2013 in 12 Posts

January 15th, 2014 by Geoffrey Lyons

2013 WAS AN eventful year for K St.  Two hours after the ball dropped on Times Square, the Senate averted dropping the ball on the country by passing a fiscal cliff compromise.  Yet the deal only kicked the proverbial can and did nothing to alleviate the preceding months’ political paralysis, which lobbyists blamed for their abysmal first quarter expenditures.

Throughout the year, different lobbies got more aggressive when the time was ripe: pro- and anti-gun lobbies in the wake of Sandy Hook, for example, and pro- and anti-marijuana lobbies in response to shifting public opinion on pot.  Even animal welfare groups came out of the woodwork when a bill was on the table to crack down on the breeding of big cats.

Popular tech companies continued their K St. colonization.  Twitter hired a lobbyist in August; Yelp in October.  (In fact, I write this barely a week after Snapchat snagged their own lobbyists from Heather Podesta).  The Yelp hire was announced ten days into the third-longest government shutdown in U.S. history, which predictably exasperated lobbyists.

Finally, some lobbyists were punished for their negligence.  Biassi Business Services Inc. was fined $33 million for failing to submit 124 compliance forms, and two men in Chicago were prosecuted for lobbying on behalf of Robert Mugabe.

Much is left out of this Cliff Notes version of the year in review.  To help fill some of the gaps, here’s 2013 in 12 LobbyBlog posts:

January – GW Professor David Rehr kicks off the New Year with some advice to lobbyists.

February – A graduate student at the University of Michigan argues against the idea that lobbying is inherently unethical.

March – Amy Showalter on “The One Thing You Aren’t (But Should Be) Thinking About When Hiring a Lobbyist.”

April – A disastrous first quarter has everyone talking.

May – A lobby battle kindles over cats.

June – In vino controversy: The first wine consumer advocacy group launches.

July – The world’s richest man leads an unpopular lobbying campaign.

August – Whoops: Chicago men caught lobbying for Robert Mugabe.

September – POLITICO: “Can we see your lobbying records?” CIA: “Absolutely not.”

October – So there’s no government.  Did K St. shut down too?

November – Who’s the best lobbyist? LobbyBlog interviews The Hill.

December – Roses are red, red tape is too: House Ethics dabbles in poetry.

Yelp Gives Lobbying Five Stars

January 10th, 2014 by James Cameron

IT’S UNDERSTOOD WITHIN the beltway that to remain successful, companies should lobby. As Apple learned the hard way, not having friends in Washington can backfire when the political winds are unfavorable. That’s a lesson fellow tech company Yelp has taken to heart, as they’ve dramatically boosted their Washington lobbying presence in the last few months.

Before this fall, it seemed as though Yelp didn’t think much of having advocates on the Hill, but that’s rapidly changing. In October, The Hill reported that the tech company hired its first lobbyist in Laurent Crenshaw, a former aide to Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) on the House Oversight Committee.

Unlike fellow tech companies like Google and Facebook, both of which have had a lobbying presence on Capitol Hill for years, Yelp is late to the lobbying game. But they seem intent on making up for lost time. Ars Technica reports that Yelp registered its first PAC with the Federal Election Commission on December 31st, a sure sign that the company intends to step into the influence game.

So on what issues will Yelp focus its lobbying efforts? As The Hill notes, Yelp depends on user-generated reviews, so it must ensure that it can host negative reviews of businesses without being vulnerable to libel suits. Further, Yelp is seeking the creation of a federal anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuits against public participation) law. Supporters of the bill argue that such lawsuits are used to intimidate users of companies such as Yelp who post negative reviews of businesses. By supporting an anti-SLAPP bill, Yelp would ensure that its livelihood (namely user reviews) is protected.

Of course, as The Huffington Post notes, Yelp will also likely lobby on many of the same issues that Facebook and Google have backed, in particular the Innovation Act, which seeks to curtail patent trolls and which passed the House of Representatives last month.

Will Yelp’s efforts pay off?  History suggests that they will. As The Sunlight Foundation found in 2012, companies who lobby do better than companies that don’t, and with Apple’s advocacy face plant fresh in Silicon Valley’s mind, it seems likely that other tech companies will take Yelp’s lead.

Do Expenditures Matter?

January 8th, 2014 by Geoffrey Lyons

“Q3 LOBBYING EXPENDITURES DOWN,” “Lobbing Spending to Rebound in 2014,” “K St. Outlays Dip in December,” – such headlines splash across the pages of Washington-based newspapers. It has become so routine to discuss the business of lobbying exclusively in these terms that one feels the itch to challenge convention and to pose the following question: can expenditures stand alone as a reliable measure of advocacy’s vitality?

The answer is obviously no, which most people with a critical eye on Washington lobbying recognize . The shrewd reporter will temper his headline with subtler analysis, explaining, for instance, how the de-registration phenomenon (so frequently discussed in this blog) distorts the data, and supplying opinions of industry leaders apt to tell a story that contradicts the numbers.

Yet the appeal to quarterly spending has become so common, has sunk so deeply into the collective consciousness, that it may be corroding our understanding of how lobbying really functions. Firstly, much as money matters on K St., success is often rooted in the intangibles. Making new contacts, for example, and cultivating existing ones. These things often precede spending both in time and in importance, and they’re difficult, if impossible, to measure.

Secondly, even if spending were as important as it’s typically portrayed, it doesn’t follow that it’s best divided into neat three-month and one-year increments, as it is now by virtue of disclosure requirements. Some issues take years to appear on the legislative calendar–it’d be ludicrous to claim that everything is on the same timetable. In fact, the only thing that’s more ludicrous is to assume this is the case, which is precisely the current problem.

Finally, a lobbyists’ success in Washington is strictly bounded by the political environment in which he works. To get something through committee may be a small victory one year and a large one the next. By definition, a “do-nothing Congress” is the sort of setup that renders doing anything a grand success. So, to impose an overworked phrase on the reader, “it’s all relative”–especially in Washington.

Much of this is common knowledge within the beltway. Yet even reminding oneself of what one already knows can be a useful defense against lazy thinking, especially that which tends to overemphasizes the importance of something.  And if anything at all tends to be overemphasized by the coterie of reporters covering Washington lobbying (great as they are), it’s the importance of lobbying expenditures.  They just don’t matter that much.

Lobbyists as “Strategic Advisers”

January 3rd, 2014 by Geoffrey Lyons

IN TUESDAY’S New York Times, opinion writer Thomas Edsall wrote about the changing face of lobbying since the passage of HLOGA, echoing many themes that have recently appeared on this blog.  On earmarks, for example, Edsall wrote that “…the lobbying firm Cassidy and Associates has paid a heavy price for the earmark ban.”  LobbyBlog had previously asserted that “for Cassidy and others, losing earmarks was like losing the ground on which they stood.”  Edsall also cited a recent study that used Lobbyists.info data:   “Using LaPira’s reasoning, total spending to influence legislative and regulatory outcomes in 2012 doubled from $3.1 billion to $6.7 billion.”  LobbyBlog had, of course, cited the same study: “The current figure, which only accounts for legally disclosed spending, is $3.31 billion.  LaPira estimates that over twice that – an eye-watering $6.7 billion – was actually spent last year.”  (For the record, $3.31 (not $3.1) billion is the correct figure).

If these excerpts are indications that Edsall is a fan of this blog, then your humble bloggers are pleased.  If, more likely, they merely highlight the general consensus among the few of us who write about lobbying that certain undeniable trends are reshaping the business, then your humble bloggers are no less pleased.  This is mostly because Edsall casts refreshing new light on the phenomenon of de-registration to supplement the old arguments about lobbying drifting into the shadows, or the inaccuracy of disclosure numbers (Edsall: “If you look at the numbers, it may seem that lobbying is in decline, but it isn’t; it’s just taking different forms.”  LobbyBlog: “A decline in reported lobbying is not always synonymous with a decline in lobbying.”)

For example, most commentaries on de-registration or the “driving underground” of a formerly functioning disclosure framework don’t even attempt to explain what these newly underground lobbyists are doing with themselves.  Edsall’s, on the other hand, focuses entirely upon this point.  “The action has shifted,” he writes, “to what is known in the business as strategic advice: how to convince and mobilize voters and opinion elites in support of a client’s agenda.”  This description demands greater clarity, which Edsall is quick to supply:

So what does this new strategic adviser actually do? He or she can plan out a legislative campaign or a drive to affect the implementation of regulation, determine which officials and agencies must be dealt with, and propose potential coalition partners….Interestingly, all this can be done without making direct contact with elected officials, congressional aides or top-ranked department and agency appointees and employees. This arms-length approach permits strategic advisers to avoid lobbying registration and reporting requirements.

Something is striking about the idea that “…all this can be done without making direct contact with elected officials….”  If this is so, are we still talking about lobbying?  The case can be made here that if the “unlobbyist” is refraining from the fundamental activities that define lobbying, then maybe lobbyists aren’t being driven underground but rather driven out.  Even if Edsall doesn’t make direct appeal to this point, he at least provokes one to explore it, and to explore lobbying’s future, rather than dwell on its present.   The future of lobbying: that, alas, is for another blog post.  Or, if he gets to it first, another article by Thomas Edsall.

Ho Ho House Gift Ban

December 20th, 2013 by James Cameron

THE HOUSE ETHICS COMMITTEE wants to ensure that holiday cheer doesn’t get to the heads of our nation’s representatives. On December 4th, it released a memo reminding members and staffers that the ban on gifts applies “at all times, even during the holiday season”. But the memo isn’t all rules and regulations: in a whimsical twist, the Committee included a lengthy holiday-themed poem. It won’t make current U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey worry for her job, but below are some of the better stanzas:

It’s the holiday season, so be of good cheer,
For soon there’ll be recess and very few here.
So let us remind you, as gifts come your way,
Please check with Ethics so you don’t go astray.

A government gift—state, local or fed?
You can accept it like the gift exception said.
The holiday gift from a foreign delegation?
If less than $350, cheers to international cooperation.

Got a gift not covered by the rules we’ve quoted?
Please call or write us, a waiver may be floated.
Getting married? A baby? On our Website you’ll find
A gift waiver form for your peace of mind.

For the whole poem, scroll to the bottom of the House memo.

As the poem points out, there are 23 exceptions to the House ban on gifts (and another 24 on the Senate side, equaling a whopping 47 exceptions).  So all is not lost for for lawmakers and staffers worried about accepting gifts, and, for that matter, lobbyists willing to give them.

New Regulations to Shake Up Nonprofit Advocacy

December 9th, 2013 by Geoffrey Lyons

IT HAS BEEN over half a century since restrictions on tax-exempt 501(c)4 organizations – defined broadly as civic leagues and groups whose primary function is to “promote social welfare” – were spelled out in detail. It was then, in 1959, that the IRS modified “social welfare” to exclude “direct or indirect participation or intervention in political campaigns.”  Since modern (c)4′s must play by the rules lest they relinquish their tax free privileges, it seems on the face of it that they would avoid meddling in politics.

But everyone knows this isn’t the case. Crossroads GPS, the (c)4 arm of Karl Rove’s American Crossroads, is a case in point. The conservative advocacy group spent over $213,000 on federal elections last year. How, one might ask, is that permissible? Check the fine print: According to the IRS, “an organization that primarily engages in activities that promote social welfare will be considered under the current regulations to be operating exclusively for the promotion of social welfare.” It’s easy to engage “exclusively” in something when the meaning of the word is watered down beyond recognition. According to the Washington Post, tax lawyers have taken all of this to mean that (c)4′s can keep their tax status as long as they spend at least 51 percent of their resources on social welfare.

Now, nearly 55 years since the issue was last dealt with in depth, the IRS is proposing clearer boundaries for political activities that should not be considered social welfare. An outline released just two weeks ago proposing the rules changes is considered by most experts to be a significant first step, signalling what’s likely to result in drastic revisions to current practice. Still, some are skeptical about the potential outcome, claiming that so-called “dark money” will simply filter out of (c)4′s and into other 501(c)s, such as (c)6′s. Others, mostly on the right, call the proposal a political move, the latest in an “unfortunate pattern” that began with the IRS’s targeting of conservative grassroots advocacy groups.  Whichever one’s take on the matter, (c)4′s are inevitably in for the makeover of a lifetime.

Food Fight: Major Crop Associations Divided Over Farm Bill Subsidies

December 5th, 2013 by James Cameron

ONE MIGHT ASSUME that agricultural associations would find common cause in the passage of a new farm bill.  But as POLITICO reports, the most prominent cash crop growers—including those growing corn, soybeans, rice, and cotton—are butting heads over their share of limited subsidies, and it’s putting the new bill in peril.

Part of the reason for this is that there’s far less money to go around than in previous farm bills, and lobbyists for each crop are at each other’s throats over the limited funds. Further, as The Hill reports, both Democrats and Republicans on the House Agriculture Committee insist on basing subsidies on what farmers actually plant, rather than on historical crop yields.

Also contributing to the fractious (and possibly self-defeating) relationship between commodity interest groups is the fact that there isn’t a trade association with enough power to unite the warring factions.  Bob Stallman, President of the American Farm Bureau Federation, said that AFBF will “do what it can to help close ranks on any remaining issues – for the good of the whole of American agriculture,” but so far growers remain divided.

The good news?  For one, as The Hill notes, the farm bill won’t automatically die if a deal isn’t reached by the end of the year.  This leaves open the possibility that a deal is struck before Christmas, with a vote coming in January.  Indeed, Congress is under pressure to pass a new farm bill by 2014, when current subsidies for milk would expire, causing dairy prices to rise.

A lot is at stake for both agricultural associations and Congress in the weeks leading up to Christmas.  A deal may get done eventually, but it’s clear that the rival associations aren’t doing themselves any favors by remaining at odds.  Many swords must be turned to plowshares before there’s reconciliation in the farming community.

Lobbyists.info Data Reveal $3.6 Billion in Undisclosed Expenditures

November 27th, 2013 by Geoffrey Lyons

IT’S WELL KNOWN within the beltway (and probably suspected from outside it) that most lobbying activity is off the record, hidden from the public eye.  When the GAO finds in its annual audit of lobbying disclosure reports that, for instance, 97 percent of lobbyists reported their income and expenses in 2012, the few of us who read such banal compositions have to chuckle, as if to say “yeah, 97 percent of registered lobbyists.”

It’s a plain fact that the so-called “influence industry” isn’t only comprised of registered lobbyists, and that recorded expenditures only make up a portion of what lobbyists are actually spending.  The rest of this money remains “dark,” “underground,” or whichever nefarious adjective fits the occasion.  But has anyone ever wondered how much is actually hidden?

Political Science Professor Tim LaPira has.  In his latest blog post for the Sunlight Foundation, LaPira takes Lobbyists.info data to estimate total lobbying expenditures in 2012. The current figure, which only accounts for legally disclosed spending, is $3.31 billion.  LaPira estimates that over twice that – an eye-watering $6.7 billion – was actually spent last year.

The magnitude of $6.7 billion is generously put into context:

Let’s put that number in perspective: For every one member of Congress, the influence industry produces about $12.5 million in lobbying. By comparison, the average 2012 budget for member [sic.] of the House of Representative’s office was only $1.3 million.  So, in 2012—a presidential election year, in a down economy, during arguably the least productive Congress ever—“government relaters” accounted for more than nine times the typical House member’s official operating expenses.

Whether LaPira’s findings are accurate is unknowable.  His calculations rely on the unfalsifiable assumption that lobbyists operating outside of the disclosure framework – “stealth” lobbyists, as he calls them – are spending just as much as their compliant peers.  Still, if LaPira’s estimate were off by as much as $2 billion, there remain billions that are being spent unaccountably and with insouciance for the law.  That’s concerning.

A Casino Divided: Adelson, AGA Split on Online Gambling

November 21st, 2013 by James Cameron

AT FIRST GLANCE, online gambling seems a no-brainer for the gaming industry.  Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson disagrees.  The Washington Post reports that Adelson, one of the world’s richest men, is launching a public campaign against it, even as the wind appears to be blowing in the other direction.  Three states—Delaware, Nevada, and New Jersey—have already legalized it, and the Post expects that a dozen more will soon follow.  Further, The Hill notes that the American Gaming Association has thrown its full support behind it.

If federally legalized, online gambling is projected to generate more than 50 billion dollars in revenue, why, then, is Adelson so adamantly against what would appear to be a lucrative business for the gaming industry?  The reason, it seems, is at least partly ideological.  Per Forbes, he is pushing the idea that Internet gambling is a danger to both children and gambling addicts, and according to The Post, he is passionate about the issue.

Is he likely to succeed, despite staunch opposition from the AGA?  It’s probably too early to tell, but Adelson’s influence isn’t being taken lightly.  The Hill reports that gaming industry leaders convened in Washington this past Tuesday to establish a strategy to counter his crusade.  The industry’s concern isn’t without reason: Adelson donated a record-breaking $100 million to GOP candidates in the 2012 election cycle, and the Washington Post reports that he has hired Patton Boggs and Husch Blackwell to lobby in favor of an online gambling ban.  He has also upped the ante by hiring several prominent former politicians to co-chair his anti-Internet gambling coalition, including former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb (D), former Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), and former New York governor George Pataki (R).

Although it’s anyone’s guess whether Adelson’s all-in effort will succeed, his wealth and determination against a united AGA means that the lobbying fight over online gambling has more than just a few more rounds of bets.

How Earmarks Affect Lobbying

November 19th, 2013 by Geoffrey Lyons

FOR EACH OF the three years since earmarks were outlawed by Congress, total lobbying expenditures have diminished.  Other factors are surely at play, not least of which is congressional gridlock.  The recent government shutdown, for example, kept many lobbyists entirely out of the fray.  But the earmark moratorium has dealt a unique blow to the influence industry, one that simply cannot be gainsaid.

The most obvious reason for this is that the absence of earmarks, long used as bargaining chips, permits less opportunity for leverage in the political arena.  Earlier this month, former Rep. George Nethercutt (R. Wash.), an opponent of the ban, wrote in a blog post for The Hill that an “unintended consequence” of banning earmarks is the creation of “purist legislators who largely disdain compromise” and “resist seniority.” For lobbyists, these members would become off limits, thus narrowing the playing field.  (A retort to Nethercutt’s argument can be found here).  Jim Dyer of Podesta has gone so far as to say that lobbying will never be the same again. “Opponents of earmarks, they won,” Dyer told Roll Call. “And look what they got: complete paralysis.”

But some lobbying firms have lost more than just a tool for leverage–they’ve lost significant business.  Cassidy & Associates is an example of a firm, cited by Roll Call’s Kate Ackley, that “pioneered the dash for earmarks,” and thus relied heavily on their existence.  For Cassidy and others, losing earmarks was like losing the ground on which they stood:

[Cassidy] had the highest grossing fees (more than $27 million) back in 2000 as measured by the Lobbying Disclosure Act. Last year, Cassidy reported about $15.5 million….In December 2010, on the cusp of the earmark moratorium, the firm restructured and laid off about a dozen employees.

So while the earmark debate still rages, doing its damage to Republican unity (see here and here), lobbyists of both parties are left weakened in its wake, forced to search for alternatives to a process they’ve spent years to master.  Whether or not a ban on earmarks is good for the country is still very much in question.  To doubt its effect on Washington lobbying is to ignore plain facts.

K St., Meet Pakistan

November 15th, 2013 by James Cameron

EVEN FOR COUNTRIES with troubled relations with the United States, investing in lobbying can pay dividends. That’s why, as The Hill reports, it’s likely that Pakistan will hire a lobbying firm soon after being without representation on K St. since July 31, when Locke Lord Strategies terminated its contract with the country.

Pakistan and the United States have had an uneasy relationship since Bin Laden was killed in Abbottabad in May 2011. The discovery of the infamous terrorist leader living in comfort near Pakistan’s capitol city put a strain on the United States’ trust in the country. By the same token, the Pakistani government blasted the raid as an unauthorized military action on Pakistani soil without the government’s knowledge or approval.

Despite the frosty alliance between the two countries, The Sunlight Foundation notes that last month, the United States was preparing to unfreeze approximately $1.6 billion in aid that had been on hold since the Bin Laden raid, but Congress remains  wary of being seen as supporting Pakistan. As a former Pakistani government official notes in The Hill’s article, “Unless Pakistan mounts a major lobbying effort, it will be difficult to turn the opinions on the Hill around.”

Have renewed lobbying efforts by other countries paid off? For Egypt, it’s too early to tell. Last month, Egypt hired the Glover Park Group after the United States put a freeze on military aid to the troubled nation. The hire comes after more than a year-long hiatus without K St. representation, during which time Egypt’s favorability rating has plummeted in the United States.  While this doesn’t prove that hiring a lobbyists automatically earns approval, doing so certainly couldn’t hurt, especially in Pakistan’s case.

How to Become an Ambassador

November 12th, 2013 by Geoffrey Lyons

IN RETROSPECT, “you get what you pay for” is an apt slogan for the 2012 presidential election.  A $100 donation to Obama’s campaign was repaid with an automated thank-you email. Fifty times that earned a plate at a fundraiser attended by the president himself.  Ten times that could result in some presidential face time.  Now take the product ($50,000), double it, bundle in an additional half million, and you’ve got yourself an ambassadorship.  This is according to Open Secrets blogger Brandon Conradis, who recently explored the giving history of actress Colleen Bradley Bell, the newly nominated Ambassador to Hungary.

But Bell isn’t the only one with star power reaping rewards for political fidelity.  Conradis names three other Tinseltown denizens remunerated with ambassadorships: James Costos (Spain), Charles Rivkin (France), and Nicole Avant (the Bahamas).  “You get what you pay for,” indeed—such words could be scrawled on the White House gates.  Better yet, there’s a phrase more familiar to our history: “To the victor belong the spoils.”

FEC Weighs in on Bitcoin

November 8th, 2013 by Geoffrey Lyons

ATTORNEYS AT THE Federal Election Commission released an advisory opinion yesterday approving Bitcoin, an electronic currency, as a legitimate form of in-kind contribution.  The draft opinion is a direct response to a request made in August by the Conservative Action Fund (CAF), which sought approval for the use of bitcoins in political fundraising.  CAF essentially wanted to know two things: firstly, “whether it may accept Bitcoins as contributions from individuals otherwise lawfully able to contribute,” and, secondly, “whether CAF may then itself contribute, sell, or directly spend these Bitcoins.”

The FEC has responded with a yes and a no.  Yes, bitcoins may be accepted as a form of contribution; but no, they may not be spent in turn.  In the attorneys’ own words:

The Commission concludes that CAF may accept Bitcoins as in-kind contributions under valuation, reporting, and disbursement procedures, as described below. CAF may not, however, make disbursements using Bitcoins. Instead CAF must sell its Bitcoins and deposit the proceeds in its campaign depositories before using the funds.

One can learn about the arguments for and against the use of Bitcoin in politics here.

Top Lobbyists of 2013

November 1st, 2013 by Geoffrey Lyons

THE HILL HAS  just unveiled it’s annual “Top Lobbyists” list, and LobbyBlog seized the opportunity, as it did last year, to speak with its wearied compiler-in-chief, Business & Lobbying Editor Dustin Weaver.  It did not go unnoticed that the short time Weaver spared for these questions came at the expense of an impending print deadline, so many thanks are owed.  Any typographical errors in the latest print edition of The Hill can be blamed squarely on LobbyBlog.

LobbyBlog: Only two people are new to the list of top corporate lobbyists. Does this reflect the difficulty of breaking into corporate lobbying in Washington?

Dustin Weaver: It reflects the fact that corporations don’t like to talk about their lobbying. The people who work for them usually operate behind the scenes and aren’t seeking to publicize their work.

LB: The premise to last year’s list read that 2012 “hasn’t been the best year for K Street…” How has 2013 been?

DW: It’s shaping up as another down year. Most firms are treading water when it comes to revenue, and there’s not much hope of things getting better before the midterm elections. Gridlock in Congress is the new normal, and it’s making it harder for lobbyists to drum up business.

LB: What key characteristics distinguish the lobbyists who make the list from those who don’t? What is it that makes them so influential?

DW: Influence, like charisma, is one of those things that can’t be quantified; you know it when you see it. Some of the Top Lobbyists are masters of policy, others are great at building relationships. Some have great access, while others shape the debate using grassroots organizing. People rise to the top in different ways.

LB: One of last year’s big trends was the growth in the number of tech companies hiring lobbyists – Twitter, for example. Yelp just hired a lobbyist earlier this month. Is this an ongoing trend?

DW: Tech is the new boom industry, and their growing lobbying presence reflects that. The bigger companies like Google and Facebook get, the more lobbying help they need in Washington.

LB: Here’s an excerpt from Mark Leibovich’s This Town, which received a lot of buzz this year: “In 1974, 3 percent of retiring members of Congress became lobbyists. Now, 50 percent of senators and 42 percent of congressmen do. No one goes home anymore.” Can you expand on this?

DW: Law and lobby firms definitely place a high value on the insider knowledge that only lawmakers can provide.  Why more lawmakers are choosing to make the jump to K Street, I can’t say. But as a career move, it seems to be more acceptable now than it used to be.

The Schweizer Effect

October 24th, 2013 by Geoffrey Lyons

HE’S DONE IT again (Peter Schweizer of course), and so have they (60 Minutes that is).  On Sunday, the latter ran a 13-minute segment on the conservative author’s latest book, Extortion: How Politicians Extract Your Money, Buy Votes, and Line Their Own Pockets.  The piece covered the first and last of this triad, centering on the use of Leadership PACs as political slush funds.  And while it is both entertaining and informative – a combination television lacks more by the day – it could also have an impact on policy. Last time Schweizer wrote a book, it too was covered by 60 Minutes, directly resulting in passage of the STOCK Act.

How can one small story be so influential?  Timing helps: 60 Minutes airs immediately after professional football on Sundays and is advertised throughout the preceding game.  Public approval of Congress is also exceedingly low in the wake of an avoidable shutdown, rendering front offices especially vulnerable to constituent fury.  Execution is also key, and this story seems to strike the perfect pitch of indignation, the kind of indignation that would actuate a blizzard of calls to Congress.  Hopefully it works.