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.

Recess: Not just fun and games

August 24th, 2010 by Brittany

an excerpt from The Advocacy Handbook

It’s recess time for Congress, but while “recess” sounds like fun and games, these times are district work periods for congressional members. Congress will be in recess for the month of August, and advocates can be involved in several types of activities to connect with their elected officials while they are home.

District-Based Lobby Days / Weeks 

What is it?
Under this approach, advocate leaders work with advocates to coordinate meetings with policymakers in their own district offices.  An organization might, for example, ask members of the advocate network to set up meetings with relevant members of the U.S. House when those members are in their legislative district during a district work period. 

Why is it useful?
District lobby day / week events can be a great way to connect advocate network members with their policymakers, but without extensive travel expenses.  Meeting with policymakers while they are home also further strengthens the message about the impact of state or federal level policy issues on the home district.  

When should it be used?
As with traditional lobby days, any organization with a core of committed advocates can benefit from coordinating a district lobby event, either individually or in concert with a coalition partner.  Lobbying events are most successful, however, when the organization has a specific policy agenda and core ask.  Advocate leaders should work to coordinate the timing of the event with key legislative initiatives as well as other advocacy activities.  For example, holding a district lobbying event during the work period directly after a national lobby day can serve to reinforce messages that were delivered in conjunction with the national event.

Site Visits 

What is it?
A “site visit” is an in-person visit by a policymaker or member of his or her staff to facilities, groups and individuals in their district or state.  These might include visits to:

  • Manufacturing facilities
  • Business headquarter offices to meet with key personnel
  • Hospitals, school, libraries, recreation centers or other community service providers
  • Local chapter meetings of interest groups
  • Special events held by local groups

In essence, a site visit occurs whenever a policymaker or staff person goes to see something or meet someone in the district.  These are different from district lobby events only in that the policymaker generally goes to see the advocate, as opposed to the other way around. 

Why is it useful?
These visits help policymakers connect what sometimes seem like esoteric policy issues to the needs and concerns of individuals in their districts or states.  When conducted properly, site visits help “bring the issue alive” for the policymaker.

When should it be used?
Any organization with a core of committed advocates can benefit from coordinating some type of site visit program.  Those organizations with a network that already has some experience with other advocacy techniques, such as lobby days or written campaigns, may have more success.  This is because arranging a site visit often takes a bit more time and commitment on the part of the advocate.

Townhall Meetings 

What is it?
Policymakers often arrange what are called “townhall” or “community” meetings to hear from people in their districts and states.  They generally occur when the legislators are at home, such as during the district work periods of the U.S. Congress, although “telephone townhalls” (see notes below) are gaining in popularity.  The meetings may be scheduled to address specific topics, such as economic issues or a local concern, or they may simply be arranged as general “listening sessions.” 

Why is it useful?
Townhall or community meetings are generally pretty sparsely attended.  Those advocates who do attend can often get some one-on-one face time with both the policymaker and key staff people.  This face-to-face connection serves to build a strong relationship with the policymaker and delivers the message that the advocate really cares about the issues.  Attending a townhall meeting is a relatively easy way for an advocate to raise the profile of an issue and make the connections necessary to achieve change.

When should it be used?
Any organization with a core of committed advocates can benefit from coordinating some type of townhall attendance program.  The commitment on the part of the advocate can range from simply attending (either in-person or through a telephone event), to connecting briefly with the policymaker and staff before or after the event, to raising an issue publicly.  It should be noted, however, that a public townhall meeting may not be the best venue to raise new or controversial issues.  Advocate leaders should provide detailed instructions and talking points to ensure that messages are delivered as efficiently and effectively as possible.  In some cases, this may mean talking directly to the staff as opposed to raising the issue with others.

Lobbying for Love

August 24th, 2010 by Brittany
Elizabeth Gilbert

Credit: Erik Charlton, Menlo Park

Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, will be lobbying in Washington next month. 

Gilbert will be on Capitol Hill supporting the organization Immigration Equality, and their work on the Uniting American Families Act. The act would give foreign-born, same-sex partners of US citizens the same rights currently reserved for straight couples in the same situation.

Gilbert herself married a Brazilian man (played by Javier Bardem) whom she met during her travels. While they were able to secure a visa for him via marriage, this would not have been possible for same-sex couples since their marriages are not currently recognized by federal law in the US.

Bauer Takes Over White House Ethics

August 23rd, 2010 by Elise

Norm Eisen, who has been a thorn in the flesh of some Washington lobbyists, is heading to Prague as President Obama’s ambassador to the European nation. The administration’s “ethics portfolio” will be split, with the White House Counsel, Robert Bauer, taking the lead.

According to the Washington Post, “responsibilities for lobbying, transparency, government reform and a host of other government operations issues” will be transferred to the former head of Perkins Coie’s political law practice. Bauer has served as President Obama’s personal attorney, as well as holding positions at Obama for America and the Democratic National Committee.

Steven P. Croley, a law professor at the University of Michigan, will head a six-member legal team to cover ethics, government reform, whistle-blower protections, lobbying reform, and other issues.

Several groups have pointed to this as a “step back” for the administration, which started out with a strong emphasis on ethics. The Sunlight Foundation wrote that “instead of having single touch point within the Administration we will now be working with one person who already has more than a full-time job, and an academic with no government experience.”

And Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (which Eisen co-founded), was also not enthusiastic. “In our view, taking the full-time responsibilities of a high-level White House official and divvying them up suggests ethics, transparency and government reform will get substantially less attention, not more.” But others see this as a potential for good – Fred Wertheimer, who heads Democracy 21, said in the New York Times that “I hate to see Eisen leave because he’s done a phenomenal job … but I believe the pieces are there to continue with the commitment this administration has said it would make in this area.”

New York Times article is here. Sunlight Foundation and CREW statements are here and here. A Washington Independent article is here.

DeLay Investigation Is Over, According to DOJ

August 23rd, 2010 by Elise

The government has ended a six-year investigation of former House Majority Leader Tom Delay’s (R-Texas)’s ties to the disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

The news was relayed by DeLay’s lead counsel in the matter, Richard Cullen, chairman of law firm McGuireWoods, who said he received a call from the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section informing him of the decision and letting him know that it was approved for public knowledge.

The extraordinarily long (more than 6 years) and expensive probe marked the rise of a wave of lobbying scandals that helped Democrats regain the House majority in 2006. In 2005, a Texas court charged DeLay with criminal violations of state campaign finance laws and money laundering. He pled not guilty, citing political motivation for the charges.

Once one of Washington’s top power brokers, DeLay now spends most of his time at his home in Sugar Land, Texas, and recently starred in the reality show, ‘Dancing with the Stars.’ He is also founder and president of a strategic political consulting firm, First Principles, which he launched after he stepped down from his Congressional seat in 2005.

Abramoff was released to a Baltimore half-way house in December 2009. Another figure in the case, ex-Rep. John Doolittle, was cleared in June. Kevin Ring, a former staff for Doolittle, and then a lobbyist for Abramoff, was refused an injunction on his own corruption case by Federal Judge Ellen Huvelle last week; Ring’s attorneys sought to get his case thrown out after the Honest Services Fraud statute was weakened by the Supreme Court in June.

A timeline of charges against DeLay is here from National Journal. A POLITICO article on the DeLay case is here.

Is DISCLOSE On Its Way Back?

August 23rd, 2010 by Elise

Will Washington once again see action on a signature piece of Democratic legislation? According to National Journal’s Hotline On Call, Senate Democrats are planning to reopen the campaign finance issue after the August recess – in the hope that the delay will mitigate some moderate Republicans’ objections to the hurried legislation.

Although the process from conception of the legislation to passage in the House took more than 4 months, Sen. Harry Reid chose to bring up the issue for a cloture vote on July 27 in the Senate. It ultimately failed, with Sen. Reid voting no ultimately to preserve his right of cloture. Moderate Republican Senators Scott Brown (Mass.), Olympia Snowe (Maine), and Susan Collins (Maine) are the swing votes on this issue – all have expressed reservations about what they view as the majority’s unseemly haste – seemingly in order to influence the November elections.

Since passing the bill in September or October would mean that it would not impact this year’s pivotal elections, Democrats hope that the moderate Senators, who may have supported campaign finance reform in a different format, will be able to overcome their skepticism. Express Advocacy’s William McGinley reports that Sens. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Leahy (D-Vermont) sent a campaign email specifically mentioning the DISCLOSE Act.

Story from Hotline on Call is here: “DISCLOSE Act will get second look.”

Industry Moves and Changes

August 23rd, 2010 by Elise

Douglas Troutman has been promoted to senior director of government affairs at ACI. Before joining ACI, Troutman served as senior manager of legislative affairs at Underwriters Laboratories Inc. He also worked as senior manager of government relations at the National Electrical Manufacturers Association, and as a legislative aide to Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania (D-Pa.).

Miller B. Girvin has been hired as vice president for communications for The Hawthorn Group LC, an international public affairs firm. Girvin served as a senior policy associate and lobbyist for Capitol Management Initiatives LLC. Before that, she worked as a policy assistant for Speaker of the House J. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill. (1987-2007).

Fruzsina M. Harsanyi is joining the Public Affairs Council as a senior adviser.

Greg Crist has been hired as vice president of public affairs at the American Health Care Association.

Weekly Lobbying News Round-Up

August 20th, 2010 by Elise

We’ve talked about it before… but thank heavens the DOJ cleared DeLay from his corruption charges, or the DC newspapers would have nothing to report on during recess.

Interesting Fox News report on the House Ethics Committee, what indictments and trials and hearings and investigations mean for the body. Here at The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Ethics Process in the House. (h/t Eric Brown).

More on what happened with Target Corp. in Minnesota in this New York Times article, Voter (and customer) beware.

The Office of Government Ethics warns the executive branch about granting ex-post-facto waivers: “Ethics office warns about waivers.” (From the Washington Times).

Paul Magliocchetti entered a not-guilty plea at the federal court house in Alexandria, VA on Friday. He has been charged with, among other things, making illegal campaign contributions. Read a longer story here at the Blog of Legal Times.

Quote of the Week:

“There is no nefarious handshake meeting that is being kept secret… Some participants prefer not to take a high profile… Some like to stay under the radar. But the point here is to get the right answer, and full disclosure and debate is the best way to achieve that.” – Scott E. Talbott, a lawyer and lobbyist for the Financial Services Roundtable, on financial services lobbying, NYT, August 13

Fewer Clients Under the Influence

August 20th, 2010 by Autumn

Lobbyists.info just made measuring the influence of thousands of lobbying firms easier with the release of a brand new Factors of Influence chart.  And when you’re done doing that, check out the archived versions to see how statistics have changed.

The current chart shows almost 600 more lobbying firms than the previous version. Collectively, these lobbying firms have added more than 1,000 lobbyists, but are representing fewer clients. Where have all of these changes occurred? See for yourself!

YLN Happy Hour Tonight at Ping Pong Dim Sum!

August 19th, 2010 by Brittany

Make sure you come out tonight to mix and mingle with other young and young-at-heart government relations professionals.

When: 5-7 pm
Where: Ping Pong Restaurant

900 7th Street NW
Washington, DC 20001
Metro: Chinatown
Map it

About the YLN: The Young Leadership Network, an extension of the American League of Lobbyists, exists to provide young professionals with a peer-to-peer network designed to foster deep roots in Washington and throughout the lobbying community. The YLN hosts monthly networking happy hours in the DC metro area on the 3rd Thursday of each month as well as other events throughout the year.

Questions? Contact Brittany Carter at bcarter@columbiabooks.com

Nonprofit Political Structure Audioconference

August 18th, 2010 by Brittany

Register today!

Each of these action-oriented audioconferences takes just 90-minutes out of your day – yet they provide you with expert guidance that will make a bottom-line difference to your ongoing success with everything from lobbying and grassroots activities, to member involvement and political contributions.

SESSION 1: 501(c)3 organizations: keeping your tax-exempt status intact
September 14, 2010 · 2:00 – 3:30 pm EST

501(c)3 organizations must not engage in political activities, such as attempts to influence elections. But do you know exactly what that means? It could cost you big time if you don’t fully comply with IRS rules to avoid direct advocacy. Your organization can lobby – but only to some extent.  This session focuses on rules and regulations for 501(c)3 organizations – tax structure, advocacy, political events, and other political activities.  In addition, you’ll learn how to conduct a self-audit that provides vital early-warning on any areas of your operation that do not currently comply with IRS, FEC or HLOGA requirements.

SESSION 2: 501(c)4 & (c)6 organizations: how can you advocate?
September 21, 2010 · 2:00-3:30 pm EST

This session examines the special issues compliance issues surrounding nonprofits’ political activities, including the IRS rules that must be obeyed to maintain tax-exempt status and the HLOGA requirements that must be met to avoid disastrous publicity, $200,000 fines and up to five years in jail. Also included: a discussion of appropriate direct political activity.

Click here to register for one or both of the sessions!

Lobby Days and Fly-ins: Managing the unmanageable

August 18th, 2010 by Brittany

Get ready.  Get set.  Go!  The elections in November 2010 are getting all the attention right now, but 2011 will be one of the busiest years on record for bringing members and citizen advocates to the Capitol… not to mention one of the most expensive.

Save time and money when you get planning advice from the experts – don’t waste your organization’s precious advocacy dollars. Make sure your message will be heard amidst the Congressional chaos. Maximize your advocacy impact while minimizing your costs. 

Register now for Lobby Days and Fly-Ins: Time and Money Saving Tactics for Managing the Unmanageable. In this audioconference, top grassroots expert Stephanie Vance arms your entire team with expert guidance for making every aspect of your 2011 events a success. Start your planning now to take full advantage of all these tips and tricks for effectiveness.

Conference Details:
September 23, 2010 from 2:00 p.m.-3:30 p.m. EDT
Where? Your office or conference room (no need to travel!!)

Online Registration:
Audioconference PLUS Audio CD: $319-Best Value!
Audioconference Only: $247
CD Recording: $247