Lobbying News Round-up

March 4th, 2011 by Autumn

Perhaps the biggest news of the week was the announcement that former Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) assumed the position of chairman and CEO for the Motion Picture Association of America, effective March 17.  Dodd will bring his “stature and talent to support the creative efforts of our filmmakers and the many people who work in our industry, here and around the world,” said Fox Filmed Entertainment CEO Jim Gianopulos.

According to the association’s official press release, Dodd is excited to represent an industry that “consistentlyproduce[s] and distribute[s] the most sought after and enjoyable entertainment on earth.  Protecting this great American export will be my highest priority.”  He expects the position will be “a continuation of my work in the Senate from advancing the VigRX interests of children and families and creating and safeguarding American jobs to the protection of intellectual property and the expansion of international trade.”  Tackling piracy and protecting the studios’ intellectual property will be amoung Dodd’s primary duties in his new position.

In less circulated revolving door news, former Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-S.D.) has joined agriculture lobbying shop Olsson Frank Weeda Terman Bode Matz as a principal.  Herseth Sandlin may provide strategic advice –which would be worth heeding, considering her recent post as chair of the Agriculture Committee — but may not lobby directly for clients for one year, per House revolving door rules.  She told Roll Call that lobbying, “after the first year, is definitely something I’m interested in doing.”

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Financing Campaign Events: Corporations v. PACs v. Individuals

March 3rd, 2011 by Autumn

So you’re the owner of a corporation that controls a PAC and you want to host a campaign event for one of the many potential 2012 presidential candidates — let’s just say Tim Pawlenty for giggles.  Should you pay for the event with your own checkbook? Expense it to the company? Maybe use PAC funds?  Here’s a quick breakdown of the rules governing campaign event financing:


If the audience is limited to the “restricted class” then the corporation may pay for the event and:

•The corporation may, during the event, endorse or otherwise expressly advocate for the candidate’s election.

•The corporation may solicit contributions on behalf of the candidate; and

•The candidate may accept contributions during the event; but

•The corporation may not facilitate the contributions by collecting them or providing envelopes or stamps.

If the audience includes other employees, then:

•The corporation must allow opposing candidates for the same office to address a similar audience in a like manner;

•The corporation must refrain from endorsing the candidate or soliciting contributions to the candidate’s campaign; and

•Though the candidate may solicit contributions, the candidate is not permitted to accept contributions during the event.


A PAC may pay for campaign events if:

•The PAC pays for the use of any corporate resources, including employee time (in most cases, payment must be in advance);

Use of Meeting Rooms – A corporation that customarily makes its meeting rooms available to clubs, civic or community organizations, or other groups at a discount or for free, may also make those rooms available to a campaign on VigRX the same terms.

•The PAC notifies the campaign of all payments made on behalf of the campaign and reports them as in-kind contributions to the campaign; and

•The payments do not exceed the PAC’s $5,000 candidate contribution limit.


An individual may pay for campaign events if:

•The individual pays for the use of any corporate resources, including employee time (in most cases, payment must be in advance);

Volunteer Safe Harbor – An individual may use corporate facilities for personal volunteer campaign activity without paying for them provided that the individual’s use does not exceed one hour per week or four hours per month and does not result in any increase to the operating costs or overhead of the corporation.

Use of Meeting Rooms – As previously discussed, a corporation that customarily makes its meeting rooms available to clubs, civic or community organizations, or other groups at a discount or for free, may also make those rooms available to a campaign on the same terms.

•The individual notifies the campaign of all payments made on behalf of the campaign; and •All payments by the individual do not exceed the individual’s $2,500 candidate contribution limit.

Residential Fundraising – If the event is held at an individual’s personal residence, then the individual may pay up to an additional $1,000 for food, drink, and invitations without having to report the costs to the campaign or applying them to the $2,500 contribution limit.

For more information on PACs and campaign finance, join the us for the intensive “PACs & Campaign Finance Lobbying Certificate Program” Monday.

Paying for Drinks on St. Patricks Day

March 2nd, 2011 by Brittany

In a town with many Irish pubs, it’s to be expected that Washington, D.C., would go all out for St. Patrick’s Day. Lobbyists can’t buy a Guinness specifically for a congressional member or staffer, but the ethics committees have given some guidance on when they might be able to cover a round of drinks for a group of people that includes a congressional member or staffer.


Drinks at the Bar Rules

Since the House and Senate have guidance on the exemption for food and drinks of nominal value, it’s sometimes unclear what exactly that guidance permits.

So when can a lobbyist offer an item of food and drink of nominal value to a Member or staffer?

Some possible rules of thumb, based on recent House and Senate ethics committee interpretations:

Table 5-2: Drinks at the Bar – A Guide

Food / Beverages Offered Setting and Circumstances Ok by Senate rules? Ok by House rules?
Pitcher of beer at the bar Spontaneous, accidental; no invitations, not a  planned event Probably, because it is drinks only, no food Yes, offered in a group, social setting
Pitcher of beer at the bar Emailed invitations to specific people:  “Meet at Tortilla Coast 5 to 7 on Thursday” Yes, because it is an “organized event” Yes, offered in a group, social setting
Beers and nachos Lobbyist pays check for everyone in the bar on St. Patrick’s Day Probably, but only if the nachos offered do not exceed $10 value Yes, offered in a group, social setting and nachos are light appetizers, not part of a meal
Beers and nachos St. Patrick’s Day gathering organized by a certain group, lobbyist pays a share of the costs  Yes, an organized social event akin to a reception, nachos are light appetizers, not part of a meal Yes, offered in a group, social setting, also organized event akin to a reception and nachos are light appetizers, not part of a meal

Senate standard is food items from lobbyists and others valued at $10 or less and offered at an organized event, media interview or other appearance where such food items are normally offered to others.

House standard is “group or social setting”

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

Tuesday Ethics Tip: Dodd’s Revolving Door

March 1st, 2011 by Autumn

Former U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) left his perch on the powerful Senate Banking Committee with the conclusion of the 111th Congress, and today was named chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America.  For some, this is an eyebrow raiser; does Dodd’s new position with MPAA pit him in conflict with the Senate’s revolving door rules?

Though the chairman/CEO does not actually lobby the government, there is no question that Dodd will have some influence over the association’s lobbying activities, which makes this case a little tricky to hold up to the rules light.  The rule says that a Senator may not lobby any Member, officer, or employee in either chamber for two years , and may not assist with any official actions by U.S. government officials on behalf of foreign governments.  It also says a senator is prohibited from engaging in any discussions to accept such a position until after his successor has been named (which, in Dodd’s case, has happened), including positions that could involve a former senator in “indirect lobbying” — activities in support of other people’s lobbying, but which do not involve actions that would trigger registration.

Sen. Dodd’s acceptance of the position, which was made public today, is not in direct violation of the rules, assuming Dodd does not lobby Congress on any issues until the 113th Congress.  The Senate does not have the specific guidelines on “advocacy contacts” that the House details.  So, as long as Dodd does not directly contact a Member of Congress with the intent to influence action, he is not in violation of any Senate revolving door guidelines, but he should probably tread lightly.

Boeing “clear winner” of defense contract

February 28th, 2011 by Autumn

Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn said that “Boeing was the clear winner” in a competition for a the right to build refueling tankers for the U.S. Air Force.  Boeing, which overspent EADS by over $8 million in lobbying dollars since 2008 (including $5 million spent since January), beat out top competitor EADS for the highly coveted contract in the culmination of a nearly-decade-long competition.

Despite EADS’ ally in Northrop Grumman, Boeing’s alliance with the International Machinists and Aerospace Workers Association was the differencemaker in this process.  Boeing plans to build its tankers in Washington state, which relies heavily on union labor, contrasted with EADS’ plans to build in a state that does not rely on union labor — Alabama.

Last week, Senators Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) held a joint press conference to urge President Obama to consider the dramatic subsidies European-owned EADS receives from the French government, which enable the company to Pokies beat Boeing’s bottom line.  Gulf Coast Governors drafted a letter to the president on EADS’ behalf asking him to ensure “parochial interests” did not impact the decision.

Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.), Ranking Member on the Appropriations Committee, said Thursday was “one of the happiest days of my professional life,” lauding his efforts to change the Air Force’s price evaluation process as a possible contributor to Boeing’s success.  Boeing estimates the contract will allow the company to support 50,000 jobs in the state.

Boeing’s planes will burn 24% less fuel than those EADS would have made, a difference in long-term cost that was discovered after evaluating the 40-year, versus 25-year cost, a measure proposed by Dicks.

Rep. Jo Bonner (R-Ala.) said, “This competition has been challenged before, and it’s not unlikely it will be challenged again.  It will ultimately be up to EADS to determine whether they will protest this decision, and I will fully support whatever decision they make.”

DeLay establishes legal defense fund

February 28th, 2011 by Autumn

Tom DeLay, the former House Majority Leader convicted on conspiracy to launder money in state elections, and who has often been listen in connection with the Jack Abramoff trials, has established a new legal defense fund to appeal a January conviction.

According to the, in fact, he can now “accept contributions of any type or amount.”

In addition to catching heat for receiving contributions to his defense fund by lobbyists, several Congressmen, including fellow Texan Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tx.) were also noted as having contributed to DeLay’s first legal defense fund, in what some considered a breach of House Ethics rules.

Craig Richardson, a key fundraiser for DeLay while he was still in public office, has been listed one of two trustees of the fund.  DeLay was sentenced to three years in prison, which he evaded by posting $10,000 bond, and ten years of community service in lieu of an additional five years on a related charge.

Google, DOJ square off on acquisition

February 28th, 2011 by Autumn

The Department of Justice has some concerns about a pending merger between internet giant Google and ITA, a flight information software company.  Google announced the acquisition July 1, 2010.  Initial reactions around the business community were that the deal merely increased Google’s business; it did not threaten the existence of other travel sites. But members of FairSearch.org, an organization comprised of top internet travel sites, including Expedia, Hotwire, TripAdvisor, Kayak, fear that Google may try to leverage its dominance in the internet search industry to promote its product, thereby damaging their own.

The Department of Justice is threatening to block the merger, and the parties are in negotiations.  Insiders are unable to predict whether a deal is within days or whether it will fall apart completely.  Google spent nearly $12 million on in-house lobbying around anti-trust, privacy, and competition among other issues between 2008-2010.  The company spent an additional $5.4 million on retained firms over the same time period.

Though Google contends that it does not intend to set prices or sell tickets, and that its acquisition will make airfare searches easier and drive “more potential customers to airlines’ and online travel agencies’ websites,” Bing, which is in direct competition with Google, relies on the software for its travel site as well.

Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) wrote to Attorney General Christine A. Varney last year from his position on the Antitrust subcommittee to outline concerns over competition and antitrust issues raised by the acquisition, and saying it “warrants a careful review.”  Consumer Reports said it is “concerned that the Google-ITA acquisition has the potential to limit consumer choice in the already complex marketplace of online travel, particularly after such a deal were to be finalized.”

Industry Moves and Changes

February 28th, 2011 by Autumn
Cari Guittard, former executive director of Business for Diplomatic Action, is the new vice president of global affairs for the Howard Consulting Group.

Former Rep. Allen Boyd (D-Fla.) has been named senior adviser at Twenty-First Century Group.

Andrew Halataei, government affairs consultant and former Legislative Director for Congressman Randy Forbes (R-VA), has joined the Information Online Pokies Technology Industry Council (ITI) as director of government relations.

Stacey L. Douglas has been selected to assume the position of Executive Director at the Used Textbook Association (UTA) Board of Directors, effective March 1.

New Mexico Democrat and one-time presidential candidate Bill Richardson has  been named as chairman of Global Political Strategies by APCO Worldwide.

NFL Fight Presses On

February 25th, 2011 by Autumn

In addition to the AFL-CIO, several Indiana state Delegates have gotten involved in the labor fight between the league and its players union.  The AP reports that both of Indiana’s senators and all nine of its representatives have penned a letter to both Roger Goddell and players union president DeMaurice Smith indicating their concern that “a failure to complete a new agreement could lead to a work stoppage affecting the upcoming 2011 NFL season and Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis,” which, according to a Ball State University study, could deprive the state of an estimated $365 million in revenue.

Representatives from the interest of tax payers, NFL fans and the impact a lockout could have overall.

While Congress has steered clear of intervening thus far, some argue that the millions in subsidies the NFL receives give Congress good reason to get involved.  But the league expends an extraordinary amount of effort to ensure its interests are recognized on the Hill, spending $2.5 million last cycle alone.  And a lot of credit is due to Jeff Miller, the league’s chief lobbyist, for his success in this endeavor.  Miller has said that he will not seek congressional interference on a collective bargaining agreement, believing that the parties should be more than capable of reaching a suitable agreement among themselves.

Weekly news round-up

February 25th, 2011 by Autumn

They’re at it again: Politico reports yet another favorite off-Campus meeting place White House officials usher their lobbyist guests.  Yesterday’s report suggested that administration officials, who have often been criticized for holding meetings with lobbyists at a local Caribou Coffee to circumvent documenting the meetings, are now holding meetings at local Jackson Place Townhouses, where the White House houses its conference center.  Sentiments on the secret meetings vary.  Some welcome the outreach, despite the secrecy, and others decry the administration’s hypocrisy.

The Obama Effect: Former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel coasted easily to victory in the Chicago mayoral race with 55% of the vote, despite earlier controversy over his eligibility.  The president’s approval rating is obviously favorable in his hometown.

Budget Stalemate: Speaker Boehner (R-Ohio) has said he will not issue another continuing budget resolution if the chambers fail to reach an agreement on spending for FY2011 before the current resolution expires March 4 unless the resolution includes significant cuts.  Some are predicting that with the Senate’s legislative calendar, an agreement within the time constraints is unlikely and a government shut down is all but inevitable.  The New York Times reports that aides to Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) accuse Democratic counterparts of “rooting for that outcome.”

Lobbying through Twitter

February 24th, 2011 by Autumn

When one thinks of “lobbying,” power suits, briefcases, maybe a “K St.” sign, maybe even scowling politicians and news headlines come to mind.  But it is probably safe to assume that the term does not stir up images of little blue birdies.  Yet, increasingly, Twitter is taking center stage in lobbying efforts around the globe.

Twitter was largely credited for the favorable opinion Egyptians received during their revolt for freedom a few weeks ago; had it not been for the American public’s ability to watch the events unfold through the eyes of the citizens on Twitter, the U.S. could have easily (and probably would have) sided with the Egyptian government, as Egypt has traditionally been a key U.S. ally.

In New York, Underheard in New York is trying to bring the plight of the homeless to the forefront of people’s minds in the same way as the Egyptian people.  According to their website, the self-described “Millenials” believe the best way “to help the homeless population is by helping them be better heard and understood.”  To achieve this, the team of young people has armed four homeless men in the city with prepaid cell phones and Twitter accounts, encouraging them to document their struggles.

One, Danny, Tweeting as @putodanny, hopes to be reunited with his daughter through the site.  Albert (@albert814) was laid off as a welder three years ago due to declining eyesight.  He hopes to earn culinary certification and become a chef.  His co0king test is today.  Both Carlos (@jesse550) and Derrick (@awitness2011) tweet often about visiting the library to post resumes.  Carlos has 26 years of experience as a paralegal and is hoping to start his own credit collection agency.  Derrick wants to own a Christian entertainment facility.

They have built Twitter followings of over 3,000 each (except Carlos, who has yet to tweet).  And not only are their stories being told, people are reaching out to help.  Already, Danny has received an offer from a professional writer to help him pen a book.

It is impossible to deny the impact social media sites like Twitter is having on day to day activities, the influence on perspectives.  Congressmen, regulatory agencies, the president are all engaging with followers on Twitter.  If you have yet to embrace social media as an effective avenue to get your message heard, you are missing a world of opportunity.

For more information on social media as an effective Grassroots, Grasstops, and Coalition building platform, join us for our March 28 Lobbying Certificate Program.

Swayze’s widow lobbies for cancer research

February 23rd, 2011 by Autumn

Lisa Niemi Swayze, widow of “Dirty Dancing” star Patrick Swayze, took to the Hill last week to lobby for the Pancreatic Cancer Research and Education Act,  introduced last Wednesday in the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Lisa Niemi Swayze, wife of actor Patrick Swayze, speaks about pancreatic cancer research in front of a projected image of her and her husband, Feb. 16, 2011, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

The bill calls for the National Cancer Institute to develop a strategic plan every five years to conduct and support research and awareness promotion under the supervision of the Department of Health and Human Services.  It would “amend the Public Health Service Act to provide for a Pancreatic Cancer Initiative,” according to the bill’s text.  It also makes provisions for five year research grants, with aniston pokies $5,000,000 in authorized grant appropriations for fiscal year 2012, and an additional $20,000,000 authorized for centers of excellence,  (in the Senate version).

Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) said in a statement, “Despite the terrifying statistics, it’s still one of the most overlooked types of cancer and research continues to be underfunded while the death toll climbs.”  The five year survival rate for those diagnosed with pancreatic cancer is just 6%.

Others active on the issue include the American Cancer Society and its various regional subsidiaries, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, and various universities and cancer societies.

The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network has a lobby day scheduled for June 13-14, 2011 and is urging those impacted by the disease to plan to attend.

Patrick Swayze died in 2009, 22 months after being diagnosed with the disease.

Music, movie, drug industries unite on copyright issues

February 14th, 2011 by Autumn
If the Chamber of Commerce gets its way, Congress will soon be passing a law to mitigate copyright infringement online.  The Chamber is seeking to obliterate websites, such as the already-defunct Limewire, which allow music and movie sharing, or “pirating,” for free, claiming such sites are in serious violation of intellectual property regulations.

Drug companies, record labels and movie studios all see depleted sales thanks to online imitators and “sharers,” which enable consumers to bypass the original distributors for free or significantly discounted prices.  The Chamber is urging President Obama to push for IP protection as well, by enacting his IP enforcement strategy and constructing trade agreements in accordance with IP protections.   Opponents argue that such legislation places unfair limits on free speech.

In other copyright news, cell phone companies, which had banded together to combat copyright charges pending against them, won the battle against a company that sought royalties for features such as camera phones that virtually every cell phone employs, but for which the plaintiffs asserted they were granted a patent which extended into the next decade.

Abramoff associate sentenced

February 14th, 2011 by Autumn

Michael Scanlon is the latest Abramoff associate sentenced for his role in the corruption scheme.  A district judge sentenced the former House aide to 20 months in federal prison.  Scanlon pleaded guilty in 2005 to conspiracy to bribe public officials and honest-services fraud, which his attorney referred to as “extraordinary cooperation,” when he requested a sentence that did not include jail time.  The district attorney requested two years imprisonment, despite Scanlon’s role in aiding the Department of Justice in 20 Abramoff-related investigations. Scanlon said that he is “so sorry, so very remorseful,” at the sentencing.

Fraser Verruscio, another official on the hot seat because of his connection to Abramoff, was also convicted of one count of conspiring to accept an illegal gratuity, one count of making a false statement in failing to report gifts from lobbyists.  His sentencing is scheduled for May 6, and he could be facing up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines for each charge.

Approaching Potential Coalition Partners

February 9th, 2011 by Brittany

Approaching coalition partners is often as easy as simply asking the leader of a group to join your effort.  Answers to the following questions will help the advocate leader in developing a plan:

  • Who are the easiest groups to get?  If the goal is to build a critical mass early, contact the most gettable groups first.
  • Are there groups that will help you leverage participation by other groups?  If so, consider expending some effort to get these “leading” groups.  Once they have agreed to join, others will come much easier.
  • Are there groups that might serve to limit participation by others?  If this is the case, carefully consider whether they should be approached at all.  Sometimes coalitions are not successful because the core set of groups leaves a less than stellar impression.  Conversely, groups that might be considered less than ideal may need to be included for political and/or policy reasons.  In these cases, it may make sense to try to get them on board later rather than sooner.
  • Who is the best person to approach the potential coalition partner?   A member of the organization’s advocate network who serves as a board member, donor or friend of one of the groups that the organization plans to approach may be ideally suited to make the initial contact.  This practice serves two purposes: 1) it engages a member of the advocate network in the policy work of the organization; and, 2) it enhances the credibility of your message with the receiving group.
  • What materials will be available to the groups being asked to join the coalition?  At a minimum, a one pager outlining the mission, goals and basic strategies should be provided.  The one pager should also include details on what might be expected of coalition partners.

For more information or to purchase the Advocacy Handbook click here.