Turf Wars

January 7th, 2016 by Matthew Barnes

Since reports have come out allegedly linking synthetic turf surfaces to toxic substances the industry has begun to fight back, hiring lobbyists to help brief those on the Hill about synthetic turf and its safety. According to The Hill, multiple reports have “found a number of young athletes who contracted cancer that they and some environmental advocates say is linked to the rubber infill, which is frequently made from recycled vehicle tires.” These reports drew the attention of the House Energy and Commerce Committee leading Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and ranking member Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) to write to the EPA in October asking the agency to “evaluate where its scientific work stands in terms of turf infill, and asking whether the EPA’s last study on the matter, finished in 2009, needs updating.”

This issue is of serious concern as The Hill reports there are “more than 12,000 athletic fields use turf in North America, including at high schools, colleges, municipal parks and the stadiums of 13 NFL teams, according to the industry group.” In December the Thomas Burke, the Deputy Assistant Administrator of the EPA responded to Chairman’s Upton’s questions writing, “We have information from a number of limited studies and they do not shoe an elevated health risk from playing on fields with synthetic turf containing tire crumb. However, the studies have various limitations and do not comprehensively address concerns about children’s health risks from exposures to tire crumb.”  Nevertheless, NBC reports other toxicologists such as Dr. Laura Green are more confident in the safety of the tire crumbs saying, “It’s always been true that a carcinogenic gas has been used to make tires, but it’s never been true, never, that once tires are made, once they are in use, and once they are crumb balled that they liberate that or any other carcinogen…There’s zero reason to be concerned that playing on synthetic turf will put your child at risk for cancer,” she added. “It’s simply not true.”

Commenting on the Synthetic Turf Council’s retention of a lobbying firm, Al Garver, President of the Council said, “We utilized Clark Hill in October and November to advise us on the best way to brief key offices on the Hill to ensure they had the most current studies available on crumb rubber infill and to let them know that the industry was available to help in any way it could to support further studies,” according to The Hill.

The lobbying battle over synthetic turf has not just been restricted to the federal level. NBC reports, “Terry Leveille, president of the California-based lobbying firm TL & Associates, helped defeat [California State Sen. Jerry] Hill’s bill in Sacramento. It never got out of committee. At a scrap recycling conference this year, Leveille told industry representatives that he and the Synthetic Turf Council, an industry group, had also lobbied successfully against legislation in Virginia, and deflected a Minnesota bill with “a promise to fund a new $50,000 study.”

LobbyBlog will continue to monitor this issue and report the latest lobbying news.

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Tickets To The Game

December 16th, 2015 by Matthew Barnes

Ever since President George W. Bush signed the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act (HLOGA) into law in 2007, lobbyists have been banned from giving gifts to Members of Congress and their staffs. Moreover, every lobbyist and lobbying entity must now certify under penalty of perjury, twice yearly that she/he/it has read the House and Senate Ethics rules regarding gifts and travel and has not made or directed any gift to any member, officer or employee of the House or Senate. However, the gift rules do include 23 exceptions on the House side and 24 exceptions on the Senate side. One such exception is the exemption of public universities. The Wall Street Journal reports, “University lobbyists alone among Washington’s power players can provide lawmakers and aides tickets to collegiate sporting events.”

With college bowl season fast approaching, this exception is sure to be put to good use, providing universities an edge in the lobbying game and the value of having a member attend a game cannot be overstated. Bryson Morgan, a former congressional ethics investigator said, “A president’s box is a pretty effective place to make a pitch. Getting one-on-one time with a member of Congress is pretty hard. Yet if you give a member of Congress a ticket to a suite, you can get three to four hours of incredibly valuable time.”

According to the gift rules the lawmakers are not supposed to ask for tickets to university sporting events unless they are invited, and should avoid accepting them “repeatedly,” however, according to the Wall Street Journal’s report, this stipulation is often ignored. One such example from the report is featured below.

“‘So sorry for the late notice,’ an aide to Sen. Bill Nelson (D., Fla.) wrote to University of Florida officials on Oct. 15, 2012, a few days before the fourth-ranked Gators hosted the third-ranked University of South Carolina Gamecocks. ‘Would Bill and his son Bill Jr. be able to sit in the President’s Box for the game this weekend (and usual parking at President’s house)?’ Nelson sat in the presidential suite at least seven times between 2012 and 2014, records show. The senator’s spokesman said ‘accepting a college president’s invitation to about two sporting events a year is one way Sen. Nelson expresses his support of the states’ universities.”

Public universities have different policies for giving tickets to lawmakers.  The Wall Street Journal reports, “The University of Florida offers lawmakers blanket invitations to attend as many football games as they wish…The University of Alabama delivers two tickets to the offices of a half-dozen Alabama lawmakers before each game,” and the “Ohio State University doesn’t hand out free tickets, but lawmakers can buy tickets to sold-out games through its lobbying office.”

No matter what how the university takes advantage of this exemption, it clearly provides a unique tool for public university lobbyists to gain access to lawmakers.

For more information on the House and Senate’s ethics rules for gifts and travel check out Lobbyists.info’s “The Lobbying Compliance Handbook” or tune in to the “LD-203 Filing Boot Camp: Compliance Training & Filing Preparation” webinar on January 19, 2016.

12 Days of Lobbying 2015

December 9th, 2015 by Matthew Barnes

People Influencing Technology, Lobbying and Advocacy

December 3rd, 2015 by Matthew Barnes

This year has without a doubt developed some of the strongest connections between the technology and lobbying/advocacy industries. Previously Lobby Blog has discussed the transition of top many government officials and political insiders to tech companies, from the Silicon Valley’s biggest players to start-ups. Moreover, internet companies have tripled their lobbying spending over the last five years, to $47.5 million according to the New York Times. Commemorating this budding relationship D.C. Inno has compiled a list of people and companies in Washington, D.C. who are influencing the technology, lobbying and advocacy industries. Below are a few highlights from the list.

Lindsey Schuh Cortés, BlueLabs – Schuh Cortés is the new CEO of BlueLabs, which does data collection and analytics for political and other campaigns. Founded by President Obama’s original campaign data experts, the company has been growing fast this year, with new team members and new clients rolling in ahead of the big election next year.  Schuh Cortés is responsible for building and capitalizing on that success with tangible results based on the data analytics the company does.

Emily Rasowsky, Women In Tech Campaign – Rasowsky runs the Women in Tech Campaign, launching the All Women in Tech company to help build a community of women in tech and encourage more women to enter the field. She’s been named a WWPR emerging leader and done all of this extraordinary work this while working full time to help Social Driver grow its own social media campaign work and its Pop-Up Innovation Lab.

Gary Shapiro, CTA – Shapiro is president of the Consumer Technology Association (formerly CEA). He’s helped build the group into one of the most influential tech industry organizations in the country, working with more than 2,000 companies to come up with coherent policy goals that the CTA can push for on Capitol Hill. He’s been named one of the most influential lobbyists around by The Hill and sits on national and regional boards promoting innovation and technological solutions to community issues.

Start-Ups Start Lobbying

November 25th, 2015 by Matthew Barnes

The revolving door that ushers the political elite in Washington D.C. from their jobs in the federal government to K-Street has started to face competition in recent years from Silicon Valley. Technology companies of all sizes from start-ups to Silicon Valley’s biggest player have begun to attract the top talent from Washington, D.C. Business Insider reports, “Tech companies are gobbling up executives who have the political clout and connections to help build bridges to D.C.” and that “the gulf that once existed between Silicon Valley and DC is growing smaller.” Below are a couple examples of notable D.C. political insiders who have made the move over to Silicon Valley.

 

  • Jay Carney served as President Obama’s Press Secretary from 2011-2014. He joined Amazon in2015 as Senior Vice President for Global Corporate Affairs.
  • Kevin Martin served as Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission from 2005 to 2009. He joined Facebook in 2015 as its Vice President of Mobile and Global Access Policy.
  • Susan Molinari served as a Republican representative from New York where she stayed for seven years. She joined Google in as Vice President of Policy and Public Relations.
  • David Plouffe served as President Obama’s campaign manager in the 2008 election. He joined Uber in 2014, as Senior Vice President of Policy and Strategy.

The addition of politically connected executives has led to a change in strategy in Silicon Valley. Mashable reports that after years of being behind the curve in Washington, D.C., “Silicon Valley slowly caught on to the traditional way of doing business with the power elite: Google has spent more than $16 million lobbying Congress and the Obama administration already this year, Facebook is up to nearly $8 million and Twitter, which spends a tiny fraction of that, added three outside firms in the last quarter to assist its nascent two-person lobbying shop.” In fact, the technology industry has so thoroughly embraced lobbying that “while total annual spending on lobbying has decreased slightly over the last five years, Internet companies have tripled their lobbying spending, to $47.5 million, during the same period. The industry now spends just a little less than the auto sector,” according to the New York Times.

Lobbying is also not just restricted to the biggest players in Silicon Valley, startups like personal butler service Hello Alfred have also embraced lobbying as an essential aspect of doing business. Marcela Sapone, CEO of Hello Alfred has said, “We are a young company but we also have to make decisions early that are ethical and business-oriented, and that means engaging in Washington early.” Getting involved in lobbying also doesn’t necessarily mean hiring lobbyists. Leaders from Hello Alfred have “appeard on numerous policy panels and have written op-eds. They have been invited to a White House summit event on the future of labor. And Marcela Sapone, the company’s chief executive, has made two trips to Capitol Hill to urge lawmakers, research organizations and the political press to rethink labor laws for the digital age.”

For technology companies lobbying can serve multiple purposes from simply creating good will with those on the Hill to working with lawmakers on policies and regulations. Whatever the goal, according to Ted Ullyot, a former adviser to President George W. Bush, who is now at Andreessen Horowitz, “For our start-ups, the advice we give is to get in early.”

Presidential Race Update

November 18th, 2015 by Matthew Barnes

At Lobby Blog we are always on the search for the latest tools to help government relations professionals with the many different facets of their job, including keeping informed of the latest developments from the 2016 Presidential election cycle. With that in mind, this week we would like to introduce you to the Presidential Race Update from Ballotpedia & Columbia Books. The Presidential Race Update is an expertly curated e-newsletter that provides users with daily updates on 2016 presidential candidates. It keeps users up-to-date on what candidates are saying on the issues, where the candidates are appearing next, the latest poll numbers, and more!

The “Presidential Race Update” can be read across a variety of platforms from your phone to your tablet or laptop and within minutes you can be reaching out to members, donors and staff with information and action plans. The e-newsletter comes with three different delivery options:

Internal Memo

  • Hand curated news stories from the experts at Ballotpedia
  • License to distribute to internal staff (includes up to 50 users)

Custom Branded

  • Hand curated news stories from the experts at Ballotpedia
  • License to distribute to full contact list
  • Branding and design of custom newsletter template

Platinum Distributed

  • Hand curated news stories from the experts at Ballotpedia
  • Daily email distribution of custom branded newsletter to up to 50,000 contacts
  • Branding and design of custom newsletter template
  • Monthly usage reporting

We all know keeping up with all the latest 2016 election news is no easy task. This tool is ideal for anyone fighting a busy schedule and who is struggling to stay up to date on all of the news from the campaign trail. According to one chairman of a 501c4 political organization and long-time political activist, the Presidential Race Update is “Absolutely unique! … Makes it possible in 10 minutes a morning to know exactly the key events in the presidential election as a whole and in each candidate’s camp as well.”

For more information or for any questions on the Presidential Race Update you can go to http://www.presidentialraceupdate.com/, call 888-265-0600, or email info@columbiabooks.com.

Lobby Blog will continue to monitor this space and provide insights into the latest tools to help government relations professionals successfully get the job done.

Scoring State Integrity

November 11th, 2015 by Matthew Barnes

This week Lobby Blog is turning its attention to our 50 states.  The  Center for Public Integrity and Global Integrity have recently released the 2015 State Integrity Investigation, a report that grades the states based on the laws and systems they have in place to deter corruption. The investigation found that “in state after state, open records laws are laced with exemptions, and part-time legislators and agency officials engage in glaring conflicts of interests and cozy relationships with lobbyists while feckless, understaffed watchdogs struggle to enforce laws as porous as honeycombs.”

An example of such a loophole can be found in lobbying compliance changes that Lobby Blog has reported on in the past. When reviewing state regulatory changes for The ‘State’ Of Lobbying,  Lobby Blog came across HJR 1009 in Arkansas, “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.”  The State Integrity Investigation found that lobbyists have been able to circumvent this rule because ‘the prohibition does not apply to “food or drink available at a planned activity to which a specific governmental body is invited,” so lobbyists can buy meals as long as they invite an entire legislative committee.’

The overall results from the investigation found a decline in integrity among the states when compared to the last time the investigation was conducted in 2012. Demonstrating a negative trend in results, Alaska achieved the best grade in the nation, with just a C and only two others stated earned better than a D+. Moreover, the State Integrity Investigation found that “in two-thirds of all states, ethics agencies or committees routinely fail to initiate investigations or impose sanctions when necessary, often because they’re unable to do so without first receiving a complaint.”

The investigation measured hundreds of variables to compile transparency and accountability grades for all 50 states. According to the investigation, “The 2015 grades are based on 245 questions that ask about key indicators of transparency and accountability, looking not only at what the laws say, but also how well they’re enforced or implemented. The “indicators” are divided into 13 categories: public access to information, political financing, electoral oversight, executive accountability, legislative accountability, judicial accountability, state budget processes, state civil service management, procurement, internal auditing, lobbying disclosure, state pension fund management and ethics enforcement agencies.”

To keep up-to-date on the latest rules and regulations for lobbying in all 50 states turn look no further than Lobbyists.info’s State Lobbying Compliance Handbook. It is an action-oriented publication, designed to help you move into states quickly, effectively and without worrying that you’re violating lobbying regulations or using outdated registration or disclosure forms.

Shadow Lobbying and the 2016 Election

November 4th, 2015 by Matthew Barnes

Lobbyists have come to play a significant role supporting many of the 2016 presidential campaigns through direct donations and fundraising. Lobby Blog has previously reported that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton “received more than $600,000 from more than 300 different registered lobbyists and PACs in the first half of 2015” and Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush’s Right to Rise Super PAC has “brought in $523,325 from lobby firms and $282,850 from 107 lobbyists, according to the Federal Election Commission.” However, this may not be the full story. According to Politico only a fraction of the lobbyists who fundraise for campaigns are reported in the mandatory disclosures from campaigns, once again highlighting the issue of the “unlobbyist” and shadow lobbying.

As previously reported by Lobby Blog, unlobbyists are those who participate in lobbying activities without ever formally registering as a lobbyist. According to the Politico report, “A quarter of the “Hillblazers” who bundled $100,000 or more for Clinton work at lobbying firms or public affairs agencies lobby at the state level or otherwise make their living from influencing the government on behalf of special interests, even though they aren’t themselves registered to lobby Congress. For Bush, 58 of the 342 people who raised at least $17,600 are advocates and operatives linked to the influence industry, although they aren’t reported as federal lobbyists.”

In total, when all donations from all professional influencers are added up, Clinton received at least $5.4 million compared to $3.2 million from registered lobbyists disclosed to the FEC, a difference of $2.2 million dollars. Similarly, when examining donations to the Bush campaign Politico found that he received $1.02 million in total from professional influencers, more than double the $408,000 that was reported from registered lobbyists.

Discussing this issue with Politico Matthew Rumsey, a senior policy analyst at the nonpartisan Sunlight Foundation said, “It really speaks to the breadth of the loopholes that exist for D.C. lobbyists: Once you reach a certain point in your career, you never have to register to lobby no matter how much influence you’re exerting.”  Politico underscores this point highlighting Steven W. Farber, president and founding partner of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck. According to the report, “He bundled at least $100,000 for Clinton, so he’s listed as a Hillblazer. But he hasn’t registered as a lobbyist since 2008, although he now employs an army of them.” Lobbyists.info reports that the firm brought in $23,400,000 in lobbying revenue in 2014.

However, not all 2016 presidential candidates have been willing to embrace the support of lobbyists and other professional political influencers. In an interview with Breitbart top Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has said, “I don’t need anybody’s money. I’m not running with anybody’s money. I’m spending my own money. But the lobbyists have — they totally control these politicians. Just take a look, in one of the articles, very recently, I see Bush with the lobbyists. And he’s sitting there with all of these people. They’re totally telling them what to do, like a little puppet. And the same with Hillary, and the same with everybody else.”

As these issue of lobbyists and the 2016 presidential election develop Lobby Blog will continue to monitor the issue and report the latest lobbying news.

The Hastert Scandal and Dickstein Shapiro

October 28th, 2015 by Matthew Barnes

On Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2015 former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) pled guilty to lying to the FBI in a hush-money scheme. According to Fox Hastert agreed to “a deal with federal prosecutors that recommends he serve no more than six months in prison and averting a trial in the case.” It has been widely reported that the payments were meant for an individual as part of an agreement between the individual and Hastert to conceal decades old claims of sexual misconduct.

Hastert was elected Speaker of the House in 1999 after a scandal in the Speaker’s race involving, the Speaker-elect Rep. Bob Livingston (R-La.) in December 1998.  Time reports that after an ad was posted in the Washington Post “offering $1 million to any woman who presented evidence that she had had an affair with a high-ranking government official,” several people came forward say they had affairs with Rep. Livingston. This effectively ended Rep. Livingston’s bid for the Speakership and led to his now infamous announcement “I have on occasion strayed from my marriage.” Following the downfall of Rep. Livingston, Hastert became the clear choice for Speaker. Once elected Speaker of the House, Hastert went on to hold the position for a Republican record of eight years (1999-2007).

After the 2006 election Democrats took control of the House of Representatives leading to Hastert’s decision to resign his seat in the House. The Chicago Tribune reports that “six months after Hastert left Congress, a Washington-based law and lobbying firm, Dickstein Shapiro, announced in May 2008 that Hastert was joining its team as a senior adviser, though he had to wait to become a lobbyist because of a federally mandated cooling-off period.” During his tenure as a lobbyist for Dickstein Hastert was able to grow both his wealth and lobbying reputation, earning the label of “the eclectic lobbyist” from The Center for Responsive Politics.

In May, when Hastert was first indicted he immediately resigned from his position at Dickstein Shapiro, however the damage may have already been done. Still recovering from the loss of several lobbyists to rival firm Greenberg Traurig in the summer of 2014, Hastert was a key figure in Dickstein Shapiro’s plans to rebuild its lobbying practice. However, the Washington Post reports that “five lobbying clients have ended their relationship with Dickstein since July — significant, considering the firm had just 10 lobbying clients on record this year. One of those five clients, Fuels America — a coalition advocating for renewable fuel standards — was Hastert’s client.” This has led Dickstein Shapiro’s chairman Jim Kelly to say, “We are evaluating the strategic direction of our public policy practice…We have a solid group of people upon which to build if we determine additional resources are necessary to serve our clients. Currently, we are happy with our group and the clients we serve.”

Quarter 3 On K Street

October 21st, 2015 by Matthew Barnes

The unpredictability that has come to embody the past month on the Hill, with surprising events such as Speaker Boehner’s (R-Ohio) decision to resign from Congress, appears to have been replicated on K Street during the third quarter producing a mixed bag of Q3 results. Some major firms such as Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, Capitol Counsel and K&L Gates saw reduced fees compared to Q3 2014. According to The Hill, “the third quarter this year brought K&L Gates a 3 percent decrease compared with 2014’s third-quarter numbers. Brownstein’s fees took a 1 percent dip, and Capitol Counsel’s fell 8 percent.” However, this was not a trend across the board. Taking advantage of the Republican Party’s control of Congress, two all-Republican firms saw Q3 increases when compared to the same period last year. CGCN Group and Fierce Government Affairs saw 37% and 11% boosts, respectively.

Moreover, a successful third quarter was not solely limited to Republican aligned firms. The Hill reports that “Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld …took in its highest third-quarter numbers ever. The firm earned $9.73 million in lobbying fees over the last three months, a 10 percent increase compared with the same period last year.”  Similarly, Van Scoyoc Associates, BGR Group and Holland & Knight also all saw modest growth during 2015’s third quarter.

Despite a mixed bag of results for Q3 on K Street, many remain optimistic with a busy winter ahead of Congress including activities related to trade, cybersecurity and the budget. As previously reported by Lobby Blog, the Trans-Pacific Partnership has been a major focus for those on K Street with 56 of the top 100 lobbying spenders since 2008 have lobbied on TPP at least once during that period. According to Stu Van Scoyoc, the president and chief executive at Van Scoyoc Associates “We continue to be optimistic and continue to work with our clients. Despite all the turmoil and all the chaos at the moment, we’ll find the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Below is a list of the third quarter’s top 10 biggest lobbying registrants in terms of revenue and clients in terms of spending as reported by Politico.

Biggest registrants:

  1. U.S. Chamber of Commerce ($16.02 million)
  2. Akin Gump ($9.7M)
  3. National Association of Realtors ($7.52M)
  4. Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck ($6.26M)
  5. Squire Patton Boggs: $6.13M
  6. National Association of Manufacturers ($5.98)
  7. Podesta Group ($5.75)
  8. Van Scoyoc Associates ($5.22M)
  9. U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform ($5.07M)
  10. Holland & Knight: ($5.045M)

Biggest clients:

  1. U.S. Chamber of Commerce ($16.02 million)
  2. National Association of Realtors ($7.52M)
  3. National Association of Manufacturers ($5.98)
  4. U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform ($5.07M)
  5. American Medical Association ($4.28M)
  6. American Bankers Association ($4.26M)
  7. PhRMA ($4.24M)
  8. American Hospital Association ($4.02M)
  9. National Association of Broadcasters ($3.93M)
  10. Google ($3.65)

The Advocacy Day Assistant

October 14th, 2015 by Matthew Barnes

At Lobby Blog we are always on the search for the latest tools to help government relations professionals with the many different facets of their job. One important role government relations professionals can provide is organizing advocacy days/legislative fly-ins on the Hill. For anybody who has organized one of these events, they know it is a painstaking task. To help reduce the stress of running an advocacy day the U.S. Congress Handbook, known for its customizable guides on our members of Congress, which have been a long standing tool for those attending an advocacy day on the Hill, has launched their new Advocacy Day Assistant smartphone app. The app allows users to schedule, coordinate and update Hill meetings with ease, stay in constant contact with advocates, upload talking points, and get real-time feedback throughout an advocacy day.

Joel Poznansky, the publisher of the Original US Congress Handbook has said, “After years of working with clients to create custom advocacy tools with our line of US Congress Handbooks, the natural next step was to develop and app. We’ve partnered with the expert app developers at NWYC and fly-in expert Stephanie Vance of Advocacy Associates to put together the most comprehensive and user friendly advocacy day app available.”

The app is full of features that make it the ideal tool for advocacy days on the Hill. You’ll be able to view congressional profiles with biographies, vote history, committee assignments, recent news articles & links to each member’s social media profile, as well as the ability to research bills. These features can also be customized for each individual user based on their meetings schedule. You’ll also never have to worry about your advocates getting lost in the maze of buildings and hallways on the Hill. The app has built in Google Maps integration, allowing users to navigate the corridors of power with ease.

While on an advocacy day you’ll also be able to keep in constant communication with your advocates using the app’s advocate to advocate messaging. The app can also send real-time schedule updates with push notifications allowing users to update advocates about any last minute meeting changes. Moreover, you’ll be able to stay in touch with advocates and receive feedback from them after the advocacy day through post fly-in surveys with push notifications.

Like the U.S. Congress Handbook, the app is also highly customizable. You can customize the look and feel of your app using one of four template options, create a custom splash page for your organization, add your logo and branding within the app, provide space for advertisers & sponsors, pre-load customized hashtags for tweeting, and even upload up to 20 custom documents for your advocates including: talking points, event schedules, handouts, etc.

Utilizing powerful tools like the Advocacy Day Assistant can help to greatly improve an advocate’s experience and the overall success of an advocacy day, while greatly reducing the stress of organizing such an event. Lobby Blog will continue to monitor this space and provide insights into the latest tools to help government relations professionals successfully get the job done.

Trans-Pacific Partnership – Big Business for Lobbyists

October 7th, 2015 by Matthew Barnes

After years of intense negotiations a deal between the U.S., Japan and 10 Pacific Rim nations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement was finalized on Monday, Oct. 1, 2015. The New York Times reports that for “Mr. Obama the accord could be a legacy-making achievement, drawing together countries representing two-fifths of the global economy, from Canada and Chile to Japan and Australia, into a web of common rules governing trans-Pacific commerce. It is the capstone both of his economic agenda to expand exports and of his foreign policy “rebalance” toward closer relations with fast-growing eastern Asia, after years of American preoccupation with the Middle East and North Africa.”

However, the work on the trade agreement is far from over as the deal must first be sent to Congress to consider, likely in early 2016. President Obama is required to give Congress a legally mandated 90-day notice that he intends to sign the deal. Gaining support from Congress will be no easy feat for President Obama who will have to assemble a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers with opposition to TPP coming from both Democrats and Republicans. Senator and Democratic presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders has already come out against the trade agreement saying, “”I am disappointed but not surprised by the decision to move forward on the disastrous Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement that will hurt consumers and cost American jobs,” according to Politico.  Similarly, Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump has opposed TPP saying, “The only entities to benefit from this trade deal will be other countries, particularly China and Japan, and big corporations in America,” reports Breitbart. President Obama relied on support of a similar bipartisan coalition, leaning heavily on Republicans, to grant him fast-track trade authority, which enables the accord to be voted on in a simple up-or-down vote without threat of amendments or filibusters.

Since negotiations began the Trans-Pacific Partnership has been a major focus for those on K Street. According to a report by Open Secrets, “Clients who reported lobbying on TPP accounted for nearly thirty percent of all lobby spending. And a lot of that work was concentrated among Washington’s power players: 56 of the top 100 spenders since 2008 lobbied on TPP at least once during that period.” Moreover, Open Secrets reports that since 2008 when the negotiations began, “487 clients paid lobbyists to meet with or contact lawmakers and administration officials to discuss the trade pact” and that TPP was “mentioned 4,875 times in lobbying filings since 2008,” not including third-quarter 2015 lobbying reports, which are due to Congress on Oct. 20 and could further increase this figure.

As Congress considers TPP lobbying will continue to play a significant role for sides both supporting and opposing the trade agreement and Lobby Blog will continue to monitor the results of these efforts.

Boehner’s Departure Felt on K Street

September 30th, 2015 by Matthew Barnes

On Friday, September 25, 2015 Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) made the surprise announcement that he plans to resign from the U.S. House of Representatives at the end of October, not only sending shockwaves throughout the Capitol, but also down K Street. Such was the surprise of Boehner’s announcement that the Minority Leader, Representative Nancy Pelosi, reportedly “learned about Mr. Boehner’s resignation when she read a breaking news alert on a staff member’s phone.”

Following Speaker Boehner’s announcement the National Corn Growers Association president Chip Bowling released a statement saying,  “We are grateful for Speaker Boehner’s leadership in so many areas, including service on the House Agriculture Committee, and his work for a more transparent and productive Congress.” Other lobbyists, such as Gary Shapiro, the president of the Consumer Electronics Association, shared their reactions via social media tweeting, “Boehner resigning. Sad. Decent honorable man in a near impossible job.”

Many up and down K Street are lamenting Boehner’s retirement. Roll Call reports, “He [Boehner] had a very close relationship with K Street —  that’s just kind of how it is,” said John Feehery, a former House GOP aide who worked for Boehner’s predecessor, J. Dennis Hastert, and is now a lobbyist. “McCarthy’s got a lot of good contacts on K Street, too.”

Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is considered to be the most likely Representative to take over as the Speaker of the House, the top position in the House and fourth in the line of succession to the presidency. According to Sam Geduldig, a partner at the CGCN Group and former senior Boehner aide, “Boehner will absorb criticism for whatever deal is cut, in order for the Republicans to have a better opportunity to win the White House in 2016, and give McCarthy the fresh start he needs to be effective.”

Politico Influence reports that the departure of Speaker Boehner has provided the opportunity for some of his senior staffers to make the move over to K Street, with some already in early discussions. “Top picks include chief of staff Mike Sommers, floor director Anne Bradbury, and policy director David Stewart, according to a PI tipster. Assistants to the speaker for policy Brad Baileyand Cindy Herrle, assistant floor director Lydia Calio, and member services director Trevor Kolegoare also being discussed.”

 

Pope Francis, President Obama and the Catholic Lobby

September 23rd, 2015 by Matthew Barnes

The arrival of Pope Francis in Washington, D.C. has been one of the most anticipated events in recent memory. Many thousands of people are expected to gather across the city to see and hear the head of the Catholic Church in his first ever visit to the United States. The excitement for Pope Francis extends across the city and into the chambers of congress where the pope will address members of our legislature before a joint session on Thursday. Anticipation levels are so high that congressional leadership will employ some extraordinary measures during the pope’s visit. To enforce discipline among the members, “each party is assembling teams of lawmakers to essentially act as blocking tackles, willing to restrain any of their colleagues intent on trying to reach out for a papal touch as he walks onto the floor of the House. And after the historic speech, the doors to the cloakrooms and the hallways will be blocked — and in some cases, locked — to prevent lawmakers from leaving the chamber for perhaps half an hour, until Francis has appeared on a West Front balcony to greet the ticketed throng and then departed the Hill by motorcade” reports Roll Call.

Moreover, the Washington Post reports that the Pope’s U.S. visit will produce one of the largest and most extensive security operations in U.S. history. According to the Post, “The U.S. Secret Service is in charge of coordinating the massive intergovernmental operation on counterterrorism operations, crowd management, crisis response and air and vehicle traffic control. The FBI, Capitol Police, Coast Guard, Pentagon and Federal Emergency Management Agency are closely involved in the planning, along with local police departments.”

On Wednesday, in his first full day in Washington, D.C., the pope will start the day with a welcoming from President Obama at the White House. The president and Pope Francis have a strong working relationship and share similar views in some key policy areas. U.S. News reports, “Both want governments to increase their commitments to the poor and the unfortunate, such as immigrants. And Francis supports reducing lengthy prison sentences for people convicted of lesser offenses, which is part of Obama’s agenda. Francis also backs Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran.”

The two world leaders also share very similar views on climate change, which has had a significant impact on the influential Catholic lobby in the United States. The Washington Post reports, “In August, when President Obama took the podium in the East Room to announce his plan to curb greenhouse gas emissions, standing behind him was Sister Joan Marie Steadman, head of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the nation’s largest group of Catholic nun leaders.” In speech President Obama “thanked her [Sister Joan Marie Steadman] for helping ‘rally Catholic women across America to take on climate.’”

In an interesting article titled, “Catholic lobby flexes its muscle ahead of Pope Francis’s visit” the Washington Post profiles the Catholic lobby in the United States and it is well worth a read while enjoying Pope Francis’ historic visit.

A Salty Reaction to Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act Reauthorization

September 16th, 2015 by Matthew Barnes

With the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act up for re-authorization this month the salt lobby has reignited the battle over national sodium standards for school meals. The aforementioned act requires schools to reduce “per-lunch maximum sodium levels from 1,230 milligrams in elementary school, 1,360 mg in middle school and 1,420 in high school to 935, 1,035 and 1,080, respectively, by 2017. They would be lowered again to 640, 710 and 740 by 2022” according to The Hill.

The reduction of sodium in school meals is a part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative. The goals of the First Lady’s initiative are “solving the challenge of childhood obesity within a generation, so that children born today will grow up healthier and able to pursue their dreams. Combining comprehensive strategies with common sense, Let’s Move! is about putting children on the path to a healthy future during their earliest months and years. Giving parents helpful information and fostering environments that support healthy choices. Providing healthier foods in our schools. Ensuring that every family has access to healthy, affordable food. And, helping kids become more physically active.”

However, leaders from the salt industry dispute the science behind reducing sodium levels. Lori Roman, the president of the Salt Institute has said, “There is absolutely no scientific basis for any population-wide sodium reduction strategy…Studies show, left to ourselves, we will naturally seek out the safe range. What I worry about is the captive people — the kids in schools, who are getting more than one meal a day or maybe one of their only meals of the day, and elderly people in nursing homes, who are put on low-sodium diets for no reason,” reports The Hill.

Furthermore, in a statement to The Hill, School Nutrition Association (SNA), President Jean Ronnei has said, “Schools are committed to reducing the sodium in school meals and snacks, but the later sodium reduction mandates are unrealistic for schools, let alone families, and will force healthy choices off the menu.”

Complicating re-authorization, in March Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) introduced S.1146, the Healthy School Meals Flexibility Act which would “prohibit the Department of Agriculture (USDA) from implementing any regulation that would require a reduction in the quantity of sodium contained in federally reimbursed meals, foods, and snacks sold in schools below specified July 2014 maximum levels allowed in school breakfasts for school year 2014-2015.” However, Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) is working to finish the re-authorization package of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act for a committee markup on Thursday.