The Advocacy of Incarceration

April 9th, 2015 by James Cameron

PRIVATE PRISONS HAVE LONG been a dirty secret in the American criminal justice system, but in recent years their downsides have increasingly come to light. Last week, OpenSecrets.org reported on the economic costs for local municipalities when a private prison fails. Willacy County, a small rural county in Texas, is facing a serious budgetary issue after a riot devastated a local prison that had been run by a private prison company, Management Training Corp.

Management Training Corp.’s economic model with the Willacy County prison is similar to many across the country: the local, state, or Federal government contracts a private prison company to run a prison, and then the prison company pays local municipalities to house prisoners at that facility and for the utilities the prison uses. When a company like MTC pulls out, the local government loses a steady source of revenue and now must staff and run the prison themselves. This arrangement sounds like it makes sense for both the local government and the prison company, but it raises some serious ethical questions.

The American Civil Liberties Union argues that private prison companies have a financial stake in keeping incarceration levels high (and indeed, the incarceration rate in America is 5-10 times greater than in Western Europe, per the Wall Street Journal). Indeed, as Salon reports, several states have contracts with private prisons that guarantee 95-100% occupancy rates in prisons run by private companies. This gives states incentive to incarcerate (disproportionately African American) individuals for petty crimes.

Private prison companies’ lobbying activity does little to disabuse the notion that they have a financial stake in high incarceration rates. Salon reports that Corrections Corporation of America has spent more than $13 million in state lobbying efforts, while the GEO Group, another private prison company, has spent more than $3.1 million. Meanwhile, OpenSecrets notes that private prison companies have spent more than $2 million lobbying Congress in 2014 alone.

Private prison companies’ lobbying efforts reveal the unsavory side of advocacy. While most companies will attempt to frame their goals as ultimately beneficial to the American public, few industries have a financial stake in ensuring that more Americans go to (and stay in) prison. While there may be cases where privately-run prisons can be beneficial, Willacy County’s situation and America’s astronomical incarceration rates show the perils of relying too heavily on privatizing public services.

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Corporations: Spending Money Where It Counts

April 1st, 2015 by Matthew Barnes

IN THE 2010 CITIZENS UNITED CASE, the Supreme Court ruled that corporations can spend unlimited amounts on elections. As a result of that decision people on both sides of the aisle feared that corporations would flood campaigns with vast amounts corporate money, forever changing the world of campaign finance and the political landscape of this country. However, that hasn’t been the case. Instead, recent changes in American political spending have come from the rise of Super PACs backed by hugely wealthy private individuals such as Tom Steyer or the Koch brothers. Instead of pouring money into political campaigns, corporations have focused on lobbying efforts. Lee Drutman, a senior fellow in the political reform program at New America, argues that this is because“Lobbying offers a much better return than election spending because real power lies in influencing how policymakers think about the world, not in getting them elected.”

In her recent article in the Washington Post Ms. Drutman observes, “From 1998 onward, as far back as there is good data, corporations have consistently spent about 13 times more on lobbying than they have on campaign contributions. That’s not to say they don’t spend on campaigns. In the 2013-14 cycle, corporations, trade associations and business associations spent a combined $381 million through their political action committees. But that’s small potatoes compared with the giant $5.2 billion pot roast of reported corporate lobbying expenses over this period. And about half of lobbying doesn’t even get reported.”

There are two main reasons why corporations choose to spend their money influencing lawmakers via lobbying rather than spending large amounts of money on political campaign and election activities such as campaign and Super PAC contributions. “First, it could create unnecessary enemies. If the candidate you opposed wins despite your efforts, you’ve just made somebody mad at you. Likewise, if you give big to a Republican or Democratic super PAC, you’ve just angered an entire party. Second, hefty election spending runs the risk of upsetting consumers outside the Beltway. If some of your customers are Democrats and some are Republicans, a really big check could be more trouble than it’s worth. Target learned this when it gave $150,000 to a group supporting conservative Tom Emmer in the 2010 Minnesota gubernatorial race, alienating its many customers who opposed Emmer’s anti-gay-marriage stance.”

 

The Obama Administration’s Lobbying Legacy

March 25th, 2015 by Matthew Barnes

WITH THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION’S clock reading less than two years left in office and the next round of presidential campaigns kicking off, some have started to look at which of the current administration’s policies will carry over into the next. In Sunday’s Washington Post, Juliet Eilperin explored the legacy of Obama’s stand against the lobbying industry.

On his second day in office President Obama signed two executive orders and three presidential directives which set restrictions on lobbying, According to the Washington Post article, “the rules have had a major effect on how government functions. The measure prohibits those who have been registered lobbyists in the past two years from working at an agency they had lobbied, or on an issue they had worked on, and bars appointees from accepting gifts from registered lobbyists or lobbying groups while serving in government. It also prohibits administration appointees who later register from lobbying other executive branch officials or senior appointees for the remainder of Obama’s time in office.”

With these actions President Obama aimed at closing “the revolving door that lets lobbyists come into government freely and lets them use their time in public service as a way to promote their own interests . . . when they leave.” However, the President’s actions did have some unintended consequences for the lobbying industry. “Some lobbyists — who under federal law are required to register only if they spend at least 20 percent of their time lobbying — chose to deregister once the rules took effect. The number of registrations dropped from 13,367 when Obama took office to 11,509 last year, according to an analysis by American University government professor James Thurber.”

Industry officials, such as James Hickey, president of the Association of Government Relations Professionals, have often questioned the logic and wisdom of the ban on lobbyists returning to government service as lobbyists can be some of Washington’s most experienced and knowledgeable professionals. Hickey argues, “Way back when the Oklahoma gold rush took off, there were a lot of people who realized they needed trail guides to the Rockies. A lot of those who didn’t use trail guides . . . expired in the Rockies. To a certain extent, the government relations professionals are trail guides.”

The next administration, regardless of party, will face the difficult predicament of deciding to take comparable actions either by adopting President Obama’s lobbying industry policies or creating their own similar policies, or deciding to reverse the executive order. However, the deck seems stacked. Former White House counsel Robert Bauer argues, “Any administration now is going to have to implement a similar policy or explain why it won’t, or explain what changes they will make. It puts on the table an issue that every administration has to grapple with.” Vin Weber, a senior Republican strategist expressed similar thoughts on the issue saying, “if I were asked by a presidential campaign, I’m not at all sure I would tell them to reverse the executive order. Not because the rule’s good, but because it’s an enormously politically difficult thing to explain.”

 

Playing ‘Moneyball’ In the Influence Game

March 19th, 2015 by Matthew Barnes

HISTORICALLY, INFLUENCE  in Washington has been based on one’s network of connections, knowledge and experience. The more people you know in high positions, the more likely you’ll accomplish you goal. However, now more than ever, lobbyists, corporations and interest groups are more frequently turning to companies that  “sell data-based political and competitive intelligence that offers insight into the policymaking process,” according to the Washington Post, giving a largely relationship-based industry a scientific edge.

Services such as Lobbyists.info digitally compile information from a multitude of different sources, including legislation, contacts at committees and congressional offices, lawmakers’ voting records, press releases, floor statements, etc. The information is then made searchable and packaged into formats designed to optimize the user’s experience. In the past, such information gathered from personal connections, knowledge and experience would take years of careful cultivation, but can now be accessed by anyone with just a few seconds on a computer or smartphone.

Embracing this more scientific approach to lobbying has given government relations professionals a tremendous edge in answering some basic questions that they face on a regular basis including: Whom should I meet with? How likely are they to care about my issue? Who are their most likely allies?

The use of technology and data to monitor political activity is also being embraced internally by some large organizations. According to Politico, “The Chamber of Commerce has launched a revamped site – Friends of the U.S. Chamber – to let its members track Congressional votes and decide whether the lawmakers they’re watching are supporting their agenda. Eventually, the results will be synthesized into data and analysis that will inform which lawmakers the group backs in 2016.”

It remains unclear the exact affect the use of data-based platforms will have on the lobbying industry. However, as technology continues to develop and more companies turn to data-based platforms for information and analysis expect to see this industry continue to grow and develop.

Sharing a Slice, Congressional Republicans and the Pizza Lobby

March 11th, 2015 by Matthew Barnes

THE PIZZA LOBBY, which has come under scrutiny from healthy food advocates over past few years, is seeking to turn the tide of battle in their favor now that the Republican Party is firmly in control of both houses of congress.  According to a Bloomberg report both the fresh and frozen pizza industries “tend to support Republicans. In the last two election cycles, Republican federal candidates received about $1.3 million from the industry, according to an analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics of major companies and those listing “pizza” in their name. Democrats received just $157,000.” Pizza Hut, Papa John’s, Schwan and Dominos each overwhelmingly supported Republican candidates contributing 98.9%, 86.8%, 78.3% and 79.3%, respectively, of their total political contributions to Republican candidates and groups in the 2012 and 2014 elections.

One of the main battles over the past few years in the “war on pizza” has been over federal nutrition standards for school lunches, which were introduced in 2010. The regulations targeted pizza’s dominance in school cafeterias where almost $500 million worth of federally subsidized school lunch pizza is served each year. When the Department of Agriculture released the details of the regulations in 2011, it included a provision that increased the minimum amount of tomato paste required to be counted as a vegetable serving.  The reason for including this provision was “under the existing rules, tomato paste is given extra credit toward a vegetable serving because it’s made of concentrated tomatoes. So 2 tablespoons of tomato paste — roughly the amount on a slice of pizza — is counted as a half a cup, or the equivalent of one vegetable serving” and therefore, “for school lunch purposes, a slice of pizza was considered a serving of vegetables.”

The pizza industry quickly mounted a defense and “in testimony before Congress in August of that year, Karen Wilder, chief nutritionist for Schwan Food, said many foods packed with nutrients, including pizza, risked elimination from school lunch by the proposed rules. A subsidiary of Schwan supplies 70 percent of school lunch pizza.” In November 2011, Congress came to the pizza lobby’s defense, blocking the Department of Agriculture from making some of the proposed nutrition changes. ATVN reported that “Republicans on the House Appropriation Committee said their changes would ‘prevent overly burdensome and costly regulations and to provide greater flexibility for local school districts to improve the nutritional quality of meals.’”

With Republicans, who as previously shown are overwhelmingly supported by the pizza lobby, now in control of both chambers of congress, the industry may seek to further reduce the rules and regulations of the food industry. Lynn Liddle, executive vice president for communications, investor relations, and legislative affairs at Domino’s Pizza and chair of the American Pizza Community (APC), “hopes Congress will consider tweaking the menu-labeling law to make it more favorable to pizza sellers. As for the American Pizza Community, she envisions a formidable, and enduring, champion for pizza, one capable of changing the food’s fortunes in Washington and elsewhere.”

Diving Deeper into Local Lobbying

March 4th, 2015 by Matthew Barnes

HAVING PREVIOUSLY DISCUSSED state level lobbying, this week Lobby Blog dives a little deeper, looking at local lobbying oversight. City Ethics, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that provides information and advice on local government ethics issues nationwide, has recently released the final draft of the chapter, “Local Government Lobbying,” from its free e-book, Local Government Ethics Programs. This chapter is a new resource on the subject of local lobbying, a subject that has received very little attention.

In the chapter Mr. Wechsler, Director of Research at City Ethics, discusses many topics surrounding local lobbying including: the ways in which local lobbying differs from state and federal lobbying; a consideration of the reasons for setting up a lobbying oversight program; a look at the all-important definitions of what constitutes “lobbying” and who is a “lobbyist”; an in-depth look at the disclosure requirements and the obligations and prohibitions that local governments have instituted; and a consideration of the oversight and enforcement processes that will ensure that local lobbying is done openly and without improper conduct. The chapter also includes a draft Model Lobbying Code for local governments.

The draft has been made available online with the goal of receiving feedback from lobbyists, academics, and lobbying programs and good government staff members. The 312-page draft is available for free in four digital formats on the City Ethics website.

Droning On

February 25th, 2015 by Matthew Barnes

THE FLYING OF REMOTE DRONES has become a major domestic policy issue in the United States. Just last month drones made headline news as a federal employee accidentally flew a remote control drone onto the White House grounds, causing a mass security stir and furthering debate on the issue around the country.  On February 15, 2015 the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released new regulations for drones with Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx saying, “Technology is advancing at an unprecedented pace and this milestone allows federal regulations and the use of our national airspace to evolve to safely accommodate innovation.” The DOT and FAA also announced a 60 day period for the public to comment on the proposed regulations, which will begin from the date of publication in the Federal Register.

However, the proposed regulations have been met with considerable opposition in the business community as the regulations heavily restrict some potential business applications of drone use, such as delivery services. This prevents some companies, like Amazon.com, from capitalizing on the removal of the current near-ban on flying drones for commercial purposes. Amazon.com has a goal of establishing Amazon Prime Air, a “future delivery system…designed to safely get packages into customers’ hands in 30 minutes or less using small unmanned aerial vehicles.”

Lobbyists representing businesses and supporters of drone technology will use the comment period to persuade lawmakers and regulators that new technologies employed by the drones will make some of the limitations proposed by the DOT and FAA unnecessary. Such technological innovations include allowing drones to “sense and avoid” obstacles including other aircraft and autonomous GPS navigation. Reuters reports that, “Spending on lobbying by special interests that list drones as an issue surged from $20,000 in 2001 to $35 million in 2011 to more than $186 million in 2014, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks lobbying activity.”

However, not everyone is excited about the prospect of an increased amount of unmanned drones flying overhead. A website, NoFlyZone.org, has been created with the goals of letting you establish a no-fly zone over your property. Despite the voluntary basis, a number of drone hardware and software firms have already promised to honor your request including:  EHANG, Horizon Hobby, DroneDeploy, YUNEEC, HEXO+, PixiePath and RCFlyMaps.

With the lines drawn, no matter the result, the drone debate is certainly setting itself up to be a highly contested and publicized issue for the coming year.

Walking Through The Revolving Door Without Your Wallet

February 19th, 2015 by Matthew Barnes

In a controversial move, two congressmen have introduced bills which would prevent former members of Congress from receiving their federal pensions if they begin lobbying after their term in office, according to the Hill. Rep. Bill Posey (R-Fla.) has introduced legislation to ban members of Congress from lobbying for five years after leaving office (H. R. 318) and eliminate their federal benefits if they choose to lobby (H. R. 319). Similarly, Rep. Steve Israel introduced the “Revolving Door Pension Prevention Act” (H.R.567) which makes former members of Congress receiving compensation as a highly-paid lobbyist ($1,000,000 or more as a direct result of lobbying activities) ineligible to receive certain Federal retirement benefits.

The legislation has angered many former members of Congress such as former Rep. Jim Slattery (D-Kan.) who has said, “Current members think they’re going to satisfy the beast by throwing this kind of red meat, and it doesn’t work…Some ill-informed members of Congress believe they can blame lobbyists for their poor standing in the public. That’s a joke. The only way they’re going to improve their standing in the eyes of the public is to do a better job…Some members of Congress have tried to blame lobbyists for their decisions. Whenever I hear something like that I want to just vomit. What a cowardly answer.”

Moreover, James Hickey, President of the Association of Government Relations Professionals, has argued that such legislation is ripe for a Supreme Court challenge as the right to petition the government is protected by the First Amendment.

Other former lawmakers such as Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) have provided alternative ideas for reform like extending the “cooling off” period that members of Congress must adhere too. Currently, former members of the House of Representatives are required to wait one year before they are allowed to register to lobby while former Senators are required to undergo a two year waiting period.

Whatever the result, this issue is likely to remain at the forefront of lobbying reform as many still have fresh memories of lobbying scandals like that of Jack Abramoff. However, legislators must be careful when implementing reforms in an effort to avoid creating more “shadow lobbyists” who do not register as lobbyists despite engaging in advocacy which would just exacerbate the situation.

Tax, PR Fight Fermenting Between Brewers

February 11th, 2015 by James Cameron

IF YOU READ LOBBY BLOG regularly, you know that even groups within the same industry don’t always get along when it comes to legislative issues. That’s the case in the fight that’s brewing between craft brewers and large “macrobreweries” such as Miller-Coors and Anheuser-Busch InBev. According to the OpenSecrets blog, the fight centers around two competing bills: The Small BREW Act and the Fair Beer Act, both of which offer differing definitions for how beer producers should be taxed.

The Small BREW Act is supported by the Brewers Association, a trade association which represents more than 10,000 key stakeholders in the American beer industry, with a focus on craft brewers. The association is relatively new to lobbying, with its first lobbying expenditures taking place in 2008. Currently, it spends 14.9% of membership dues it collects on lobbying on issues such as The Small BREW Act. The Act limits tax breaks only to beer producers headquartered in the United States and excludes importers; this would leave out such notable producers as Anheuser-Busch InBev. Further, it would expand the definition of small brewer to any organization that produces six million barrels of beer or less per year, again excluding the industry giants.

This restriction on overseas-based producers and importers is the key difference between the Small BREW Act and the BEER Act, which is supported by the National Beer Wholesalers Association and the Beer Institute, which represents both macrobreweries such as Miller-Coors as well as smaller producers and microbrewers. Both organizations reject the Small BREW Act in favor of the Beer Act, which the organizations claim is more inclusive and fair in its application of excise taxes.

But the fight between craft brewers and industry giants moved from Congress to the living rooms of millions of Americans when Budweiser ran an ad during the Super Bowl that was critical of craft beer, claiming that beer shouldn’t “be fussed over.” PBS notes that even as beer sales as a whole have fallen, craft beer sales have grown exponentially in the past three decades, even though they still represent a small portion of overall beer sales.

While it remains to be seen which (if either) bill prevails, it’s clear the legislative and public relations conflict between large and small beer producers is far from over. If craft beer continues to grow at its current rapid pace, the fight will only intensify.

Leading Association Lobbyists and the Salute to Association Excellence

February 4th, 2015 by Matthew Barnes

ON FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 6TH, 2015, Association TRENDS will host its 36th annual Salute to Association Excellence, an annual awards luncheon which honors the brightest stars of the association community and their commitment to excellence.  The event is known in the industry as THE event to attend with the awards luncheon drawing a crowd of over 500 leading association professionals each year. During the event a number of people will be honored including, Association TRENDS’ five Leading Association Lobbyists.

This year’s honorees are:

Jon JohnsonManaging Partner, Johnson & Blanton – “In the 2013 legislative session Johnson’s firm, which represents 16 associations, assisted the Florida Engineering Society in passing a crucial lawsuit reform bill that protected individual engineers from wrongly being sued. The most recent session in 2014, Johnson worked with lobbyists for the Florida Healthcare Association to pass litigation reform surrounding nursing homes. This resulted in a bipartisan effort and saw a compromise emerge between nursing home owners and trial lawyers.”

Patricia Rojas-Ungár – Vice President, Government Relations, U.S. Travel – “In 2013, U.S. Travel launched a campaign to reduce delays for international visitors when they arrive at U.S. gateway airports. Rojas-Ungar’s advocacy efforts resulted in a presidential executive memo calling for the development of a national goal to improve service levels for international visitors and to remove unnecessary travel barriers. Congress also weighed in by approving enough resources to hire 2,000 new Customs and Border Control officers to process travelers more quickly. In 2014, Rojas-Ungar’s efforts to reauthorize Brand USA have delivered strong bipartisan approval by the House of Representatives and further cleared the Senate Commerce Committee.  Focus is now on full consideration by the U.S. Senate before the end of the year.”

Neil Snyder, MPA, CAEDirector of Federal Advocacy, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association – “Snyder worked with the U.S. House Education and the Workforce Committee staff to craft and send a request letter from the full and subcommittee chairmen to the General Accountability Office, to launch an investigation into the conflicting and burdensome requirements surrounding the delivery of services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. GAO accepted the request and is meeting with stakeholder groups including my association, among others. A report from GAO is anticipated in 2014 that will help guide legislative and statutory changes in advance of an IDEA reauthorization by Congress.”

Christopher Vest, CAE  - Director of Public Policy, ASAE – “Over the past couple of years, Vest and the ASAE public policy team have worked to ensure a better understanding on Capitol Hill of the importance of allowing government employees to attend outside conferences and meetings to receive training and exchange knowledge with the many industries and professions represented by associations. Vest and ASAE also continue to meet with congressional offices to convey the impact that various tax reform proposals would have on the revenue-generating activities of associations.”

Nominations for honorees were accepted year-round and from across the country by the lobbyists’ peers, colleagues and other association executives.  To be eligible all nominees are either lobbyists who are on staff at an association or were hired to represent an association. Nominees can represent associations at the local, state, regional and national levels. Taken into consideration is the work (not necessarily successes because lobbying can be a slow process) of the nominated lobbyist in the past 2 years.

Lobbying Without Lobbying

January 28th, 2015 by Matthew Barnes

New analysis from the Center for Public Integrity (CPI) has found that trade groups are relying more heavily on advertising than traditional lobbying for influence and to achieve their goals. CPI’s analysis of the tax records of 144 trade groups from 2008 to 2012 found that trade groups spent 37% of their total contractor budgets on advertising, PR and marketing. In total trade groups spent $1.26 billion on advertising, public relations and marketing services, nearly twice as much as the $682.2 million that was directed toward legal, lobbying and government affairs.

The heavy reliance on the use of advertising can be at least partly attributed to the greater freedoms the advertising industry has when compared to lobbying, due to lack of regulation. According to Erin Quinn and Chris Young , the authors of the report,  “Public relations work, unlike lobbying, is not subject to federal disclosure rules, and PR and advertising campaigns can potentially influence a broader group of people.” Similarly, Edward Walker, a sociology professor at the University of California, Los Angeles argues that, “The trade associations that rely most on PR and advertising campaigns are usually those representing industries facing the heaviest regulation and the most public contempt.”

In the end, the overall effect this trend will have on the lobbying industry remains to be seen. However some people, such as Doug Pinkham, President of the Public Affairs Council, have suggested that “The gradual shift from a focus on traditional lobbying toward greater use of the “outside game of politics,” or communications like PR, has been going on for at least a decade…but is now accelerating with advances in technology, social media and digital strategies.” Nevertheless, lobbyists should note that while lobbying expenditures peaked in 2010 at $3.6 billion, have they have since declined steadily, falling to $3.24 billion in 2013 and $3.21 billion in 2014, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Meanwhile in 2013, the global public relations industry grew 11% over the previous year to $12.5 billion, according to trade journal The Holmes Report.

Congress All A-Twitter

January 21st, 2015 by James Cameron

TWITTER HAS BECOME A key way for Members of Congress to communicate with their constituents, both on the campaign trail and in office. In fact, all but one of the incoming Congressional freshmen for the 114th Congress already has a Twitter account. Although many Congressional Twitter accounts are likely run by staffers, some (notably @ChuckGrassley) are run directly by the Member. In either case, these accounts are valuable sources of news and Member viewpoints.  So, without further ado, Lobby Blog presents  a list of the Twitter accounts for all of the freshmen Members in both chambers, compiled using data from Lobbyists.info.

Senate:

Dan Sullivan  (R -Alaska) http://twitter.com/DanSullivan2014
Tom Cotton  (R -Ark.) http://twitter.com/cotton4congress
Cory Gardner  (R -Colo.) http://twitter.com/CoryGardnerCO
David Perdue  (R -Ga.) http://twitter.com/Perduesenate
Joni Ernst  (R -Iowa) http://twitter.com/joniernst
Bill Cassidy  (R -La.) http://twitter.com/billcassidy
Gary Peters  (D -Mich.) http://twitter.com/Peters4Michigan
Steve Daines  (R -Mont.) http://twitter.com/DainesForMT
Ben Sasse  (R -Neb.) http://twitter.com/Sasse4Senate
Thom Tillis  (R -N.C.) http://twitter.com/thomtillis
James Lankford  (R -Okla.) http://twitter.com/jameslankford
Mike Rounds  (R -S.D.) http://twitter.com/RoundsforSenate
Shelley Moore Capito  (R -W.Va.) http://twitter.com/CapitoForWV

 

House:

Gary Palmer  (R-Ala.) http://twitter.com/palmer4alabama
Martha McSally  (R-Ariz.) http://twitter.com/MarthaMcSally
Ruben Gallego  (D-Ariz.) http://twitter.com/RubenGallego
French Hill  (R-Ark.) http://twitter.com/ElectFrench
Bruce Westerman  (R-Ark.) http://twitter.com/bruce_westerman
Mark DeSaulnier  (D-Calif.) No account available
Steve Knight  (R-Calif.) http://twitter.com/stephentknight
Pete Aguilar  (D-Calif.) http://twitter.com/aguilarpete
Ted Lieu  (D-Calif.) http://twitter.com/tedlieu
Norma Torres  (D-Calif.) http://twitter.com/Norma4Congress
Mimi Walters  (R-Calif.) http://twitter.com/MimiWaltersCA
Ken Buck  (R-Colo.) http://twitter.com/BuckForColorado
Gwen Graham  (D-Fla.) http://twitter.com/GwenForCongress
Carlos Curbelo  (R-Fla.) http://twitter.com/carloslcurbelo
Buddy Carter  (R-Ga.) http://twitter.com/Carter4Congress
Jody Hice  (R-Ga.) http://twitter.com/jodyhice
Barry Loudermilk  (R-Ga.) http://twitter.com/Loudermilk2014
Rick W. Allen  (R-Ga.) http://twitter.com/RickAllen
Mark Takai  (D-Hawaii) http://twitter.com/MarkTakai
Bob Dold  (R-Ill.) http://twitter.com/RobertDold
Mike Bost  (R -Ill.) http://twitter.com/RepMikeBost
Rod Blum  (R -Iowa) http://twitter.com/BlumforCongress
David Young  (R -Iowa) http://twitter.com/YoungForIowa
Ralph Abraham  (R -La.) http://twitter.com/abraham_ralph
Garret Graves  (R -La.) http://twitter.com/garretgraves
Bruce Poliquin  (R -Maine) http://twitter.com/BrucePoliquin
Seth Moulton  (D -Mass.) http://twitter.com/sethmoulton
John Moolenaar  (R -Mich.) http://twitter.com/JohnMoolenaar
Mike Bishop  (R -Mich.) http://twitter.com/MikeBishopMI
David Trott  (R -Mich.) http://twitter.com/Trott4Congress
Debbie Dingell  (D -Mich.) http://twitter.com/DebDingell
Brenda Lawrence  (D -Mich.) http://twitter.com/MayorLawrence
Tom Emmer  (R -Minn.) http://twitter.com/tomemmer
Ryan Zinke  (R -Mont.) http://twitter.com/RyanZinke
Brad Ashford  (D -Neb.) http://twitter.com/BradAshford14
Cresent Hardy  (R -Nev.) http://twitter.com/CresentHardy
Frank Guinta  (R -N.H.) http://twitter.com/Guinta4Congress
Tom MacArthur  (R -N.J.) http://twitter.com/TMac4Congress
Bonnie Watson Coleman  (D -N.J.) http://twitter.com/BWatsonColeman
Lee Zeldin  (R -N.Y.) https://twitter.com/leezeldin
Kathleen Rice  (D -N.Y.) http://twitter.com/KathleenRice
Elise Stefanik  (R -N.Y.) http://twitter.com/EliseStefanik
John Katko  (R -N.Y.) http://twitter.com/John_Katko
Mark Walker  (R -N.C.) http://twitter.com/walker4nc
David Rouzer  (R -N.C.) http://twitter.com/davidrouzer
Steve Russell  (R -Okla.) http://twitter.com/SteveRussellOK
Ryan Costello  (R -Pa.) http://twitter.com/RyanACostello
Brendan F. Boyle  (D -Pa.) http://twitter.com/RepBrendanBoyle
John Ratcliffe  (R -Texas) http://twitter.com/ratcliffetx4
Will Hurd  (R -Texas) http://twitter.com/willhurd/
Brian Babin  (R -Texas) http://twitter.com/Babin4Congress
Mia Love  (R -Utah) http://twitter.com/MiaBLove
Don Beyer  (D -Va.) http://twitter.com/DonBeyerVA
Barbara Comstock  (R -Va.) http://twitter.com/BarbaraComstock
Dan Newhouse  (R -Wash.) https://twitter.com/repnewhouse
Alex Mooney  (R -W.Va.) http://twitter.com/MooneyforWV
Evan Jenkins  (R -W.Va.) http://twitter.com/evanjenkinswv
Glenn Grothman  (R -Wisc.) http://twitter.com/GrothmanforWI

 

 

The ‘State’ Of Lobbying

January 13th, 2015 by Matthew Barnes

WITH ALL OF THE ATTENTION lobbyists in Washington, DC receive, lobbying on the state level is often overlooked. Lobbyists who focus their attention on the state level must comply with different regulations than federal lobbyists, which are created on a state-by-state basis. Despite very little change to the regulatory framework for Federal lobbyists, states have taken their own initiative in developing new legislation to regulate lobbying.

On November 4th, 2014, voters in Arkansas approved a constitutional amendment, HJR 1009, which affects the lobbying arena in the state in several ways, including prohibiting lobbyists from “giving gifts to lawmakers under a new “no cup of coffee rule”—so named because there is no allowance for gifts of nominal value, so even a cup of coffee would be a prohibited gift.  The amendment prohibits all gifts from lobbyists and lobbyist employers to the Governor, other statewide elected officials, and members of the General Assembly.” Moreover, as part of the new regulations in Arkansas, “Corporations and labor unions may not make candidate contributions (but may still give to state-registered PACs).”

Similarly, on January 1, 2015 new provisions came into effect in Maryland which focus on the political contributions of government contractors. However, the law also brings changes to the contribution limit for both individuals and business entities.  According to Venable, “an individual or an entity formed for a genuine business or organizational purpose may contribute up to $6,000 per four-year cycle to any one candidate for state or local office, or any one state PAC. The current election cycle began on January 1, 2015, and runs through December 31, 2018. The prior limit was $4,000. There are no longer aggregate contribution limits as a result of a Supreme Court decision in 2014.” Importantly, for the first time, under the new laws the “State Board of Elections is empowered to issue civil penalty citations, on a strict liability basis, for a variety of violations, including failure to maintain a proper bank account and failure to maintain accurate books and records.”

With the regulatory environment constantly shifting in many states, lobbyists who focus on the state level face a constant battle to make sure they remain compliant. However, that battle just might pay off as companies such as Uber turn to state-level lobbying efforts to reach their corporate goals. In Virginia, Uber mounted a successful lobbying campaign after the state attempted to make the company cease all of its operations in the commonwealth in June. According to The Washington Post, “Uber’s approach is brash and, so far, highly effective: It launches in local markets regardless of existing laws or regulations. It aims to build a large customer base as quickly as possible. When challenged, Uber rallies its users to pressure government officials, while unleashing its well-connected lobbyists to influence lawmakers.”

Cheap Oil, Expensive Lobbying

January 7th, 2015 by James Cameron

PLUMMETING OIL PRICES are good news for drivers—and for lobbyists. With oil prices continuing to drop, the Houston Chronicle reports that, although the price drop is hurting drilling companies, the oil industry plans to ramp up lobbying efforts in favor of continued tax breaks and decreased regulation.

The industry argues that these elements are necessary to keep prices low.  The Associated Press reports that Jack Gerard, CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, claims that while the low oil prices will hurt some companies in the short term, the U.S. is on its way to becoming a global leader in oil production as long as it continues to offer the industry tax breaks and no new regulations.

Oil companies are certainly willing to spend to ensure that beneficial policies stay in place.  According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the oil and gas industry spent more than $50 million on lobbying in 2014, and with the Keystone XL pipeline still in limbo, it seems likely that they’ll continue to be big spenders in 2015.

By the same token, the sudden drop in oil prices is actually harming green energy policies that were put in place as a result of high oil prices. The Wall Street Journal notes that the Obama administration spent billions on initiatives to boost sales of electric and hybrid vehicles, along with consumer rail projects, but as gas prices fall, consumers are again returning to trucks and SUVs. Although gas prices are expected to remain low throughout 2015, many of the policies

Given the impact of gas prices on the daily lives of most Americans, it’s no surprise that a sudden fluctuation can throw lawmakers and lobbyists into policy limbo. Whether the steep decline of oil prices will have longer-term policy implications remains to be seen, but both oil companies and  environmental advocates will try to make themselves heard on Capitol Hill.

Lobbyists.info’s Annual “12 Days of Lobbying”

December 16th, 2014 by Matthew Barnes
Lobbyists.info
Lobbyists.info’s Annual “12 Days of Lobbying”
The American Fruit and Vegetable Processors and Growers Coalition may not be able to find you a partridge, but they can definitely point you in the direction of a pear tree as they continue their mission “to educate and represent to Members of Congress and other policy makers about issues important to growers and processors of America’s processed fruit and vegetable industry.”
I’m not sure about turtledoves, but Unilever, the parent company of Dove, has made significant lobbying efforts this year. Unilever has lobbied Congress on a variety of issues including chemicals, agriculture and taxes.
Having a hard time finding those three French hens this year? Look no further than the professionals at the United States Poultry and Egg Association, who will be able to answer any and all of your poultry related questions.
Bill Anaya, Robert C. Jones, Elise Paeffgen and Bruce Pasfield have certainly been busy calling birds. All four have lobbied for Mohawk Industries, Inc. on behalf of Alston & Bird, LLP.
Its five rings may not all be golden, but the Special Olympics, which employs Potomac Strategic Development Company, LLC to lobby on its behalf, sure deserves them for the incredible work they do.
Laurence S.S. Wildgoose II is Sen. Bill Nelson’s (D-Fl.) Director of Scheduling, but with the Senate’s busy schedule I am sure you won’t find him “a-laying” down on the job.
The National Parks Conservation Association lobbies for the protection and preservation of our many fantastic national parks, ensuring all seven swans are able to swim in the pristine Reflecting Pool and Tidal Basin.
The National Milk Producers Federation supports the “eight maids-a-milking” and 31,992 other dairy producers in the United States with the aim of “improving the economic interests of dairy farmers, thus assuring the nation’s consumers an adequate supply of pure, wholesome, and nutritious milk and dairy products.”
Dance/USA seeks to advance the art form of dance by addressing the needs, concerns and interests of professional dance by lobbying on a range of issues from appropriations to taxes. Join them and the nine ladies, and enjoy spending some time dancing.
Leaping to the task, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, LLP lobbies the government on the automotive industry and energy issues for one of its clients, Lord Corporation.
DLA Piper may not be piping out a tune, but if what your true love really needs is help lobbying on a myriad of issues, they have got you covered.
On the 12th day of lobbying, we hope you have a great holiday and enjoy listening to all 12 drummers drumming and all the other musicians whose First Amendment rights and intellectual property The Recording Industry Association of America lobbies to protect.
HAPPY HOLIDAYS from everyone at Lobbyists.info!
For more information on the lobbying industry visit www.Lobbyists.info.