Lobbyist Campaign Contributions

September 20th, 2010 by James

This story about Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-District of Columbia) that ran on Big Government ran with an emphasis on the “heavy-handed” method with which Holmes Norton approached the unnamed lobbyist. But the bigger issue is that members of Congress are prohibited from soliciting campaign contributions in connection with official actions and duties.

Big Government points out that:

“More serious… is her frequent mention of her seniority and her Chairmanship of a subcommittee. She is attempting to solicit funds based on her past actions taken in her official capacity in Congress. She is implying to the lobbyist that, should he decline to donate, he will be turning down a senior member of Congress who Chairs a subcommittee highly relevant to his ‘sector’.”

Because Big Government did not release the name of the individual for whom Holmes Norton left this voicemail, it is impossible to state with conviction that Holmes Norton’s actions were directed toward a federally-registered lobbyist. (The lobbyist to whom the article’s authors are referring may be a “government relations” person, not registered under the Lobbying Disclosure Act).

Some lobbyists simply decline to make any kind of political contributions at all, claiming this helps them to not only remain in compliance with the law, but also gives them leverage when members or staffers try to pressure them into contributions. You may want to follow suit. If you are a lobbyist and you are approached by a member of Congress (or a member’s staffer) for campaign funds or other types of solicitations, don’t walk, run, for several reasons.

First, as a lobbyist, it is your job to attempt to influence (on behalf of your clients), official action. There is no prohibition against such action; it is a Constitutionally-protected right to advocate for your chosen position.

Second, because your professional life is a series of attempts to influence official actions, any professional contact with members or staffers is probably in the context of influence.

Therefore, your professional actions and influence are closely connected. Your professional life is closely linked with your personal life, and making a campaign contribution to a member of Congress with whom you have daily/weekly/ monthly contact regarding official actions just looks bad.

In this situation, being above reproach with help you tremendously. It may not be against the law to contribute – and you should certainly feel free to do so if you believe that there is no harm in doing so, and your efforts are not connected to official actions. But it may help you enormously to consider stopping all direct political contributions while you remain a federally-registered lobbyist. A better course of action, if you feel that donations are something you want to do regardless, might be to donate to PACs unconnected to members, or to party committees.

Do note that members are strictly prohibited from soliciting gifts from lobbyists.

Weekly Lobbying News Round-Up

September 17th, 2010 by James

After last week’s surprise upset in Alaska (Joe Miller over Lisa Murkowski in the GOP Senate primary), Roll CallWeekly newsreports that lobbyists were quick to shift their financial and fundraising support from Murkowski to Miller. Article here.

The New York Times report on John Boehner’s lobbyist ties is examined a little more fully in our post, here. Boehner also responded via the Washington Examiner.

Pepsi and Coke both have new lobbyists in DC… maybe this will spark the huge Pepsi v. Coke epic battle we’ve all been waiting for. (Although I won’t lie, as a Michigander, I prefer Faygo).

John Doolittle, who earlier this year complained that the (cleared) ethics investigations against him were making supporting work difficult, has found a job lobbying for Colfax City, California.

Lots of ethical dilemmas and strong words being traded back and forth regarding House ethics.. Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), one of the Ethics Committee members,  faces his own ethics and disclosure issues. Various public interest groups try to get Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner to publicly agree to support the OCE in the next Congress.

Ross Garber comments on Public Corruption charges post Skilling (discussion of Kevin Ring case included). See our posts about Kevin Ring and Skilling.

Following up on our report earlier this week that lobby shops are looking to up their GOP quotient ahead of the midterms, Roll Call reports on the Democratic job prospects on K St.

We anxiously await word on the fate of DISCLOSE.

Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-District of Columbia) was recorded leaving a voicemail on an unnamed lobbyist’s phone, asking for campaign contributions, and doing it in a manner that implied a reminder of Holmes Norton’s power status in the lobbyist’s “sector.” More on this story in our Monday post on lobbyist campaign contributions.

From the Canadian Society of Association Executives, a post on “Enhancing Grassroots Advocacy Through Social Media.” Worth a read.

The LA Times has an article on Kevin Spacey’s role as  Jack Abramoff in the upcoming “Casino Jack.”

Reports abound that Paul Magliocchetti is changing his “not guilty” plea in his 11-count indictment.

Three Obama administration employees never deregistered as lobbyists before taking their new jobs, according to OpenSecrets blog.

Quote(s) of the week:

“There may be a new gang in town after November,” said Hellmann, a former aide to then-Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.). “The climate will be better for the business community on taxes.” (Roll Call, 9/13/2010)

“A lot of people want to have coffee now.” – Gordon Taylor, Ogilvy Government Relations, about staffers seeking advice on how to navigate the job market (Roll Call, 9/14/2010)

“Once he’s done with his house arrest, he may decide to speak out about the lobbying industry… He’d be credible if he takes responsibility for what he did, which he has, and exposes the hypocrisy he was a part of.” Kevin Spacey on Jack Abramoff (LA Times, 9/14/2010)

US Congress Handbook Sponsors Hoops for Youth Kids Hill Day

September 17th, 2010 by Brittany

WJA Students at the Hoops for Youth Kids Hill Day

This week the US Congress Handbook was one of the sponsors of the Hoops for Youth Kids Hill Day, and I was lucky enough to be a team mentor for the day. Along with my partner mentor, James Bowman from Congressional FCU, I was in charge of a group of 8th grade boys from the Washington Jesuit Academy.

This field trip was part of the Hoops for Youth program which has raised over $600,000 for local children’s organizations in the past 11 years. Each year the foundation hosts a kids’ Capitol Hill day, basketball clinic and basketball game between members of Congress and local lobbyists.

At first I was a little worried (who wouldn’t be, when thinking about chaperoning a bunch of teenage boys) but it turned out to be one of the highlights of my year. The entire event, organized by Kate Leonard of the Leonard group, was so fantastic and inspirational.

The first half of the day featured motivational speakers including several US Marshalls, a former Justice Department attorney and a former convict who now works for Cease Fire, an organization that attempts to minimize gang violence in Washington DC.

After the speakers, the kids spent some time learning about the First Amendment, and we helped them to prepare a “mock proposal” to present during the Hill appointments. This year they had to convince Members to support them in their efforts to maintain federal funding for their local community recreational center. Since many of these kids are active participants at their actual rec centers, they had lots of great ideas and did such an excellent job presenting their ideas. All-in-all it was an amazing fun-filled day and I highly recommend volunteering for this event next year.

If you are interested in getting involved in the Kids Hill Day next year or donating to the Hoops for Youth Foundation please visit their website here: www.hoopsforyouthfoundation.org.

Click here for more information on the US Congress Handbook.

Boehner and Pelosi’s Lobbying Ties

September 16th, 2010 by Autumn

The New York Times published an article last Sunday detailing the connections Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) has with

John Boehner and aides (Source: New York Times. Photo credit: David Lassman/ Post-Standard)

lobbyists in Washington.  This article is by no means an isolated event.  Various other news articles have been questioning Boehner’s corporate, “special interest” ties.

At a speech in Ohio, President Obama mentioned Boehner’s name eight times.  As of now the only source of information that hasn’t commented on Boehner is my network of 14 uncles who tend to send me long-winded chain emails.  But I’m sure those will start to come in any day now.

The New York Times article did much more than detail Boehner’s golfing and smoking habits while tossing in an obvious joke about his complexion (we get it, he’s tan … new joke, please.)  The article listed some of Boehner’s former aides and “longtime associates and friends” who are lobbyists.

Given the tone of the article, this information seemed to belong on the editorial page; it should not have been presented as just basic information.  In response, The Washington Examiner released an article which stated that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has raised twice the amount of money from lobbyists as her GOP counterpart.

To take all of this one step further, a search of Lobbyists.info showed more lobbyists who previously worked for Pelosi than for Boehner.  Given the rhetoric (which comes from both sides of the aisle) about the evils of the “revolving door,” perhaps members of Congress would be wise to run a quick check on what their own former staffers are doing.

Pelosi’s lobbying ties include former staffers who are now registered lobbyists at The Podesta Group, Akin Gump, Amgen Inc., and King & Spalding.  Not all of Pelosi’s former staffers are registered lobbyists, despite working for registered organizations and coalitions.  Individuals fitting this bill include persons at Planned Parenthood of America and United for Medical Research.

In addition to the individuals listed already by the NYT, Boehner has connections through former employees to lobbyists at Marriot International Inc., Boeing, and the lobbying firm Arent Fox.

Now I’m no political strategist, but it seems that crying wolf over lobbying ties might not be the best course of action for Speaker Pelosi. Perhaps it’s time for both parties to call a lobbyist-as-the-bad-guy truce.

Back to Advocacy School

September 15th, 2010 by Brittany

An excerpt from the Advocacy Handbook.

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 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.

On This Day in Lobbying History

September 14th, 2010 by James

HLOGA signed into law

The Honest Leadership and Open Government Act was enacted.

The bill was signed into law on September 14, 2007 by President George W. Bush.

“Casino Jack” Premieres in Toronto

September 14th, 2010 by James

The latest incarnation of the Jack Abramoff story is now playing at the Toronto International Film Festival. “Casino Jack,” the big-screen adaptation of Abramoff’s rise to power and fall from grace, stars Kevin Spacey in the lead role.

Spacey, who was on hand for the film’s premiere in Toronto, told Reuters that he played the role with a certain amount of sympathy for the now-disgraced lobbyist:

“His greed wasn’t self interest… Is it just that he got caught up in the game of being the best, of making the most money in the culture of the lobbying industry? When you break it down, he wasn’t doing anything that everyone else in Washington wasn’t doing. He was doing it louder, better and making more money than everyone else.”

Spacey apparently met with Abramoff while Abramoff was still in prison (he has since been released and is working in Baltimore).

“Casino Jack” is directed by George Hickenlooper; it will open in theaters in December. It was previously reported to be titled “Bagman.”

The Reuters story is available here: “Casino Jack” Shines Light on Disgraced Abramoff.”

Lobby Groups Stock up on Republicans Before Mid-Terms

September 13th, 2010 by James

As happens with any predicted change in power, D.C. lobby shops are hiring Republican staff before November’s mid-terms. With some pundits predicting turnover in the House – and a few even predicting a possible majority swap in the Senate – Washington’s influence industry stands prepared to hire more insiders.

According to the New York Times, “Lobbyists, political consultants and recruiters all say that the going rate for Republicans — particularly current and former House staff members — has risen significantly in just the last few weeks, with salaries beginning at $300,000 and going as high as $1 million for private sector positions.”

Groups that are interested in taking advantage of a potential swing in the make-up of the Congress – who might have such goals as tax cuts, attempted roll-back of March’s health care law, financial services regulatory reform, and more – may seek to beef up their Republican staff in advance of having a new wave of legislators whose goals align with their own.

Connections – as well as being in the right place at the right time - are everything. With thousands of job-seekers sure to flood the city after their candidate wins, now may be the perfect time for staffers looking to make a change to jump to the private sector. Having those connections in place prior to the election could be a boost to corporate or nonprofit advocacy programs.

Revolving door restrictions may place a damper on some senior staff plans to switch to private sector or non-profit lobby work. Those staffers in the House who become lobbyists may not lobby their former employer’s office for a year, while Senate senior staffers may not lobby the entirety of the body for a year.

The New York Times story is here – “Lobbyists Rush to Hire G.O.P. Staff Ahead of Vote.

Ring Trial Highlights Public Opinion of Lobbying

September 13th, 2010 by James

As former Jack Abramoff associate Kevin Ring, who is accused of bribery, moves to the jury selection phase of his retrial, federal Judge Ellen Huvelle is allowing the jury selection team to ask some interesting questions of prospective jurors.

Though it’s not unusual to ask jurors of their political beliefs should the trial relate to a political matter, in this case the jurors are being asked their opinions of the profession of lobbying as a whole. The seven-part question that’s drawing attention asks:

“48. Which of the following, if any, fits with your view of lobbying? Answer either yes or no.

  • Lobbying is the exercise of the democratic right of American industries, businesses, and individuals to influence lawmaking, government policy and decision making that affects their interests.
  • Lobbying is influence peddling on behalf of wealthy people or businesses.
  • Lobbying, whether on behalf of rich people, the middle class, or poor people, should be prohibited.
  • Lobbying can help ensure that government officials make decisions that are in the best interests of the United States.
  • Lobbying is a fancy term for trying to get government officials to do what the lobbyist wants even if it is not good for the country.
  • Lobbying is paying off politicians and government officials to get them to do something.
  • Lobbying is legitimate business.
  • Lobbying is a necessary part of democratic society based on the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.”

One wonders if the same would be asked if a truck driver or fire fighter stood accused. (And as a sign of the times, they’re also being asked if they tweet or have a Blackberry). Ring’s trial is expected to last until the end of November.

A post from the Blog of Legal Times has the whole questionnaire that jurors were required to fill out.  Read more about Kevin Ring in our archives.

Happy Third Anniversary, HLOGA!

September 13th, 2010 by James

Transparency advocates can celebrate September 14 this week because of The Honest Leadership and Open Government Act. The lobbying disclosure amendment – a major piece of legislation amending the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 – was signed into law by President George W. Bush on September 14, 2007.

The legislation was the result of a top Democratic priority in the 11oth Congress – “clearing the swamp” after multiple Congressional ethics scandals. Newly appointed Speaker Pelosi, along with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, sought to take advantage of the public discontent to add an additional layer of scrutiny – as well as criminal sanctions – to the ethics rules already in place in Congress.

The bill, which was S.1, introduced by Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), passed in the Senate quickly, in January 2007, and then a companion bill, introduced in the House by Rep. John Conyers, (which originated as H.R. 2316) languished in the House until July 2007. Differences were resolved over the course of three days, and the bill was sent to the White House in early September.

A 2007 article from the Washington Post highlights several objections that then-Pres. Bush had at the time that he signed the bill, including a belief that the legislation was not tough enough on earmarks:

“Bush had complained that the earmark disclosure requirements are too loose, and hinted in early August that he might veto the bill. In a statement Friday, he said the bill has important elements but must be followed by measures to crack down further on earmarks.”

The Washington Post story is here: “Bush Signs Lobby-Ethics Bill.” Read the full text of the public law here, on the GPO site, and read the House and Senate versions here: House and Senate.

Industry Moves and Changes

September 13th, 2010 by James

Melissa Crow, former acting deputy assistant secretary for policy at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, is the new director of the American Immigration Council’s Legal Action Center.

Galen Reser, the chief lobbyist for PepsiCo in their DC office, will be replaced by Elizabeth Avery, Pepsi’s current VP of global public policy and government affairs. Reser was a part of Pepsi’s D.C. operations for over 19 years.

Jay B. Perron has been named government programs executive for IBM. Jay previously served as Washington political director for Representative Roy Blunt (R-Mo.). Previously he worked for Valente and Associates, and most recently consulted for political affairs firm PRIsm Information Network.

Jim Eltringham has been named vice president of The Advocacy Group Inc.

Francesca Tedesco has left Pfizer to be vice president of APCO Worldwide’s health care team in Washington

Weekly Lobbying News Round-Up

September 10th, 2010 by James

Eliza Newlin Carney of National Journal writes an article on the future of the FEC in a “hostile” campaign finance environment. “Whither The FEC?”

The Senate’s newest member, Sen. Carte Goodwin (D-W.Va.) turns out to have had some lobbyist clients. “New Senator Had Clients Among K Street Heavyweights.” (The Hill)

Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.) took money from ex-earmark specialist Paul Magliocchetti, now indicted on fraud charges. Some (the Huffington Post) call on her to return that “shady” money.

Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) is not a huge fan of the way the OCE handled an investigation of him. “GOP lawmaker rips ethics office after case dismissed”. Politico discusses the heavy case load that the OCE tries to sort through, while The Hill reports on whether the GOP would try to disband the unpopular extra-Congressional organization if given the opportunity.

And now, a word from our neighbors to the North: the Canadian Lobbying Code – a professional ethics code which “sets forth three basic principles (integrity and honesty, openness, and professionalism) and eight specific rules.”  (h/t Point of Order blog)

Remember that Congressional Cigar Association that got some press from the Huffington Post in July? HuffPo now publishes a follow-up piece on Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-Calif.)’s involvement with the organization.

The buzz in D.C. was about whether Rahm Emanuel would quit his job as President Obama’s chief of staff to run for Chicago mayor. The Washington Examiner looks at a potential replacement for Emanuel – Tom Donilon, a former Fannie Mae lobbyist.

Sharron Angle was raising money amongst D.C. lobbyists, according to this report from Politico, “Sharron Angle heads to D.C. for lobbyist money.”

The U.S. Chamber, always a lobbying heavyweight, is throwing a lot of money into 2010′s mid-term elections. Story from The Hill, Chamber ups its stakes in midterm election.”

Quote of the Week:

“We’re seeing a premium for Republicans … They’re the new ‘It’ girl.” - Ivan H. Adler, a headhunter who specializes in placing lobbyists, New York Times, 9/9/2010

Happy Rosh Hashanah from Lobby Blog

September 9th, 2010 by Brittany

Traditiona Challah Bread

Last night marked the start of the Jewish New Year so I thought I would highlight some traditional Rosh Hashanah dishes and the lobbyists who in some small way make it possible to serve them.

Apples and Honey brought to you by the lobbyists at the United States Apple Association and the American Honey Producers Association

Challah bread from the Independent Bakers Association

Fish heads (not exactly my favorite) from the National Fisheries Institute

Compliance Q and A: Document Retention

September 8th, 2010 by James

Q: How long would you recommend that all filers maintain their records in order to comply with the Lobbying Disclosure Act’s record retention requirement?

A: The House and Senate LDA Guidance requires document retention for six years. The documentation supporting each LDA report should be maintained with a copy of the as-filed report and maintained for six years.

When the Government Accountability Office audits lobbying firms, they ask for documentation on several things:

  • Lobbying income or expenses
  • Specific issues lobbied
  • Identity of lobbyists engaged in lobbying activities on each issue during the reporting period
  • Disclosure of “active participants” in lobbying activities of a coalition or association
  • Disclosure  of the interest(s) of a foreign  entity in each issue lobbied
  • Termination of individuals no longer engaged in lobbying for the filer
  • The agency or house of Congress lobbied on each issue
  • Proper disclosure of “prior government service” for individual lobbyists listed on the reports

Make sure your lobbying firm (even if you’re a sole practitioner) has an internal compliance system in place for documenting and retaining these records for each client.

This information is condensed from the Lobbying Compliance Handbook, by Cleta Mitchell.

Have a question for Compliance Q&A? Send your questions to ehill@columbiabooks.com.

Did you know?

September 7th, 2010 by James

The Office of the Clerk has referred an aggregate of 887 potential non-compliant [Lobbying Disclosure Act] registrants to the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia.

(From lobbyingdisclosure.house.gov, updated periodically)