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 Elise

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 Elise

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)

Happy Labor Day

September 6th, 2010 by Elise

Lobby Blog is taking the day off for Labor Day.  Enjoy the unofficial last weekend of summer!

Fall is coming!

Have fun on your long weekend, and if you hunger for lobbying news, be sure to check out our archives, read our newest white paper on the most influential lobbyists, or peruse your copy of the Lobbying Compliance Handbook. (You do have one, right?)

Weekly Lobbying News Round-Up

September 3rd, 2010 by Elise

The FEC’s two newest final rules were published on Aug. 27, along with two advisory opinions. See our post onWeekly newsthat here, and the FEC’s press release here.

State and Federal Communications’ excellent blog LobbyComply has this interesting piece on the origin of the term “lobbyist.” See State and Fed’s always-useful Compliance Now newsletter for updates on state-level lobbying and compliance.

It seems like House Ethics is always in the news these days. The Office of Congressional Ethics voted to refer several lawmakers for potential violations of ethics rules. Reps. Crowley, Campbell (of California), and Price (of Georgia) were under scrutiny for their votes on financial services reform.

Speaking of House Ethics, Point of Order blog discusses the differences and similarities between Rep. Maxine Waters’ case and Rep. Sam Graves’ case (which was dismissed earlier this year).

The FEC’s RECORD newsletter is now available from their website, here. (PDF)

The Political Affairs Council has an interesting post on Corporate Social Responsibility and the role of CSR in today’s economy.

Open Secrets blog reports on the environment for campaign finance reformers. See post here, “Campaign Finance Reformers Facing Major Political, Legal Obstacles.”

Quote of the week:

“The next president of the United States on January 21, 2013 – - is going to start lobbying… He’s going to be lobbying Congress, he’s going to be lobbying other countries. He’s going to be lobbying the business community. He’s going to be lobbying the labor unions, the governors, because that’s what presidents do, and I feel like it’s an advantage for me to have the chance to do that.” – Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R), on whether his past as a lobbyist makes him a good potential candidate for president in 2012. (Politico, 9/1/2010)

Compliance Q and A: What to Disclose?

September 3rd, 2010 by Elise

Q: I’m confused by what lobbyists have to list in the “issue disclosure” section of their forms. Could you please clarify what needs to be disclosed on that form?

A: According to the LDA Guidance, for disclosing issues and purposes for which lobbyists are retained by other entities, the following must be listed (the relevant form is the LD-1 or LD-2):

  • The issues on which the lobbying activities will be focused, using the issue codes established by the House and Senate
  • A brief description of the legislation, policy, or other information about the lobbying issue
  • Where the lobbying activities will be focused: House of Representatives, Senate, or a particular federal agency or office
  • The identity of each lobbyist employee engaged in the lobbying activities described above

It is not sufficient to just list a bill number as the description of the lobbying issue area. The instructions for preparation of the LD-1 ask for “detailed, but brief.” List the bill number, if applicable, and also a brief description of the topic which the bill covers, or the subsection of legislation, if a larger bill, such as an appropriations measure.

The information in this post is condensed from the Lobbying Compliance Handbook, by Cleta Mitchell.

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

This information should not be taken as legal advice. Please see our “About Lobby Blog” page for more on that.

Campaign Finance in the News

September 2nd, 2010 by Elise

The Federal Election Commission published two new final rules on August 27, and also issued two advisory opinions.

First is a final rule pertaining to coordination of political communications by outside groups with campaigns. The rule now:

add[s] a new standard to the content prong of the coordination rules to cover public communications that are the functional equivalent of express advocacy. The final rules do not alter the conduct prong of the coordination rules, but provide further justification for retaining the 120-day time period in the common vendor and former employee conduct standards. The final rules adopt a new safe harbor for certain commercial and business communications.

Second is a change to several federal election activity definitions:

The final rules revise the definitions of “voter registration activity” and “get-out-the-vote activity” (GOTV) to cover activities that urge, encourage or assist potential voters to register to vote, regardless of whether the message is delivered individually or to a group of people via mass communication. Brief, incidental exhortations to register to vote are exempt from the new definitions. The final rules clarify that certain voter identification and GOTV activities conducted solely in connection with a non-Federal election are not subject to the Commission’s Federal election activity regulations and provide that certain de minimis activities are not subject to the Federal election activity funding restrictions.

The rules do not take effect until December 2010.

View the FEC’s press release here: FEC Adopts Final Rules on Coordinated Communications and Federal Election Activity, Approves Two Advisory Opinions. (Link included on page to final rules and two published advisory opinions).

Washington Post reports on reactions by campaign finance reformers, “FEC Answers a Nagging Question – Sort Of”.

The FEC’s newsletter, the RECORD, is now online as well.

Tuesday Ethics Tip: Cigar Aficionado Edition

August 31st, 2010 by Elise

Cigars: Unethical?

Reports about the “Congressional Cigar Association,” an organization that reportedly includes both Congressional staffers and former staffers who are now lobbyists, with cigars donated to the group by lobbying entities, draws questions about whether or not the group should be accepting, or allowed to accept, such gifts under the House gift rules.

The Huffington Post reported on a meeting of the CCA recently and called the group a “front” for lobbyists.

Is the CCA, its membership, or groups sponsoring the events  stepping over the line?  Let’s look first at gift rules, and second at social engagements.

1. Gift rules: No lobbyist or lobbying entity may provide any thing of value (including small items, such as cigars), without a specific exemption. If the groups sponsoring the events are registered to lobby, they may not provide anything of value to Congressional staffers unless such gifts fall under an exemption. According to the CCA, they have cleared their events with the ethics committee. See here for definition of “lobbyist.”

2. Social engagements. If lobbying entities are sponsoring these events,  under the exemption of a “widely-attended event,” they must fall under a category of a widely-attended event. At such an event, Congressional staffers or members may accept entertainment, offered to all guests, presumably including the entertainment of smoking a cigar. However, premium “entertainment” is not necessarily covered.)

A widely-attended event is defined as: “One of the exceptions to the Gift Rules of the House and Senate. Organizations employing lobbyists may sponsor a widely attended event  which must contain a diverse audience of more than 25 people and must be related to a Member’s or staffer’s official duties in order for a Member or staffer to attend for free.”

It is impossible to make a judgment on the appropriateness or legality of the CCA’s events and sponsorship without knowing more information on the fees and dues provided by members to the organization, the structure of their events, and the sponsoring entities.

That being said, it doesn’t look extremely good to hold such closed-door events as the one “crashed” by the Huffington Post. It creates an appearance (even if that wasn’t the intent) of access to staffers being bought by cigars. A better method of advocacy for the groups sponsoring such events might be to bring in citizen advocates to lobby their members of Congress on behalf of district-based efforts.

(And since we suggested that, here’s a plug for our upcoming audioconference: Lobby Days & Fly-Ins: Time and Money-Saving Tactics for Managing the Unmanagable,” with the outstanding Stephanie Vance.)

Burson-Marsteller Social Media Study

August 30th, 2010 by Elise

I know this is a bit older (it was published almost a month ago!), but here’s an interesting report for your edification - Burson-Marsteller did a study on “Social Media Use By U.S.-Based Political Advocacy Groups.”

The report, downloadable on SlideShare, covers social media use and its effectiveness in partisan political advocacy groups, as well as non-partisan advocacy groups. Check out the slides below.

It’s FREEBIE FRIDAY!!!!!!!!!!!

August 27th, 2010 by Brittany

It’s Freebie Friday!!!! Order Washington Representatives Directory by midnight tonight and get FREE shipping and a FREE US Congress Handbook. That’s two free things! Yep, we know we’re awesome.

Call 1-888-265-0600 to place your order today. Don’t forget to mention code TGIF when ordering.

The Washington Representatives Directory helps you quickly and easily locate profiles for:

  • 18,000 federal lobbyists with complete contact information
  • 2,700 lobbying firms with contact information, client lists, and lobbying income dollars
  • 12,000 corporations and nonprofits involved in lobbying complete with the issues they are lobbying on

Don’t wait! Call 1-888-265-0600 to place your order before this offer expires at midnight. Don’t forget to mention code TGIF when ordering.

For Re-Trial Of Ex-Lobbyist, Jurors Questioned on Opinion Of Lobbyists

August 27th, 2010 by David

As former Jack Abramoff associate Kevin Ring, who is accused of bribery, moves to the jury selection phase of his

Kevin Ring (Photo credit: National Journal; Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

retrial, federal Judge Ellen Huvelle is asking 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.

Here’s the seven-part question that’s drawing attention:

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

[ ] Yes [ ] 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.

[ ] Yes [ ] No Lobbying is influence peddling on behalf of wealthy people or businesses.

[ ] Yes [ ] No Lobbying, whether on behalf of rich people, the middle class, or poor people, should be prohibited.

[ ] Yes [ ] No Lobbying can help ensure that government officials make decisions that are in the best interests of the United States.

[ ] Yes [ ] No 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.

[ ] Yes [ ] No Lobbying is paying off politicians and government officials to get them to do something.

[ ] Yes [ ] No Lobbying is legitimate business.

[ ] Yes [ ] No 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).

Blog of Legal Times has the whole questionnaire that jurors were required to fill out, if you’re interested. (PDF) Ring’s trial is expected to last until the end of November.

Pot Lobbying Not a Recent Phenomenon

August 26th, 2010 by Madiha

So since Politico’s recently posted interview with ‘pot lobbyist’ Aaron Houston has been making the rounds, we thought we’d share what we know about lobbying for marijuana on the hill.

Pot lobbying: not just for your slacker ex-boyfriend

Pot lobbying is certainly not a recent phenomenon, although it has gained strength in recent times, given the departure of the Bush Administration and the relatively friendlier attitude of the current administration toward legalization. Libertarians also tend to support legalization, and those of the libertarian persuasion have come out the woodwork a bit with the ascendence of Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas).

The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), one of two top marijuana advocacy organizations in DC, registered to lobby back in 1999. The Marijuana Policy Project, Houston’s former employer and another leading group, registered in 2005. Based on registrations filed since then, MPP and NORML seem to be the only two registered lobbyists for marijuana laws (Aaron Houston’s current organization, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, has yet to register).

Both NORML and MPP are headquartered on the hill, operate PACs, and lobby on issues ranging from alcohol/drug abuse laws, to taxation and even banking. As every marijuana lobbyists will tell you these days, legalizing marijuana is not just about going easy on the DUI arrests anymore. It’s about the economy, dude (this will be our sole attempt at making a Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure joke).

While one of MPP’s two PACs is an ‘unauthorized PAC’ (meaning it is not officially authorized by a candidate) and the other the Medical Marijuana PAC (total campaign contributions this year = $26,000), NORML’s total federal contributions in the last two quarters go up to $200,000. The PAC has consistently made campaign contributions since it launched its qualified non-party PAC in 2001.

Analyze This!

August 26th, 2010 by Autumn

Which lobbying firms are the most profitable?

Which firms are making the most income with the fewest number of lobbyists?

How do D.C.’s largest firms compare to the lesser known ones?

Find all these answers and more in Lobbyists.info’s first Factors of Influence Data Analysis. Our editorial team has reviewed statistics from over 2,900 lobbying firms and is now releasing the results of our findings. Check out the full report and decide for yourself which firms have the most sway on Capitol Hill.

And when you’re done, click on over to the newly updated Factors of Influence chart and figure out which changes are taking place in the lobbying community.

Industry Moves and Changes

August 26th, 2010 by Elise

Aron Griffin has joined Tenet Healthcare Corp. as director of federal affairs.

Hilary Rosen is jumping from the Brunswick Group, where she heads the Washington office, to SKDKnickerbocker.

Angelo Amador has been named vice president of labor and workforce policy at the National Restaurant Association.

Eric Wohlschlegel is American Petroleum Institute’s new director of media relations

Suzanne Zurn is now vice president, digital advocacy, for Waggener Edstrom Worldwide in D.C. Zurn most recently worked at Xenophon Strategies.

Compliance Q and A: Association PAC Reporting

August 25th, 2010 by Elise

Q: Our association has a PAC but our treasurer is not a lobbyist and our assistant treasurer is a lobbyist.  Do we still need to file an LD-203 report for the PAC?  And if so, who must file and by when must the filing occur?

A: The individual lobbyist will have to file his or her own individual contributions.  On the association’s semi-annual report (LD-203), the association would list the name of the PAC. It does not matter whether your treasurer is or is not a lobbyist for the purposes of the filing by the association.

The association would indicate the name of its PAC and indicate contributions of $200 or more from the PAC to any federal candidate, any leadership PAC or any one of the six national party committees that were made during the six-month reporting period.

On the lobbyist’s separate filing, the lobbyist may have to indicate – if he or she has a controlling say in where PAC contributions are spent – that he or she is the assistant treasurer. If the lobbyist has a responsibility for allocating PAC funds, he or she would have to list contributions from the PAC that he or she was responsible for having made in the individual lobbyist report.

So it’s a fact-specific situation depending on how the PAC is set up,  and who its officers are, as well as who controls contributions.

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