part, by being as strategic and focused as possible when activating the network.  Organizations that frequently issue high-priority action alerts, particularly when those alerts aren’t warranted, may find their advocates becoming immune to their requests – and unwilling to take action when truly needed.
  • Change the Definition of Victory:  In developing advocacy plans, advocate leaders should identify internal goals that can be achieved regardless of external events.  These might include targets for numbers of advocates in the network or developing a pilot program for coordinating a few site visits during a recess.  These aspects of the campaign may be more within the control of the organization than, for example, whether a bill moves forward to the hearing stage or not.
  • Managing Set-backs:  How an organization manages the inevitable set-backs associated with any advocacy effort can make or break their future success.  Advocate leaders should look to be as up-front as possible about set-backs, while identifying future plans of action.
  • Setting the Policy Agenda:   Organizations that set their policy agenda in concert with the advocacy network will likely have fewer disagreements with members about policy direction than those that adopt a more hierarchical approach.  Before asking advocates to communicate with policymakers on a critical issue, it is imperative to ascertain that most members of the network are in agreement on the overall message.
  • Agreeing to Disagree:  In some cases, organizations may need to take controversial positions that may be unpopular with some percentage of their members.  Advocate leaders should identify these potential disagreements as soon as possible and be prepared to address questions about the decisions made by the organization.

The Advocacy Handbook, written by the “Advocacy Guru” Stephanie Vance, and its insight into helping your advocates shake off their anxieties will help your advocacy mission become a success. Click here for more information on the Advocacy Handbook.

Compliance Q and A: LDA vs. FARA

October 28th, 2010 by James

Q:  What is the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), and what are the differences in registration and reporting between FARA and the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA)?

A:  The Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938 (as amended) requires any lobbyist who represents a foreign government, elected official or political party as a foreign agent to file his financial information and published materials with the Department of Justice. This only applies to foreign public officials; lobbyists representing foreign private companies register under the LDA. See the full text of the law, forms, and other disclosure requirements at Justice.gov.

On registration and reporting:

  1. The Act requires every agent of a foreign principal, not otherwise exempt, to register with the Department of Justice and file forms outlining its agreements with, income from, and expenditures on behalf of the foreign principal. These forms are public records and must be supplemented every six months.
  2. The Act also requires that informational materials (formerly propaganda) be labeled with a conspicuous statement that the information is disseminated by the agents on behalf of the foreign principal. The agent must provide copies of such materials to the Attorney General.
  3. Any agent testifying before a committee of Congress must furnish the committee with a copy of his most recent registration statement.
  4. The agent must keep records of all his activities and permit the Attorney General to inspect them.

According to guidance issued by the House Ethics Committee, the technical amendments to the LDA made in 1998 reflected a determination that the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) standards are appropriate for lobbying on behalf of foreign governments and political parties, but that LDA disclosure standards should apply to other foreign lobbying. An agent of a foreign commercial entity is exempt under FARA if the agent has engaged in lobbying activities and registers under the LDA. An agent of a foreign commercial entity not required to register under the LDA (such as those not meeting the de minimis registration thresholds) may voluntarily register under the LDA.

Information for today’s post is from the Department of Justice, with further information condensed from the Lobbying Compliance Handbook, now with an all-new chapter on Campaign Finance for Lobbyists.

Have a question for Compliance Q &A? Send your questions to web@lobbyists.info.