New Audioconference on Congressional Investigations and Testimony

September 28th, 2010 by Brittany

Congressional Investigations and Testimony:
Practical Strategies for Proactive Prevention, Damage Control and Success

October 14, 2010 2:00-3:30 pm EST

Congress wants answers. Financial services providers, “Big Oil,” and the insurance industry are already in the cross-hairs. With ethics, the budget and the stimulus creating a high-pressure, high-visibility environment, the possibility for many more individuals and organizations to face Congressional questioning is increasing daily.

What if you’re called upon to provide testimony or to advise a client who has to go before Congress?  What if you’re asked to present documents?  Will you be prepared to deal with PR issues – and prevent possible leaks?  Will you know how to negotiate terms of a hearing? Act now to arm yourself with a practical strategy for handling – and ideally avoiding -  congressional investigations.

Register now for Congressional Investigations and Testimony: Practical Strategies for Proactive Prevention, Damage Control and Success.

The 90 minutes you invest in this audioconference could literally make the difference between promoting your agenda successfully and losing everything. Top GR attorneys map out steps to take now that will empower you to prepare executives to testify successfully and avoid becoming the focus of a congressional investigation.

Click here to register.

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Recession brings in the bacon for K Street

September 27th, 2010 by James

A down-economy has been a boon for lobbying firms, according to an article by the Washington Post. The article focuses on cash flow in both law firms and lobbying firms in DC, over the past two years.

Massive layoffs in law firms in 2009 and slower flow of business since the start of the recession in 2008 have been detrimental to the organizational health of most law firms in the DC area. But a focus on regulatory law and advice has led to success for some firms.

Certain firms are building strategic practice groups of lawyers with regulatory focus in some of the past year’s biggest legislative issues – environmental policy, healthcare law, and financial regulatory policy.

Lobbying firms are stronger this year than ever before. Almost all of the top ten lobbying firms (by revenue), reported revenue increases over the past several quarters. According to the Post, only three of the largest law firms in the area have increased their attorney count, and two of them, Covington & Burling, and Patton Boggs, also have a very strong government relations / lobbying side to their business.

The Post notes this “synergy” and quotes Bruce Heiman of K&L Gates, saying that the double-sided nature of law plus lobbying may bring greater success, saying that even placement of a comma in a legal document might be the difference between success and failure in a client’s bill: “You just have to [see] that once or twice to pay very close attention to what is it that you’re lobbying for and thinking about how a judge will ultimately interpret the language … I think that gives you a perspective on things that some folks don’t have.”

Washington Post article is here: “Law firms have struggled, but recession proved to be bullish for lobbying shops.”

Revolving door financially benefits staffers

September 27th, 2010 by James

A recent academic study on the financial benefits that lobbyists draw from the practice of the “revolving door,” found that “Lobbyists with experience in the office of a US Senator suffer a 24% drop in generated revenue when that Senator leaves office.” The study found that committee assignments and length of time in office (things which add up to “influence”) also increase revenue for ex-staffers turned lobbyists.

The researchers point out that “While there is no scarcity of anecdotal evidence, direct econometric evidence on the extent to which previous officials are able to convert political contacts into lobbying revenue remains, to the best of our knowledge, non-existent.” But the study purports to provide such evidence. The authors point out that “measured in terms of median revenues per ex-staffer turned lobbyist, this estimate indicates that the exit of a Senator leads to approximately a $177,000 per year fall in revenues for each affiliated lobbyist.”

Several recent articles have pointed out the lobbyist potential for Hill staffers with close connections to members who may be in positions of even greater power after November, such as Reps. John Boehner, Eric Cantor, or Dave Camp, all Republicans who are in line for powerful House majority jobs should the chamber flip.

The researchers used several tools, including the Center for Responsive Politics’ database, Legistorm.com, and Lobbyists.info. The entire report is available at http://cep.lse.ac.uk/_new/publications/abstract.asp?index=3654.

Read more at the Lobby Blog:

DISCLOSE Act fails… again

September 27th, 2010 by James

The DISCLOSE Act came up for a cloture vote again in the Senate on Thursday, September 23. The Democrats’ campaign finance reform bill has been on life support since it failed a prior cloture vote in July. The newest vote, which failed on party lines, 59-39, was seen as a last-ditch attempt to get a top priority through the Congress.

The Democrats, led by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), had promised to bring the bill to a vote after the August recess, when they said that Republicans’ suspicions about the timing of the bill being intended to benefit Democratic incumbents in November’s mid-terms would be mitigated. However, Democrats were unable to sway moderate Republican Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe (Maine) and Scott Brown (Massachusetts) into supporting the legislation.

President Obama’s office released a statement saying the President was “deeply disappointed” by the bill’s failure to pass. The President has been pushing for the “fix” to the Citizens United decision since the House passed their version of DISCLOSE in June.

CQ Politics reports that it may be a possibility that the legislation will keep coming back – “but it is unclear whether Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will try to take the issue up again during a lame-duck session.

The CQ Politics article is here:   “Senate GOP Again Blocks DISCLOSE”. Read more about the DISCLOSE Act here, and at Eric Brown’s site (for news round-ups).

Industry Moves and Changes

September 27th, 2010 by James

Betsy Phillips has been named executive vice president of McBee Strategic Consulting. She previously served at the House Appropriations Committee as a professional staff member for 25 years.

Matt Thornblad has been hired as director of energy and environmental government affairs at United Technologies Corp. Thornblad previously served as legislative assistant to Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.).

Jonathan Prince has been hired as partner at Chlopak, Leonard, Schechter & Associates. Prince most recently served in the Obama administration as a deputy assistant secretary of State.

Wendy Kirchoff has been named director of federal resources and legislative affairs at the Independent Petroleum Association of America. Kirchoff previously served as legislative director for Rep. Dan Boren (D-Okla.).

Elizabeth Gore, a former top aide to Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), has been hired by Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck as a policy director in its government relations group.

Weekly Lobbying News Round-Up

September 24th, 2010 by James

The Hill reports on Kenya’s lobbying expenditures. According to the article, “Lobbyists for the KenyanWeekly newsgovernment have focused on strengthening security ties, as well as increasing trade, between the two countries. They have also worked to secure a direct flight route between Atlanta and Nairobi.” The article further reports that the African nation has retained Chlopak, Leonard, Schechter and Associates (CLS) for PR services and  the Moffett Group to provide lobbying services.

Round-up of some articles on the DISCLOSE vote, from Eric Brown.

Need a quick look at the House ethics process? Ethics lawyer Stan Brand takes you through some of the steps. (Video).

Open Secrets notes this study on the “revolving door” from the London School of Economics, which found that ex-staffers turned lobbyists benefit financially from being in influential offices.

Eliza Newlin Carney of National Journal writes on Rep. John Boehner and Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s lobbyist / special interest ties will matter to voters. “Will Boehner’s Bucks Rankle Voters?”

Quote of the week:

“The recession has actually created a map where all roads now lead to Washington.” – Kevin O’Neill,  Patton Boggs, Washington Post, 9/20/2010

“It is true that my fights against powerful special interests have not made me popular with the Washington crowd… I take the fact that I’m considered the lobbyists’ number one enemy as a compliment, because my job is to fight for the people of Wisconsin, not the special interests in Washington.” – Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.), Politico, 9/20/2010

“Democrats don’t like to go to K Street as much as Republicans do…  Republicans ‘don’t care. They will work for oil, energy, gas, PhRMA, insurance, cigarette companies, gambling. It’d take something pretty damn bad for them not to do it.’” – “K Street recruiter,” Roll Call, 9/20/2010

Cupcakes need lobbyists too

September 23rd, 2010 by Brittany

We promise Eric didn't actually eat this whole tray. At least that's what he told us to say!

Today I brought in 70+ mini cupcakes to the Lobbyists.info offices and was trying to figure out a way to tie my new love/hate relationship with baking to my actual job. That got me thinking that cupcakes probably have lobbyists too!

After conducting some “cupcake” research in our lobbying database I discovered that they apparently have several groups lobbying for them including:

So in summary, we are currently seeking a physician to handle the sugar overdose epidemic which has recently struck the Lobbyists.info staff.

Compliance Q and A: Quarterly Filing

September 22nd, 2010 by James

Q:  When someone refers to an LDA “quarterly filing,” what are they talking about?

A: Under the LDA, as amended by HLOGA in 2007, there are three different kinds of filing required:

  1. LD-1: also known as a “registration” – this registers a lobbying firm or corporation to register on behalf of an certain issue; this is a one-time report which must be filed within 45 days of the first lobbying contact
  2. LD-2: quarterly report that is filed by the original registrant (the lobbying firm or corporation). These reports are due 20 days after the close of each quarter (April 20, July 20, Oct. 20, and Jan. 20). This report is not for individuals, but it does list individuals working for a firm or corporation who are engaging in lobbying activity.  Please note that individuals may be required to file this form if they are acting in a sole-proprietor capability.
  3. LD-203: a twice-yearly form required for both organizations and individuals; due July 20 and January 20. Please note that individuals who are acting in a sole-proprietor capability will need to file two reports – one on behalf of their organization, and one in their individual capacity.

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

Tuesday Ethics Tip: Deregistering as a Lobbyist

September 21st, 2010 by James

Since there are always some lobbyists that seem to be confused over whether, or when, to take themselves off the roster of lobbyists on LD-2 forms, here’s a refresher on de-registering as a lobbyists.

Lobbyists must be removed from the form LD-2 (the quarterly form stating income or expenditures on lobbying), on Line 23 of a current LD-2 form in order to be considered inactive. This “inactive” status frees them from the obligation of filing an LD-203 (the semi-annual filing of lobbyist campaign contributions).

As for de-registration triggers, lobbyists must de-register when have a reasonable expectation or knowledge that they will no longer be working on behalf of a particular client or issue.

Until a lobbyist is formally de-registered (using Line 23), he or she is obligated to file Form LD-203.



Lobbyist Campaign Contributions

September 20th, 2010 by James

This story about Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-District of Columbia) that ran on Big Government ran with an emphasis on the “heavy-handed” method with which Holmes Norton approached the unnamed lobbyist. But the bigger issue is that members of Congress are prohibited from soliciting campaign contributions in connection with official actions and duties.

Big Government points out that:

“More serious… is her frequent mention of her seniority and her Chairmanship of a subcommittee. She is attempting to solicit funds based on her past actions taken in her official capacity in Congress. She is implying to the lobbyist that, should he decline to donate, he will be turning down a senior member of Congress who Chairs a subcommittee highly relevant to his ‘sector’.”

Because Big Government did not release the name of the individual for whom Holmes Norton left this voicemail, it is impossible to state with conviction that Holmes Norton’s actions were directed toward a federally-registered lobbyist. (The lobbyist to whom the article’s authors are referring may be a “government relations” person, not registered under the Lobbying Disclosure Act).

Some lobbyists simply decline to make any kind of political contributions at all, claiming this helps them to not only remain in compliance with the law, but also gives them leverage when members or staffers try to pressure them into contributions. You may want to follow suit. If you are a lobbyist and you are approached by a member of Congress (or a member’s staffer) for campaign funds or other types of solicitations, don’t walk, run, for several reasons.

First, as a lobbyist, it is your job to attempt to influence (on behalf of your clients), official action. There is no prohibition against such action; it is a Constitutionally-protected right to advocate for your chosen position.

Second, because your professional life is a series of attempts to influence official actions, any professional contact with members or staffers is probably in the context of influence.

Therefore, your professional actions and influence are closely connected. Your professional life is closely linked with your personal life, and making a campaign contribution to a member of Congress with whom you have daily/weekly/ monthly contact regarding official actions just looks bad.

In this situation, being above reproach with help you tremendously. It may not be against the law to contribute – and you should certainly feel free to do so if you believe that there is no harm in doing so, and your efforts are not connected to official actions. But it may help you enormously to consider stopping all direct political contributions while you remain a federally-registered lobbyist. A better course of action, if you feel that donations are something you want to do regardless, might be to donate to PACs unconnected to members, or to party committees.

Do note that members are strictly prohibited from soliciting gifts from lobbyists.

Weekly Lobbying News Round-Up

September 17th, 2010 by James

After last week’s surprise upset in Alaska (Joe Miller over Lisa Murkowski in the GOP Senate primary), Roll CallWeekly newsreports that lobbyists were quick to shift their financial and fundraising support from Murkowski to Miller. Article here.

The New York Times report on John Boehner’s lobbyist ties is examined a little more fully in our post, here. Boehner also responded via the Washington Examiner.

Pepsi and Coke both have new lobbyists in DC… maybe this will spark the huge Pepsi v. Coke epic battle we’ve all been waiting for. (Although I won’t lie, as a Michigander, I prefer Faygo).

John Doolittle, who earlier this year complained that the (cleared) ethics investigations against him were making supporting work difficult, has found a job lobbying for Colfax City, California.

Lots of ethical dilemmas and strong words being traded back and forth regarding House ethics.. Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), one of the Ethics Committee members,  faces his own ethics and disclosure issues. Various public interest groups try to get Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner to publicly agree to support the OCE in the next Congress.

Ross Garber comments on Public Corruption charges post Skilling (discussion of Kevin Ring case included). See our posts about Kevin Ring and Skilling.

Following up on our report earlier this week that lobby shops are looking to up their GOP quotient ahead of the midterms, Roll Call reports on the Democratic job prospects on K St.

We anxiously await word on the fate of DISCLOSE.

Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-District of Columbia) was recorded leaving a voicemail on an unnamed lobbyist’s phone, asking for campaign contributions, and doing it in a manner that implied a reminder of Holmes Norton’s power status in the lobbyist’s “sector.” More on this story in our Monday post on lobbyist campaign contributions.

From the Canadian Society of Association Executives, a post on “Enhancing Grassroots Advocacy Through Social Media.” Worth a read.

The LA Times has an article on Kevin Spacey’s role as  Jack Abramoff in the upcoming “Casino Jack.”

Reports abound that Paul Magliocchetti is changing his “not guilty” plea in his 11-count indictment.

Three Obama administration employees never deregistered as lobbyists before taking their new jobs, according to OpenSecrets blog.

Quote(s) of the week:

“There may be a new gang in town after November,” said Hellmann, a former aide to then-Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.). “The climate will be better for the business community on taxes.” (Roll Call, 9/13/2010)

“A lot of people want to have coffee now.” – Gordon Taylor, Ogilvy Government Relations, about staffers seeking advice on how to navigate the job market (Roll Call, 9/14/2010)

“Once he’s done with his house arrest, he may decide to speak out about the lobbying industry… He’d be credible if he takes responsibility for what he did, which he has, and exposes the hypocrisy he was a part of.” Kevin Spacey on Jack Abramoff (LA Times, 9/14/2010)

US Congress Handbook Sponsors Hoops for Youth Kids Hill Day

September 17th, 2010 by Brittany

WJA Students at the Hoops for Youth Kids Hill Day

This week the US Congress Handbook was one of the sponsors of the Hoops for Youth Kids Hill Day, and I was lucky enough to be a team mentor for the day. Along with my partner mentor, James Bowman from Congressional FCU, I was in charge of a group of 8th grade boys from the Washington Jesuit Academy.

This field trip was part of the Hoops for Youth program which has raised over $600,000 for local children’s organizations in the past 11 years. Each year the foundation hosts a kids’ Capitol Hill day, basketball clinic and basketball game between members of Congress and local lobbyists.

At first I was a little worried (who wouldn’t be, when thinking about chaperoning a bunch of teenage boys) but it turned out to be one of the highlights of my year. The entire event, organized by Kate Leonard of the Leonard group, was so fantastic and inspirational.

The first half of the day featured motivational speakers including several US Marshalls, a former Justice Department attorney and a former convict who now works for Cease Fire, an organization that attempts to minimize gang violence in Washington DC.

After the speakers, the kids spent some time learning about the First Amendment, and we helped them to prepare a “mock proposal” to present during the Hill appointments. This year they had to convince Members to support them in their efforts to maintain federal funding for their local community recreational center. Since many of these kids are active participants at their actual rec centers, they had lots of great ideas and did such an excellent job presenting their ideas. All-in-all it was an amazing fun-filled day and I highly recommend volunteering for this event next year.

If you are interested in getting involved in the Kids Hill Day next year or donating to the Hoops for Youth Foundation please visit their website here: www.hoopsforyouthfoundation.org.

Click here for more information on the US Congress Handbook.

Boehner and Pelosi’s Lobbying Ties

September 16th, 2010 by Autumn

The New York Times published an article last Sunday detailing the connections Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) has with

John Boehner and aides (Source: New York Times. Photo credit: David Lassman/ Post-Standard)

lobbyists in Washington.  This article is by no means an isolated event.  Various other news articles have been questioning Boehner’s corporate, “special interest” ties.

At a speech in Ohio, President Obama mentioned Boehner’s name eight times.  As of now the only source of information that hasn’t commented on Boehner is my network of 14 uncles who tend to send me long-winded chain emails.  But I’m sure those will start to come in any day now.

The New York Times article did much more than detail Boehner’s golfing and smoking habits while tossing in an obvious joke about his complexion (we get it, he’s tan … new joke, please.)  The article listed some of Boehner’s former aides and “longtime associates and friends” who are lobbyists.

Given the tone of the article, this information seemed to belong on the editorial page; it should not have been presented as just basic information.  In response, The Washington Examiner released an article which stated that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has raised twice the amount of money from lobbyists as her GOP counterpart.

To take all of this one step further, a search of Lobbyists.info showed more lobbyists who previously worked for Pelosi than for Boehner.  Given the rhetoric (which comes from both sides of the aisle) about the evils of the “revolving door,” perhaps members of Congress would be wise to run a quick check on what their own former staffers are doing.

Pelosi’s lobbying ties include former staffers who are now registered lobbyists at The Podesta Group, Akin Gump, Amgen Inc., and King & Spalding.  Not all of Pelosi’s former staffers are registered lobbyists, despite working for registered organizations and coalitions.  Individuals fitting this bill include persons at Planned Parenthood of America and United for Medical Research.

In addition to the individuals listed already by the NYT, Boehner has connections through former employees to lobbyists at Marriot International Inc., Boeing, and the lobbying firm Arent Fox.

Now I’m no political strategist, but it seems that crying wolf over lobbying ties might not be the best course of action for Speaker Pelosi. Perhaps it’s time for both parties to call a lobbyist-as-the-bad-guy truce.

Back to Advocacy School

September 15th, 2010 by Brittany

An excerpt from the Advocacy Handbook.

What is Advocacy?
According to the American Heritage Dictionary, advocacy is: “the act of pleading or arguing in favor of something, such as a cause, idea, or policy; active support.”

Under this definition, there are many types of advocacy, including:

Legal Advocacy:  Arguing on behalf of a client in the legal environment

Child Advocacy:  Making the case for children in a child-oriented venue, such as a school or in the context of child protective services

Patient Advocacy:  Helping individuals navigate through the increasing complex medical arena and safeguarding their rights

Casework / Social Welfare Advocacy:  Working with low-income or otherwise disadvantaged individuals to be sure they have the services they need

Corporate Advocacy:  Efforts by corporations to promote a specific cause or idea for the benefit of the general public (also related to the idea of “Corporate Social Responsibility”)

In each of these circumstances, one person or a group of people pleads or argues in favor of a particular cause, idea, or individual.  The difference between these types of advocacy and advocacy in the policy arena are matters of topic, scale, and audience.

Advocacy in the policy arena can be defined along the following lines:

Topic:  Improvements to public policy or funding for public programs at the local, state or federal level

Scale:  Focused on benefits for a group of people as opposed to an individual

Audience
:  Primarily targeted at policy makers at the local, state or federal level.  Secondary targets may include opinion leaders, business interests and citizens in an effort to elicit change with relevant policy-makers.

In addition, the use of the term advocacy refers specifically to advocacy that is done by non-professionals as opposed to the “direct lobbying” done by government relations professionals across the country.  A fourth area of differentiation, therefore, would be:

Advocate:  An individual, such as an association member, company employee or citizen, who pleads the public policy case to a policy maker, often in concert with a larger organization.

On This Day in Lobbying History

September 14th, 2010 by James

HLOGA signed into law

The Honest Leadership and Open Government Act was enacted.

The bill was signed into law on September 14, 2007 by President George W. Bush.