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.
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.
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.”
January 14th, 2011 by Autumn
There has been a lot of discussion of “changing Washington” in the months leading up to the transition from 111th to 112th Congress. Obviously, some of that was simply rhetoric, and some of it will be pursued with vigor (at least in the first session; enthusiasm may die down once the freshman class realizes some of the proposed changes will get in the way of effectively doing their jobs, just as high school and college freshmen realize by the second semester that things will not go exactly as anticipated).
Earmarks – You should know that the ban on earmarks is not in the House nor Senate rules. It is, however, in the Republican Conference rules (which point to the House rules for guidance on defining earmarks). As the definition of earmarks and what will and won’t be permissible is worked out, it is safe to assume if it was considered an earmark within the last five years, it will be considered an earmark moving forward.
However, experts argue that the current talk of an outright ban doesn’t make policy sense and will eventually reveal itself as allowing too much to the discretion of the Executive Branch. New members of the House, in particular, are expected to tone down the rhetoric once they realize an all-out earmark ban would tie their own hands.
Transparency – Electronic texts have newly been added to the House rules regarding accessibility of legislation to the American people. Though Congress has traditionally been concerned with the security implications of making legislation accessible online, this is expected to be the new standard as electronic media becomes more and more prevalent in society.
“Budget Czar” – Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) will have the power to unilaterally set policies regarding certain budgetary decisions, including the spending aggregate. He may also decide to sub-allocate funds to advance the conservative agenda.
January 13th, 2011 by Autumn
Tuesday, lobbyists.info hosted the semi-annual ethics boot camp to prepare you to sign the LD-203 “under penalty of perjury.” Here are the basic things you will need to know ahead of the January 30 deadline:
- Every lobbyist must file the LD-203, whether you have contributions or expenditures to report or not.
- Sole practitioners must file on behalf of the business and as an individual lobbyist.
- Registrants include both entities that employ lobbyists and every individual listed on an LD-1 or LD-2 form.
- The report covers July 1-December 31 2010 and must be filed electronically.
- Contributions of $200 or more from individual registrants or PACs controlled by an individual registrant to federal candidates, leadership PACs, federal party committees AND contributions of $200 or more to presidential inaugural committee or library must be reported as FECA contributions.
- Payments AND expenditures are subject to reporting
- Your signature certifies that, beyond just HLOGA rules, you have read both the House and Senate Gift and Ethics rules and exceptions, and have in no way violated them.
- If an event honors, recognizes covered official, costs are subject to disclosure on LD-203 of sponsor – but not donor unless donor participates in honoring Member
Review filings and supporting documents closely before you sign. Remember the “perjury trap.”
January 12th, 2011 by Brittany
Unfortunately, many advocate networks have been started without a thoughtful analysis of potential structures and approaches: they’ve grown haphazardly over time. In these cases, the information below should be used to help the reader analyze the network’s current structure with an eye toward potential improvements (and resolutions in the new year!).
Following are different options for who an advocacy leader might decide to include in an advocate network:
1.) All members of an organization (or employees of a corporation)
Many organizations choose to comprise their advocacy network of all members of their organization or employees of the corporation. This means that everyone is considered an advocate by virtue of their membership in the organization regardless of whether they have specifically signed up for that role. Under this structure, everyone will be included in the advocate database and will receive action alerts and other materials about policy activities.
2.) A subset of members of an organization (or employees of a corporation)
In some cases, advocacy leaders at an organization may decide to have a subset of members or employees be part of the advocacy team. For associations, these may be individuals who specifically request to be part of the network, members of the public policy committee of the board and/or organization members who live in key legislators’ districts. For corporations, the network may be built of only managers, owner / operators of franchises or facilities or only those employees who live in a certain geographic area or who have a certain job title.
3.) A targeted group of individuals affiliated with an organization or company but not necessarily members or employees
Many corporations build advocacy networks as a service to their customers, as a benefit to retirees or other beneficiaries of their products or services. Some pharmaceutical companies, for example, help finance the development of advocate groups made up of patients who benefit from their product. In some cases, these may be established as separate, independent organizations. In other cases, they may be directly associated with the company in question.
4.) Citizens-at-large or the general public (whether targeted to a specific geographic area or policy topic or more general)
Some advocate leaders find their cause to be of sufficient interest to members of the general public that they are able to recruit members of their advocate network from this broader pool. This may include members of the general public in a specific geographic area (for example, in the case of advocacy on a city or neighborhood-specific initiative, such a new park) or more broadly, such as across a state, across the country or internationally. In many cases, particularly with associations, a strong advocacy effort can also serve as a marketing tool to boost membership in the overall organization.
5.) Some combination of the above
Finally, many advocate networks may include combinations of the above approaches.
- Scenario A: An association includes all of their individual members as members of their advocate network, as well as members of the general public that support their ideas.
- Scenario B: A corporation asks all managers to be a part of the advocate network, as well as customers, retirees and others that will benefit from proposed policy changes.
- Scenario C: A professional association builds an advocate network based on the expressed interest of anyone, whether a member of the organization or not, in being an advocate for the policy issue in question.
For more information or to purchase the Advocacy Handbook click here.
January 11th, 2011 by Autumn
You have probably heard by now that Paul Magliocchetti, the founder of the now-defunct PMA Group, was sentenced to 27 months behind bars for his role in organizing a campaign finance scheme. In addition to the prison sentence, which will be served at a North Carolina federal prison hospital, the former House Appropriations Committee staffer was fined $75,000.
The sitting judge, the Honorable T.S. Ellis, issued the sentence as a warning to other lobbyists, and simultaneously expressed his displeasure with prosecutors who seek only fines in similar cases. He did not grant the 57 month prison term and $629,000 fine the prosecutors sought initially, and told Magliocchetti that his good works were not obliterated, he was not responsible for a PMA Group-favorite donor’s suicide in light of the investigations, and said he should make amends with his son, who plead guilty to charges related to the case.
So what can be drawn from the Magliocchetti case? First, people are seeking to make examples of lobbyists, so tread lightly. Make sure you are in compliance with HLOGA and all of its developments, and be sure to carefully review your LD-203 filings for errors, remembering that your signature is “under penalty of perjury.”
Make sure that you disclose any campaign donations, be they to PACs, independent expenditure groups, political parties, or candidates and their election committees, on the form.
Bundle with care. You will need to be aware of the limits and follow them closely. Citizens United opened the door for unlimited giving, but did not take away the reporting requirements.
A good rule of thumb: if you can’t report it, don’t give it. Recent cases have shown that prosecutors are looking and will find any missteps. Repercussions may not be immediate, but they are coming. US News & World Report found that only 20% of companies properly disclose their political donations, and only 14% actually have indirect disclosure policies.
If you find yourself overwhelmed by the LD-203′s reporting requirements, it is not too late to join today’s LD-203 bootcamp, which will be held at 2p.
January 10th, 2011 by Autumn
Known for his role in some of Hollywood’s top blockbusters, George Clooney is no stranger to Washington. While Clooney himself is not actually a registered lobbyist, he has visited the White House to discuss his favorite issue: the genocide in Darfur. Just over a month after President Obama was inaugurated, Clooney visited the president and Vice President Biden to discuss the crisis in the region.
While not as outwardly vocal as other celebrity lobbyists, including Lady Gaga, Clooney, through “Not on Our Watch,” a monitoring organization he co-founded along with fellow Ocean’s trilogy actors Don Cheadle and Matt Damon, and Brad Pitt, David Pressman, and Jerry Weintraub, seeks “to focus global attention and resources towards putting an end to mass atrocities around the world,” according to the organization’s website.
The organization is a grassroots organization, urging citizens to contact elected officials, including President Obama, and encourage the US to take action on these issues.