It wouldn’t be football if there weren’t politics!

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.


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    Superbowl Sunday Compliance

    February 3rd, 2011 by Autumn

    America’s Big Game happens Sunday, and some (including Sports Illustrated’s Peter King) speculate this could be the last we see for a year or so.

    Lavish SuperBowl  parties are going to be in full force across the nation.  Many will flock to Dallas to see how they may get in on the action.  People will lose their minds and forget all of the rules.  However, lobbying watchdogs will not forget. And here at LobbyBlog, neither will we.  So, to keep you in compliance this Superbowl weekend, here are some things to remember:

    • You may NOT buy any staffer/member/executive branch appointee a ticket to the SuperBowl.  With tickets quickly approaching $5,000 each, unless the member/staffer/appointee pays for his/her own ticket, this amount far surpasses the acceptable gift limit for 100 (gifts (over 50 years!)!  (Remember, the rule is $50 per occurrence, $100 total per year for gifts, but NO GIFTS FROM LOBBYISTS.)

    –> This does not mean it is okay to invite the staffer to pay $25 for a standing-room-only ticket, and grant him                  full access to your company’s corporate suite, like the Redskins attempted to do a few years back.  It is a bad idea.  Don’t try it.  The fallout will be highly publicized and you WILL go to jail.  (Think no one will know? So  did Abramoff.)

    –> Although exceptions do exist, it is advisable that perhaps a $5,000 SuperBowl ticket is not a good time to try out the personal friendship exemption.  However, feel free to take your staffer/member/appointee staff spouse to Cowboys stadium (or surrounding bars/parking lots) Sunday.  HLOGA implicitly states that gifts from spouses are exempt.

    • The personal friendship exemption is, however, permissible if you are inviting a staffer/member/appointee to your Big Game party, assuming there’s a legitimate history of personal friendship.  If there is no such history, personal hospitality alone will not cut it.  Make the party potluck, and have your covered guest bring a dish.  If it’s the member’s party, costs must come out of his/her personal bank account, not a campaign fund or expense account.
    • Meeting at a bar to watch the main event?  Go ahead and spring for the pitcher of beer at halftime, whether there are covered officials present or not.  Nachos? Margaritas? Go for it, provided they’re of minimal value and offered in a social setting to everyone in the vicinity.  (BBQ chicken nachos with sour cream and refried beans are teetering awfully close to the official definition of a meal, however, so you may want to stick with ordinary cheese-and-jalapenos chips.)  You may NOT invite only the member/staffer/appointee to the bar and pick up ONLY his/her tab.  Unless of course the personal friendship, dating (more than casual), or marriage exemptions qualify as a personal relationship.

    Compliance Tips for Lobbyists and their Congressional Valentines

    February 2nd, 2011 by Brittany

    Love is in the air on Valentine’s Day, and while some lobbyists may cry into a beer on “Singles Awareness Day,” other lobbyists may be out on romantic dates with congressional Members or staff. Yet dates may go awry between lobbyists and congressional employees not because of bad conversation or a case of being “just not that into you,” but because of ethics rules. Some tips are below from the Lobbying Compliance Handbook that will ensure that your date does not end up becoming a scandal.

     

    Dating

    Even before the changes to the ethics rules, lobbyists and Members/staffers had to face and answer to the myriad of social and personal customs, concerns, and expectations that come with being involved in a relationship. However, lobbyists and Members/staffers also now must factor in the application of the House and Senate ethics rules. There is no general exception in the rules for “dates.”  The rules and the exceptions must be applied to the stages of dating: 

    • Getting acquainted dates
    • Personal friends
    • Significant others
    • Fiancé or fiancée
    • Married

    There are exceptions under the gift rules that allow for gifts and entertaining for the advanced stages of dating.  But for first dates, blind dates and the beginning stages of any dating relationship, the rule is simply Dutch treat, period.

    Stages of Dating House Senate
    First dates, blind dates, initial stages of dating Dutch treat Dutch treat
    Personal friends
    • Evidence of reciprocal gift-giving
    • No reimbursement
    • Not related to official duties or actions
    • Evidence of reciprocal gift-giving
    • No reimbursement
    • Not related to official duties or actions
     
    Significant Others Personal friendship rule applies; no specific exception Senate Ethics Committee has granted a waiver which generally permits a Member / staffer to accept gifts from an individual with whom s/he enjoys a significant, personal, dating relationship. 
    Fiancé or fiancée Considered a gift from a relative and exempt but a letter to House Ethics upon receipt of an engagement ring valued at $250 or more is required to avoid disclosure of the ring as a gift Considered a gift from a relative and exempt but a letter to Senate Ethics upon receipt of an engagement ring valued at $250 or more is required to avoid disclosure of the ring as a gift
    Married Gifts from spouses are exempt Gifts from spouses are exempt

    While the Senate has recognized and codified the permissibility of gifts from significant others short of a formal engagement, the House has not done likewise.  Essentially, the personal friendship exception will apply in both instances, but it is important to note that there are always factors that must be present in order for either exception to apply.

    You may ask, “at what point does the ‘personal friendship’ exception kick-in between people who are dating?”

    And the answer is…who knows?  Just be prepared to answer that question under penalty of perjury if anyone with a badge ever asks. Until and unless the dating relationship has moved past the “initial phase” into the “personal friendship phase,” Members and staff must treat a lobbyist-date more as a lobbyist than as a date, which means paying his or her own way.

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

    Energy lobby energized over State of the Union remarks

    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.

    American League of Lobbyists reacts to State of the Union address

    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.

    House leaders ignore president’s transparency mandate

    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.”

    State of Lobbying: Weekly News Round-up

    January 28th, 2011 by Autumn

    There were not a tremendous amount of headlines about lobbying or lobbyists this week, but the stories that hit the press were big ones.

    First, Howard Marlowe, the new president of the American League of Lobbyists, released his take on Tuesday night’s State of the Union address.  And suffice it to say he was not impressed with the president’s remarks.  In fact, Marlowe reported that the league “deplore[s] the inflammatory rhetoric about lobbyists,” and called the president out on several instances in which he himself has consorted with lobbyists.  He also reiterated the stance that earmarks are a Constitutional right and an important part of the democratic legislative process.

    Also this week, the trial of Fraser Verrusio, a former House aide who is the final conspirator charged in connection with the long-running Jack Abramoff probe, began.  Opening statements took place Wednesday, and neither side mentioned the disgraced former lobbyist.   Verrusio is being charged with public corruption for accepting what prosecutors are calling the “illegal gratuity” that was his ticket to the 2003 World Series.  His defense lawyer, Joshua Berman, called this “a case about nothing,” because the New York trip was “a legitimate, run-of-the-mill, third party trip.”

    Over the weekend, the 2010 lobbying numbers were released: last year, with the combination of stalled Congressional action in anticipation of mid-term elections and the still-slow economy, lobby shops saw a decline in the bottom line.  Large firms saw booming revenue, thanks to acquisition of flailing boutique operations, but as a whole, most lobbying offices saw stagnant or declining numbers in 2010.  The current Congressional climate — including uncertainty about the budget and appropriations process, and a heavy concentration of power within the regulatory agencies — have some concerned that this year may not be much better. Patton Boggs, which acquired Breaux Lott Leadership Group in July, and Akin Gump, which reported a $3 increase over 2009,  remain the top earners, according to recently filed LD-203 reports.

    Lobbying in the 112th: The Budget & Appropriations Process

    January 27th, 2011 by Autumn

    So, you need to influence federal budgetary policy to secure funding for a program.  But earmarks are out (at least that’s what they’re telling you), and you need to find a way to still effectively do your job.

    According to John Scofield of the Podesta Group, “Regulations are the new earmarks.”  What Scofield alludes to is that one way to steer funds your way could be through petitioning the executive branch , particularly the regulatory agencies who are responsible for monitoring the implementation of Congress’s budget decisions.  Lobby the agencies in conjunction with Congress; get a letter or promise of phone call from Members or staffers who are particularly geared up about your cause to support your argument before the executive branch.

    Other useful tips include:

    • Develop coalitions. The more people rallying on behalf of your cause, the broader your reach, and hence, the greater the success.  Enlist stakeholders.
    • Put a personal face to the problem. Elected officials are, well, elected.  If you deploy constituents on your behalf, especially in the current climate with so many Congressional newbies in which things are more likely to happen on merit than rank, the chance of success increases exponentially.  (Advise constituents NOT to threaten not to vote for the Member.  Positive urging is more effective than threats.)
    • Consider multiple approach angles. Repetition is not a bad thing. You may consider a targeted media approach, in which you generate a series of editorials by meaningful contributors in the right publications.  Home district papers, though smaller and of less national attention, will catch the eye of particular Members and staff.  There are, however, occasions when national and online media will be useful.  Know your audience.
    • Get in early.  An appropriation enacted in March 2011 was submitted by the program 24 months earlier.  Now is not a good time to go out for bid with hopes of impacting the FY2011 budget.  And you are behind the curve on the FY2012 budget process.  The best thing to do is to submit requests ON TIME during the subcommittee mark-up.  If you don’t get into a subcommittee bill, you are unlikely to make it in at any later point of the process.
    • Make reasonable asks. Learn what Congress actually has the power to do.  Do not waste your time and energy (and the Member/staffer’s time and energy) petitioning for something the committee simply cannot do.  This is where it may come in handy to build a Congressional champion to pen a letter of support to another entity, like a regulatory agency.
    • Do your homework. Review the president’s budget justifications and incorporate your issues into the supplemental information.  Hold desk-side briefings, ask to testify at hearings.  Provide the staffers with draft questions they can ask during a hearing, whether you are involved or not.  A “protect the budget request” angle will be much more effective than an “add to the budget request.”  Find some way to relate your issue/program into the issues that are already center-stage in the committee’s mind.

    SOTU aftermath: lobbying is not dead

    January 26th, 2011 by Autumn

    In last night’s State of the Union address, anti-lobbying rhetoric was relatively low.  Sure, there was the jab that “a parade of lobbyists has rigged the tax code,” and the statement that constituents “deserve to know when [their] elected officials are meeting with lobbyists,”but all in all, no real lobbying talk.  And really, it’s not a bad thing for citizens to know that lobbyists are working on their behalf to make concerns known in Congress.

    One thing that many in the profession could have anticipated, but were probably still less than thrilled to hear was President Obama’s decree that “If a bill comes to my desk with earmarks inside, I will veto it.”  This idea is not unique to the president; there has been talk of a ban on earmarks all through the most recent campaign cycle.  And while there is currently no ban on earmarks in either the House or the Senate rules, it is worth noting that the Republican Conference rules do ban them.

    This was a great departure from the emphasis on special interest groups the president put on last year’s address, and lobbyists should be cautiously optimistic about what this means for opportunities for them to effectively do their jobs.  If there’s one thing that lobbyists can learn from President Obama, it’s his ability to organize and effectively carry out a grassroots campaign.  Prior to the primaries leading up to the 2008 election, many people did not even know who he was.  It was his ability to organize and rally people behind him that launched him into the public spotlight and then the White House.

    What does this mean for you?  In this no-earmarks climate, one of the most effective lobbying tactics will be grassroots and grasstops efforts.  In a session Monday before over 60 attendees, Dom Ruscio, of Cavarocchi, Ruscio, Dennis & Associates, LLC, and the Podesta Group’s John Scofield emphasized this point as being one of the best ways to lobby the budget and appropriations process, and indeed it is universally true.

    A new study by the Partnership for a More Perfect Union and the Congressional Management Foundation indicated that the number one way to sway a Congressperson’s mind on an issue if (s)he has not already taken a firm position is in-person constituent visits.  Take the opportunity to organize lobby days with key constituents set to appear.  (Be careful to limit the visits to five people per visit, in consideration of space limitations within Congressional offices.)  Go often and make the message clear.  Because despite the talk, lobbying is not dead in this Administration nor in this Congress.  It may just simply need to embrace one of the key themes in Obama’s speech last night: reinvention.

    State of the Union goes High Tech

    January 25th, 2011 by Autumn

    President Obama has unveiled a webpage designed to supplement tonight’s State of the Union address.  The first of its kind, the website boasts that “Americans can choose an enhanced viewing experience for the President’s State of the Union address.”

    A White House panel consisting of Brian Deese, Deputy Director, National Economic Council; Roberto Rodriguez, Special Assistant to the President for Education Policy; David Simas, Director and Aide to the Senior Advisor; and Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications has been assembled to answer questions submitted via Facebook, Twitter, or the site itself immediately after the address.Other key members of the administration will be participating in online discussions throughout the week.

    President Obama himself will engage in a YouTube interview Thursday afternoon.  Also on Thursday, there will be a live roundtable discussion featuring the Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Chairman of the Council of Economic AdvisorsAustan Goolsbee and Dennis McDonough, Deputy National Security Director.

    The page will stream the address live and also includes charts, graphs and other content to supplement the speech.

    Former Obama Chief-of-Staff Ineligible for Mayoral Race

    January 24th, 2011 by Autumn

    Rahm Emanuel has been declared ineligible for the Chicago mayoral race by an Illinois appeals court.  Emanuel has been a front-runner in fundraising and popular polls, and did not expect this reversal of an earlier court’s decision deeming him eligible.

    The rationale for this reason, that he does not meet the residency requirements, due to his White House position, had previously been ruled invalid by the Chicago Board of Elections and a lower court, which maintained that Emanuel, who has maintained a Chicago residence, did not intend to relinquish his residency in the city.

    A 2-1 vote by the Illinois Appellate Court overruled this contention.  The debate is sure to ensue in the Illinois Supreme Court, as the elections deadline approaches.

    ALL names Interim Executive Director

    January 24th, 2011 by Autumn

    Gina Bancroft has been named interim executive director of the American League of Lobbyists.  Bancroft, who served on the ALL Board as 1st Vice President in 2010, has over 20 years of experience in Federal government relations.  The former Congressional Chief of Staff has extensive knowledge of both regulatory and legislative affairs and the overall political landscape.

    She has assumed the position after the league’s former executive director, Patti Jo Baber, passed in December after a battle with cancer.

    The American League of Lobbyists has represented the lobbying profession for over 30 years.  Its mission is to “enhance the development of professionalism, competence, and high ethical standards for advocates in the public policy arena; and to collectively address challenges which affect the First Amendment right to petition the government for redress of grievances.’”

    Business lobby thrilled with new appointee

    January 19th, 2011 by Autumn

    William Daley’s White House arrival excites many on K Street.  Daley, who has replaced Rahm Emmanuel as White House chief of staff, is expected to be a great advocate for business in his new position.  The former Clinton Administration Chamber of Commerce secretary and LDA-registrant is being viewed as a “kindred spirit” by business executives, according to Roll Call.

    Though largely liberal, many are optimistic that Daley will plead the case for businesses on the issues of trade, tax and regulation, and may “seek common ground with business and the White House.”  Daley’s former posts on the board of Fannie Mae and as vice president of banking giant JP Morgan put him in a key position to address the mortgage and banking crises, two of the nation’s most pressing economic issues after employment.

    During the 2008 election, Daley, then an Obama economic advisor, took heat from presidential candidate Sen. John McCain for being a lobbyist, a claim which Daley denied.  A search of the lobbying database reveals that a William Daley has indeed lobbied on behalf of Community Organizations in Action and the Washington Community Organization Network, although Daley’s lobbyist son also bears his name.

    2010 Election Cycle “Most Negative”

    January 17th, 2011 by Autumn

    The Wesleyan Media Project released two studies last week detailing its findings on campaign ads and spending.   The group found that 2.8 million ads ran in the midterm campaign cycle, amassing over $1.4 billion in spending between January and November 2010.  It also deemed the most recent campaign cycle the “most negative,” noting that 87.2% of ads run by independent expenditure groups, made more powerful by the Citizens United ruling, were negative, versus just over 37% of ads run by candidates’ campaign committees.

    In the House, where significant Republican gains were projected, the group found that the number of ads by interest groups increased 168%, compared to just a 44% increase in Senate races.  In the first study, the authors concluded “with the increase in competitive races in 2010, the volume of advertising rose too, as did its negativity.”  They also mentioned that “Republicans [took] up some unusual themes, like health care and ‘change.’”

    The second study, which analyzed the impact of the Citizens United ruling, found that “while interest groups were aggressive players in the air war, their impact may not have been as negative or as large as initially predicted.”

    The group admonishes that “knowing what campaign themes brought [the 112th Congress] to power is an important prerequisite of holding government accountable.”

    NFLPA takes fight to Congress

    January 17th, 2011 by Autumn

    Even in the midst of the playoffs, when fans may not be concentrating on the NFL’s failure to reach a collective bargaining agreement, the NFL Players’ Association has sought to urge Congress to force team owners to act before March 3.  Between 2008, when league officials decided not to extend the current agreement, and 2010, when the agreement actually expired, the NFLPA tripled its lobbying spending over the years before.

    Baltimore Ravens cornerback Domonique Foxworth told Politico that players need to “level the playing field” before Congress, considering the league has had a strong lobbying presence on the Hill for years.  (For more on the NFL’s lobbying history, see lobbyists.info’s free white paper “Political Activity of the National Football League.”)  He argues that if there is a lockout next season, he, along with his wife and newborn child, would be left without health insurance.

    Players contend that Congress can exercise its oversight authority to force the league, which has been granted an antitrust exemption, to force the league’s hand, though Congress traditionally has stayed out of labor fights.  House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lavar Smith (R-Tx.) says the committee does not have any hearings scheduled, and the chairman does not seem interested in the dispute.

    “The NFL and NFLPA are literally and figuratively big boys.  They do not need Congress’s help to referee every business dispute.  That’s what courts and labor negotiation processes are for,” Smith told Politico.

    Jeff Pash, the NFL’s chief negotiator, says he is frustrated with the NFLPA’s lack of effort at the negotiating table, stating that the players are spending much more time and energy in the media and on Capitol Hill than actually trying to work out a deal with owners.