February 28th, 2011 by Autumn
The Department of Justice has some concerns about a pending merger between internet giant Google and ITA, a flight information software company. Google announced the acquisition July 1, 2010. Initial reactions around the business community were that the deal merely increased Google’s business; it did not threaten the existence of other travel sites. But members of FairSearch.org, an organization comprised of top internet travel sites, including Expedia, Hotwire, TripAdvisor, Kayak, fear that Google may try to leverage its dominance in the internet search industry to promote its product, thereby damaging their own.
The Department of Justice is threatening to block the merger, and the parties are in negotiations. Insiders are unable to predict whether a deal is within days or whether it will fall apart completely. Google spent nearly $12 million on in-house lobbying around anti-trust, privacy, and competition among other issues between 2008-2010. The company spent an additional $5.4 million on retained firms over the same time period.
Though Google contends that it does not intend to set prices or sell tickets, and that its acquisition will make airfare searches easier and drive “more potential customers to airlines’ and online travel agencies’ websites,” Bing, which is in direct competition with Google, relies on the software for its travel site as well.
Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) wrote to Attorney General Christine A. Varney last year from his position on the Antitrust subcommittee to outline concerns over competition and antitrust issues raised by the acquisition, and saying it “warrants a careful review.” Consumer Reports said it is “concerned that the Google-ITA acquisition has the potential to limit consumer choice in the already complex marketplace of online travel, particularly after such a deal were to be finalized.”
February 28th, 2011 by Autumn
Cari Guittard, former executive director of Business for Diplomatic Action, is the new vice president of global affairs for the Howard Consulting Group.
Former Rep. Allen Boyd (D-Fla.) has been named senior adviser at Twenty-First Century Group.
Andrew Halataei, government affairs consultant and former Legislative Director for Congressman Randy Forbes (R-VA), has joined the Information Online Pokies Technology Industry Council (ITI) as director of government relations.
Stacey L. Douglas has been selected to assume the position of Executive Director at the Used Textbook Association (UTA) Board of Directors, effective March 1.
New Mexico Democrat and one-time presidential candidate Bill Richardson has been named as chairman of Global Political Strategies by APCO Worldwide.
February 14th, 2011 by Autumn
Michael Scanlon is the latest Abramoff associate sentenced for his role in the corruption scheme. Â A district judge sentenced the former House aide to 20 months in federal prison. Â Scanlon pleaded guilty in 2005 to conspiracy to bribe public officials and honest-services fraud, which his attorney referred to as âextraordinary cooperation,â when he requested a sentence that did not include jail time. Â The district attorney requested two years imprisonment, despite Scanlonâs role in aiding the Department of Justice in 20 Abramoff-related investigations. Scanlon said that he is âso sorry, so very remorseful,â 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. Â 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”