Throwing a Permissible Holiday Party

December 7th, 2011 by Brittany

Food and beverages offered to congressional members and staff in a social setting, if paid for by lobbyists or lobbying entities, must conform to the restrictions of the rules, which provide an exception for:

“Food and beverages of nominal value, not as part of a meal.”

This is known as the “reception exception.” The rules in this instance clearly envision that nominal value means more minimalist – and that the phrase “not as part of meal” means no heavy hors d’oeuvres that could be considered a substitute for a meal by hungry interns or low-paid Hill staffers.

As the ethics staff advised one House staffer, “pitcher of margaritas, yes…plate of sliders, no.”

Parties and Receptions — Menus 

The House and Senate ethics staff have spent ample time reviewing, editing and discussing catering menus for events hosted or paid for by lobbyists or lobbying entities.  Below is a checklist of do’s and don’ts:


  • low-cost food that could still be considered a meal item, such as hot dogs, pizza slices, sliders (tiny hamburgers)
  • food that requires a fork
  • carving stations
  • pasta stations
  • dining tables 
  • martini or vodka bars



  • appetizers
  • passed hors d’oeuvres
  • finger foods or food eaten with toothpicks
  • beverages, including wine, beer and cocktails (but keep it simple and less expensive)
  • desserts

Invitations and Ethics Approval

The House and Senate Ethics Committee staffs have been gracious about reviewing and approving menus and reception plans in order that hosts and sponsoring organizations can provide comfort to Members and staff that there is no criminal conduct involved in attending a reception Cialis.  The ethics staff may require changes in the type of food or beverages to be served prior to granting approval.

A reception is not a widely attended event as that term is defined in the gift rules.  A widely attended event requires an educational component or some element that a Member or staffer can claim to fall within his/her official duties. Although attendance at social events is clearly business-related in most instances, the widely attended event exception is not the one that is envisioned by the gift rules to be applied if the occasion is a reception or party to which Members and staffers are invited.

Don’t ask the ethics staff to approve a “widely attended event” that is, in fact, a “social gathering.”  Approval will not likely be forthcoming.

An event that is planned within the spirit and letter of the ethics rules regarding the menu of food and beverages to be served can be denoted as such on the invitation by stating:

Cocktails and Reception Fare Only


Cocktails and Light Appetizers


Cocktails and Light Hors d’oeuvres

An indication on the invitation that only appropriate reception food and beverages will be served will demonstrate to an invitee that the host is familiar with the rules and is intent upon following them.  That will provide comfort to any guests who are Members and congressional staff and should also help document that the event was in compliance with applicable provisions of the ethics and gift rules.

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

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Election and PAC Roles in Advocacy Efforts

November 9th, 2011 by Brittany

Election Activities

What is it?

In some cases, it may be appropriate to engage members of the advocacy network in election-related activities.  Note, however, the restrictions on election-related activity discussed in Chapter 2.  Nonprofits organized under certain IRS “501” designations, in particular, may not engage in partisan election activity, such as endorsing a particular candidate for office.  Individual states and localities may also have restrictions of which advocate leaders should be aware.

Why is it useful?

Engaging advocates in election-related activities serves a number of purposes, including:

  • Raising the profile of an organization’s issue, both during the campaign and long after
  • Offering a new and often invigorating way for advocates to get involved in the policymaking process
  • Enhancing an organization’s access and reach in the legislature 

When should it be used?

Members of the U.S. House of Representatives are up for election every two years and U.S. Senators must stand for election every six.  In addition, most states and localities have elections for various state and local offices at least every other year.  Some localities have elections every year for both candidates as well as to address ballot questions, such as sales tax or funding initiatives.  Any election offers an opportunity to engage advocates, to the extent allowed by law.  Advocate leaders should consider, though, which level of government the organization hopes to build relationships with and choose the election cycle for participation carefully.

PAC / Fundraising Efforts

What is it?

As noted in Chapter 1, advocacy efforts should be coordinated in tandem with other government relations activities, include political action committees (PACs).  In fact, organizations will generally find a great deal of overlap between the most active and committed members of their advocacy network and the most consistent donors to their political action committees.  This section provides a few details on PACs and how they can be successfully integrated into an overall advocacy network plan.

Organizations form Generic Cialis PACs to finance political education and to make contributions toward the election or defeat of candidates.  They can contribute up to $5,000 per cycle per election to a candidate’s committee and $15,000 to national political parties.  They may receive up to $5,000 from individuals. 

Most organizations will establish a connected PAC that can solicit contributions only from members.  More information can be found on the FEC site at  Key materials on this site include:

Political action committees can also be formed at the state level.  Rules for establishing state PACs vary from state to state.  Organizations should look to their state’s Board of Elections for more information.

Why is it useful?

Overall, political action committees allow organizations to support the election of candidates who support their issues.  Some advocate leaders suggest that PAC contributions give advocates and government relations staff better access to policymakers, in that advocates will have the opportunity to attend fundraising events and be seen as supportive of the candidate.  

Political action committees can also enhance an organization’s advocacy activities and vice versa.  By coordinating existing programs or forming a new PAC to complement an advocacy network, organizations can reduce duplication, reach out in a more focused, targeted manner to politically active network members and possibly reduce overhead and cost.

When should it be used?

Any organization that already has a PAC should look for opportunities to, at a minimum, coordinate and possibly merge activities.  Organizations with advocacy networks but no PAC should determine whether a PAC would assist in meeting legislative and policy goals.

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

Abramoff tells ’60 Minutes’ “Nothing has changed.”

November 8th, 2011 by Autumn

Jack Abramoff sat down with 60 Minutes’ Leslie Stahl in a segment called “The Lobbyist’s Playbook,” and had a lot of criticism about the current political system, saying nothing has changed to improve ethics since he worked on K Street, despite HLOGA and other reforms enacted largely in response to the scandal that erupted around him.

Early in the interview, Abramoff responded to an astounded Stahl, who inquired whether his actions were legal, “We would certainly try to make the activity legal if we could.  At times, we didn’t care.”  He went on to tell her that the problem with our system is that “our system is flawed and has to be fixed. Human beings populate our system. Human beings are weak.”

Abramoff suggested that one way to improve ethics is to close the revolving door between K Street and Capitol Hill.  “If you make the choice to serve the public, public service, then Buy Cialis serve the public, not yourself. When you’re done, go home. Washington’s a dangerous place. Don’t hang around.”  He explained how the revolving door benefited him as a lobbyist trying to wield influence over congressional offices:

“When we would become friendly with an office and they were important to us, and the chief of staff was a competent person, I would say or my staff would say to him or her at some point, ‘You know, when you’re done working on the Hill, we’d very much like you to consider coming to work for us.’ Now the moment I said that to them or any of our staff said that to ‘em, that was it. We owned them. And what does that mean? Every request from our office, every request of our clients, everything that we want, they’re gonna do. And not only that, they’re gonna think of things we can’t think of to do.”

Study finds companies are independently limiting political spending

November 4th, 2011 by Autumn

The L.A. Times reported last week on a study that suggests that in this post-Citizens United world, companies are regulating their own spending in political campaigns.  The study, conducted by the Center for Political Accountability and the University of Pennsylvania’s Zicklin Center for Business Ethics Research, evaluated companies based on board oversight of political giving, disclosure practices and company restrictions on political spending.

The study found that “voluntary disclosure of political spending is becoming a mainstream corporate practice, and [a] growing number of companies are putting restrictions on the political use of their money.”  According to its research, 57 of the S&P 100 index companies voluntarily disclose their political spending and have adopted board oversight over spending.  Just under half, 43, of the companies voluntarily disclose some of their independent spending through associations and nonprofits.

One in six do not allow funds to be spent directly on candidates or political committees.  It also found two companies, Colgate-Palmolive and  IBM, prohibit spending entirely.  Nearly one-third (30) of companies “place some Levitra prohibitions on using corporate funds for political activity.”

“Our findings are striking. They offer hope for increasing corporate political transparency and accountability at a time when everyone expects massive hidden spending to influence elections,” CPA President Bruce Freed said in a statement.

Twenty-four of the companies have explicit statements on their websites letting Super PAC committees know that they will not spend on independent expenditures.  The study ranked the top-ten companies based on political transparency:

  1. Colgate-Palmolive Co.
  2. Exelon Corp.
  3. International Business Machines
  4. Merck & Co. Inc.
  5. Johnson & Johnson
  6. Pfizer Inc.
  7. United Parcel Service Inc.
  8. Dell Inc.
  9. Wells Fargo & Co.
  10. EMC Corp.

In 2003, the Center for Political Accountability started a campaign to urge corporations to voluntarily disclose political spending and exercise greater oversight in this area.  “Few, if any, companies disclosed their political spending then,” the report says, going on to note that the results of this study “[reflect] significant progress. [They] also [reflect] troubling gaps that leave many shareholders, and citizens, in the dark.”

Hiring People off the Hill

November 2nd, 2011 by Brittany

Lobbying registrants may seek to hire someone off the Hill with the connections and knowledge of particular issues to work with clients. However, depending on who the organization hires, there may be post-employment restrictions in play that may limit the amount of activity in which the former Hill employee may be involved.

Summary of House Post-Employment Restrictions

House Member

  • May not lobby any Member, officer or employee of either house of Congress for one year 
  • May not assist any foreign government seeking official action from any official of the United States for one year
  • Must file Notice of Negotiations with House Clerk if negotiating with a private entity
  • Must file Notice of Negotiations and Notice of Recusal with House Ethics Committee if negotiating with a private entity

Elected Officer

  • May not lobby any Member, officer or employee of either house of Congress for one year
  • May not assist any foreign government seeking official action from any official of the United States for one year
  • Must file Notice of Negotiations and Notice of Recusal with House Ethics Committee if negotiating with a private entity

Very Senior Staff

  • May not lobby Member or employee of former personal office, leadership office or committee, whichever is applicable, for one year
  • May not assist any foreign government seeking official action from any official of the United States for one year
  • Must file Notice of Negotiations and Notice of Recusal with House Ethics Committee if negotiating with a private entity

Non-senior Staff

  • No “cooling off” period Levitra; may lobby after leaving the Hill
  • Not required to file anything with House Ethics Committee or House Clerk

Summary of Senate Post-Employment Restrictions


  • May not lobby any Member, officer or employee of either house of Congress for two years
  • May not assist any foreign government seeking official action from any official of the United States for two years
  • Must file Notice of Negotiations with the Secretary of the Senate

Elected Officers

  • May not lobby any Member, officer or employee of the Senate for one year
  • May not assist any foreign government seeking official action from any official of the United States for one year
  • Must file Notice of Employment of Negotiations and Recusal with the Senate Ethics Committee

Senior Staff

  • May not lobby any Senator or any Senate employee for one year
  • May not assist any foreign government seeking official action from any official of the United States for one year
  • Must file Notice of Employment Negotiations and Recusal with the Senate Ethics Committee

Non-senior Staff

  • May not lobby former employing Senator for one year
  • May not lobby former employing office employees or the employing committee Members/staff for one year
  • If dual responsibilities during Senate employment (personal office and committee), may not lobby personal office or committee for one year
  • May not assist any foreign government seeking official action from any official of the United States for one year
  • No filing requirement to any Senate office


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

Senators Propose Constitutional Amendment to Reverse Citizens United

November 1st, 2011 by Autumn

Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) has proposed a constitutional amendment to change the campaign finance landscape yet again, by “effectively revers[ing] two landmark Supreme Court decisions — the 1976 ruling in Buckley v. Valeo, which said spending money in elections is a form of speech, and the 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which ruled it unconstitutional to regulate the money spent to influence elections by corporations and unions.

The amendment would allow Congress and the states to regulate campaign contributions and expenditures, by allowing Congress to regulate the amount of money raised and spent for federal campaigns (including independent expenditures), allowing states to regulate fundraising and spending at in state elections, and opening the door for Congress to pass unspecified campaign finance reform legislation in the future.

“Letting this go unchecked is a threat to our democracy. Campaigns should be about the best ideas, not the biggest checkbooks,” Udall said at a press conference.

Huffington Post reports, “Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), a co-sponsor of the proposed amendment, called the Buckley case ‘one of the worst decisions that the Supreme Court has rendered in the last hundred years’ and described the Citizens United ruling as ‘Buckley on steroids.’”

A reversal of the Citizens United decision has been one of the demands of Occupy Wall Street protesters.  “The extent to which money and corporations have taken over the [campaign] process is reflected across our cities in the Occupy movement,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) says. “It is something we have to do something about if we are going to reclaim American democracy as the shining light to other countries that it has always been.”  Sen. Whitehouse is also co-sponsoring the amendment.

Contacting Members of Congress? You’re Not the Only One.

October 14th, 2011 by Autumn

A new Congressional Management Foundation report entitled “Communicating with Congress How Citizen Advocacy is Changing Mail Operations on Capitol Hill“ found that constituents are contacting their Congressmen far more frequently than they were 10 years ago: Senate offices reported a 548 percent increase in mail volume since 2002 (including one office that experienced a 1,422 percent jump), and representatives in the House received 158 percent more mail.  Despite receiving overwhelming amounts of constituent mail, 90 percent of congressional staff surveyed still say that constituent communications remains a “high priority.”

Offices that embrace technology find responding to constituent communication much easier than those that don’t, but the report found that in many cases, “‘old school’ habits on Capitol Hill are inhibiting the potential for Congress and citizens to have a more robust, active and meaningful relationship using online technologies.”  In the past, many offices refrained from sending emails, resorting to phone calls and snail mail instead because they were afraid their messages would be altered.  Even still, 86 percent of congressional offices are answering email messages with emails, a rise from 37 percent in 2005.

However, if you’re feeling like an office isn’t getting much done, or is taking forever to respond to your scheduling request, it’s because staff is also spending an increasing amount of time sifting through the influx of constituent mail.  The survey found that on average, staff spend 58 percent of their time on constituent communications, and 46 percent say they have had to shift resources to manage the increased mail volume.  Response time seems not to be dependent on the request: 42 percent of staff surveyed say it takes more than three weeks to draft and approve a response to an issue that previously has not be raised, and 41 percent say they need “more than a week to respond to a constituent email even if a prepared text response has been drafted and approved.”  All of this with the same resources; Congress has not increased office staff sizes since 1979.  In 2009, Congress debate a high number of high profile issues, and as a result, offices also experienced the greatest jump in constituent communications that year.

Senior managers in congressional largely believe that the biggest challenge they face as it pertains to responding to constituent mail is mail volume (35 percent), but 41 percent of “mail staffers” state “the review and approval process” is the mostly responsible for the delay.

Social Data and the 2012 Election

October 12th, 2011 by Autumn

A data-driven grassroots strategy driven by Facebook may prove a huge difference-maker in the 2012 election, just as a similar strategy quietly helped generate widespread support for then-candidate Obama in 2008.  With the social intelligence afforded by social media sites like Facebook, a campaign can effectively mobilize volunteers to maximize their canvassing, be it phone calls or door-to-door campaigning.

“On the micro scale, any campaign volunteer or staffer with Facebook on their phone is carrying around a treasure trove of data about their contacts: Almost all of their friends, how often they talk online, what they talk about, even when they go to the same events,” writes Personal Democracy Forum’s Nick Judd on the techPresident blog.  Part of the effectiveness of such a strategy is that potential voters are not contacted by the candidates or unknown campaign staff, but by their own friends who are politically active and speaking on behalf of the candidate.

“It marks the early appearance in the field of a new strategy — merging campaign data with the data each supporter keeps about their contacts, stored away in places like Facebook profiles — that I expect we’ll be seeing more of in the future,” Judd continues.

So far, no candidate has been able to capitalize on this like President Obama.  With this, his second election cycle leveraging the possibilities of data mining as a way to activate voters (and donors), President Obama is miles ahead of his challengers.

“Obama may be struggling in the polls and even losing support among his core boosters, but when it comes to the modern mechanics of identifying, connecting with and mobilizing voters, as well as the challenge of integrating voter information with the complex internal workings of a national campaign, his team is way ahead of the Republican pack,” writes Personal Democracy Co-founder Micah Sifry for CNN.

The Obama campaign is also harnessing the power of private social networks to connect volunteers and campaign staff and allow higher-level managers to monitor progress against goals and get a broad picture of on-the-ground efforts on NationalField (which started with the Obama 2008 campaign).  Volunteers can share what they’re doing — hard data and qualitative observations can be reported for a comprehensive portrayal of what is really going on — and the hierarchical structure of the network allows information to be filtered based on staff seniority.

“While the Republican field (and bloggers and the press) has been focused on how their candidates are doing with social networking, Obama’s campaign operatives are devising a new kind of social intelligence that will help drive campaign resources where they are most needed,” Sifry writes.

Regardless of what social media platforms campaigns employ (or don’t), data harmonization and the ability to leverage personal relationships are among the most basic — but most often overlooked — principles of any campaign, and will be crucial to a candidate’s success.  Efficient data management ensures that all operations of a campaign are interacting and aware of the others’ efforts.

“If the 2012 election comes down to a battle of inches, where a few percentage points change in turnout in a few key states making all the difference, we may come to see Obama’s investment in predictive modelers and data scientists as the key to victory,” Sifry concludes.

Dont Let Your Advocates be Scared Motivate Them!

October 12th, 2011 by Brittany

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.


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

OMB Releases Final Guidelines on Lobbyist Ban

October 7th, 2011 by Autumn

The Office of Management and Budget has issued final guidance on the June 2010 White House directive which banned lobbyists from serving on executive branch advisory boards and commissions.  The guidance, which will go into effect Nov. 4, impacts only active federally-registered lobbyists, not those who have terminated their registrations or lobby only at the state and local levels.  Also excluded from the ban: individuals employed by organizations that lobby but who are not actually registered themselves.

Lobbyists appointed prior to June 18, 2010 will be permitted to serve out the remainder of their terms on commissions and advisory boards, but agencies will have to request resignation from any individual who registered as a lobbyist June 19, 2010 or after.  No waivers will be granted.

“Special interests exert this disproportionate influence, in part, by relying on lobbyists who have special access that is not available to all citizens,” President Obama said in the memorandum.

American League of Lobbyists President Howard Marlowe calls the move “shameful,” saying “It’s clear that the president has begun his reelection campaign by resurrecting Pokies professional lobbyists as his punching bag.”

“Although lobbyists can sometimes play a constructive role by communicating information to the government, their service in privileged positions within the executive branch can perpetuate the culture of special interest access that I am committed to changing,” Obama said in the statement.

Marlowe contends, “[The president's] actions reflect a disdain for open government based on transparency and the free flow of information.  It is political hypocrisy to say that those lobbyists who are not registered are welcome within the inner circle, while anyone who for whatever reason has registered as a lobbyist is shut out.”

OMB spokeswoman Meg Reilly told Politico Influence “The president has taken steps from the start to close the revolving door between the federal government and special interests, to end the culture of powerful lobbying influence, and to dramatically expand the level of transparency in government. This guidance is an important step in those efforts, but we will continue to identify new ways to expand transparency and accountability and look forward to working with the public on this.”


Ghosts of Lobbyists Past Prior Government Experience

October 5th, 2011 by Brittany

Effective January 1, 2008, the LD-1 lobbying registrations for new clients of lobbying firms must disclose the prior government service of each individual lobbyist for 20 years preceding the filing of the registration. New individual lobbyists employed by an existing registrant will also need to disclose this information on the entity’s next quarterly LD-2 report. Employees of the organization registered as lobbyists prior to January 1, 2008 are governed by the two-year look-back only.

New employee lobbyists – or existing employees who trigger lobbying registration after January 1, 2008 – must report their prior government service for the twenty years preceding the reporting period in which they are newly registered as lobbyists.

Prior government service is defined as a “covered executive or legislative branch official.” For purposes of disclosing prior government employment, all registrants and filers must use the LDA definition of “covered executive or legislative branch official.”

Covered executive branch officials under the LDA are:

  1. The President
  2. The Vice President
  3. Officers and employees of the Executive Office of the President
  4. Any official serving in an Executive Level I-V position
  5. Any member of the uniformed services serving at grade 0-7 or above
  6. “Schedule C” Employees

Covered legislative branch officials are:

  1. a Member of Congress
  2. an elected officer of either the House or the Senate
  3. an employee, or any other individual functioning in the capacity of an employee who works for a Member, committee, leadership staff of either the Senate or House, a joint committee of Congress, a working group or caucus organized to provide services to Members, and
  4. any other legislative branch employee who, for at least 60 days, occupies a position for which the rate of basic pay is equal to or greater than 120 percent of the minimum rate of basic pay payable for GS-15 of the General Schedule

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

Environmental Group calls for Probe into Lobbyist’s Activities

September 29th, 2011 by Autumn

Friends of the Earth, a national pro-environment group, has asked the Department of Justice to investigate the lobbying activities of TransCanada official Paul Elliott.  The group contends that Elliott, who was once an aide to Hilary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign, failed to register as a lobbyist for over a year while he petitioned the Obama administration (including Clinton’s State Department) to approve a TransCanada pipeline.

Friends of the Earth accuses the State Department of granting “inappropriate favors,” “coaching” responses to probes” and maintaining a “cozy relationship” with Elliott and TransCanada.  The group says that Elliott “sought to exploit his campaign ties to secure high-level meetings,” and violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act by failing to disclose his interests as a foreign agent and subsequently register with the Department of Justice under the Act.

Office of Government Ethics Unveils New Proposals for Government Employees

September 20th, 2011 by Autumn

The Office of Government Ethics has announced proposed amendments to the current ethics guidelines applicable to federal employees.  A few of them actually relax what the government has been practicing for the past year, but overall, the proposed changes would put stricter limitations on some political activity.

American League of Lobbyists president Howard Marlowe says, “The proposed rule would prevent federal employees from having even casual social contact with registered lobbyists.  There is no evidence that the current overly-restrictive rules are being abused or are inadequate[, and t]he American League of Lobbyists strongly objects to this proposed rule. Unfortunately, it is another in a long series of moves by this Administration to reduce the mutual flow of information and expertise between lobbyists and friendly employees.”

Among those amendments:

- Excluding from the definition of registered lobbyist or lobbying organization the following types of organizations, even if these organizations are registered under the LDA: “nonprofit professional associations, scientific organizations, and learned societies.”

- Abolishing the requirement that an invitation to an event not come directly from a registered lobbyist. In other words, if the gift of the invitation comes from a 501(c)3, even if the organization is registered under LDA, the gift is allowed.

- Limiting the use of the gift exceptions for all government employees; formerly these applied to political appointees. No government employee would be able to use the following electronic cigarette comparison exceptions for gifts from registered lobbyists or lobbying entities: the $20 de minimus exception, the widely attended gathering exception and the social invitation exception.

-The widely attended gathering exception applies to training and professional development activities; it should not apply to purely social events, such as gala dinners, fundraisers, parties, etc.

- Trade associations would be excluded from the list of organizations that can extend invitations to government employees to attend widely attended gatherings. In its reasoning, OGE states that, “Trade associations may sponsor educational activities for their members and even the public, but the primary concern of such associations generally is not the education and development of members of a profession or discipline, which is the focus of the proposed exclusion.”

- The proposed rules seem to allow attendance at such activities held by professional societies, though both trades and professional groups are organized under 501 (c)6 tax code.

- If the government employee is speaking at an association event, attendance in that instance is permitted, because a speaking engagement is not considered a gift.

The association community is also upset about the proposal, and some have referred to it as “a call to arms” for the business community.  ASAE has requested a meeting with OGE acting director and general counsel Dawn Fox to express concerns and gain clarity on the issue.

OGE is accepting comments through Nov. 14.


Hoops for Hope Honors Late ALL Executive Director

September 15th, 2011 by Autumn

For the first time in several years, the lobbyists roundly defeated the members of Congress team in the Monday’s Hoops for Hope Foundation All-Star Classic basketball game.  The lobbyists handled the Members team, 48-35, for their first victory in several years, putting a stop to any talk of throwing this annual game.

But the fun charity event had a somber note this year, as the late executive director of the American League of Lobbyists was memorialized.  Patti Jo Baber (r) died of cancer in December. As the longtime ALL executive director, Baber “helped set [ALL] on the successful path that it’s on today,” and “she played a large role in helping so many kids the Foundation supports,” read a tribute poster displayed at the game in Baber’s honor.

The Classic raises money for underprivileged children in DC. At this year’s event, winners of the Kids Cover Contest for The Original US Congress Handbook were recognized, including overall winner Sasini Wiekramatunga, an eighth-grader from the DC area. Click here to see the winning entries. To preorder The Original Congress Handbook with the winning cover, go to; 15% of the profits from those preorders will go to the Hoops for Hope Foundation. Details:


Back to School Advocacy Review

September 14th, 2011 by Brittany

What is Advocacy?

According to the American Heritage Dictionary, advocacy is: “the act of pleading or arguing in favor of something, such as a cause, idea, or policy; active support.”

Under this definition, there are many types of advocacy, including:

  • Legal Advocacy:  Arguing on behalf of a client in the legal environment
  • Child Advocacy:  Making the case for children in a child-oriented venue, such as a school or in the context of child protective services
  • Patient Advocacy:  Helping individuals navigate through the increasing complex medical arena and safeguarding their rights
  • Casework / Social Welfare Advocacy:  Working with low-income or otherwise disadvantaged individuals to be sure they have the services they need
  • Corporate Advocacy:  Efforts by corporations to promote a specific cause or idea for the benefit of the general public (also related to the idea of “Corporate Social Responsibility”)

In each of these circumstances, one person or a group of people pleads or argues in favor of a particular cause, idea, or individual.  The difference between these types of advocacy candid pokies and advocacy in the policy arena are matters of topic, scale, and audience.

Advocacy in the policy arena can be defined along the following lines:

  • Topic:  Improvements to public policy or funding for public programs at the local, state or federal level
  • Scale:  Focused on benefits for a group of people as opposed to an individual
  • Audience:  Primarily targeted at policy makers at the local, state or federal level.  Secondary targets may include opinion leaders, business interests and citizens in an effort to elicit change with relevant policy-makers.

In addition, the use of the term advocacy refers specifically to advocacy that is done by non-professionals as opposed to the “direct lobbying” done by government relations professionals across the country.  A fourth area of differentiation, therefore, would be:

  • Advocate:  An individual, such as an association member, company employee or citizen, who pleads the public policy case to a policy maker, often in concert with a larger organization.


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