2016 Convention Fundraising

April 20th, 2016 by Matthew Barnes

As we move into summer, those who are closely following the 2016 presidential campaign cycle have begun to start to looking ahead to the national party conventions in July and all the political drama that is expected with them. The Republican National Convention will be hosted in Cleveland from July 18th-21st, with the Democratic National Convention, kicking off the next week in Philadelphia from July 25-28th.  

However, this year’s conventions are facing an unforeseen challenge: corporate sponsorship. Both Republicans and Democrats are having trouble fundraising for their conventions. Politico reports, “Several Fortune 500 companies — including Bank of America, Duke Energy and Time Warner —are taking a pass on chipping in for the Democratic convention in Philadelphia or, with just 100 days to go until the event, won’t say whether they’ll participate. Target, which has had a presence at both parties’ conventions in the past, is joining other companies in skipping this summer’s events in Philadelphia and Cleveland.”

While the reason for not sponsoring a convention will vary from company to company, the New York Times has reported that, “Some of the country’s best-known corporations are nervously grappling with what role they should play at the Republican National Convention, given the likely nomination of Donald J. Trump, whose divisive candidacy has alienated many women, blacks and Hispanics.” This has had a knock-on effect for the Democrats as many companies prefer to give to both the Democrat’s and Republican’s convention, or neither of them. According to the Politico report, “People are more hesitant this time,” said one the lobbyists, who has worked at previous conventions. “And the clients that end up going don’t want to be featured as a marquee sponsor. Before, you would be fighting for signage. Now it’s about, let’s not fight [for] any branding.”

No matter the outcome in regard to fundraising, the conventions are fast becoming a must see political event.

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Changing Culture at CREW

April 14th, 2016 by Matthew Barnes

In the backdrop of a highly polarizing election year, Bloomberg investigates changing culture at the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW, a high profile government watchdog group.  According to the group’s website, the “Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to promoting ethics and accountability in government and public life by targeting government officials who sacrifice the common good to special interests. We advance our mission using a combination of research, litigation, policy advocacy, and media outreach. CREW employs the law as a tool to force officials to act ethically and lawfully and to bring unethical conduct to the public’s attention.”

However, Bloomberg reports that “Over the past two years…some of the group’s most influential work has been quietly dropped. Annual rankings of the “most corrupt” members of Congress and a bi-annual list of the “worst” governors have stopped. A pipeline of in-depth reports on issues ranging from financial markets to timber-industry lobbying has gone dry. The group walked away from a spat over Hillary Clinton’s treatment of e-mails as secretary of state, even after an Inspector General found that CREW’s public records request had been improperly denied.”

The Bloomberg report identifies the addition of prominent Democratic operative David Brock as a Member of the Board in 2014, as a changing point in the direction of CREW’s mission, goals and culture. Demonstrating the changing culture associated with Brock’s arrival, Bloomberg highlights the change in CREW’s legal filings. “By 2013, CREW was filing an average of eight federal lawsuits each year, with a peak of 15 in 2007, public records show. In the nearly two years since Brock arrived in August 2014, the group has filed a total of four.”

Co-Founder and former Board Chair of CREW, Louis Mayberg, has pointed to the more partisan orientation of the organization after Brock’s arrival contributed to his decision to resign from the board in March 2015 saying, “I have no desire to serve on a board of an organization devoted to partisanship.”

Nevertheless, CREW’s Communication Director, Jordan Libowitz, has said “The board membership may change, but we have always maintained the highest level of integrity and absolute independence in the work we do—and that remains the case.”

Daschle Registers to Lobby

March 30th, 2016 by Matthew Barnes

In a surprising turn of events, Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) has officially registered as a lobbyist. According to The Hill, “He is part of a team at Baker Donelson Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz that is lobbying for the health insurer Aetna, according to forms filed to the Senate. The disclosure forms say the the team will be working with the insurer — which recently withdrew from a major industry trade group, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) — on issues related to the Affordable Care Act and Medicare Advantage, among other things.”

Prior to his registration as a lobbyist, the term the “Daschle loophole” has become popularized as a way to describe the ability of former officials to cash in on K Street without registering as lobbyists. Politico reports that this is done by either “avoiding direct contact with lawmakers or by spending less than 20 percent of their time lobbying. Daschle always maintained his activities didn’t qualify as lobbying, but those who worked with him said he didn’t want the “Scarlet L” to jeopardize his prospects of returning to public office. His nomination to be Obama’s health secretary was nevertheless thwarted by a tax error.”

Since losing his Senate seat in 2004, Daschle worked at “Alston & Bird, then DLA Piper, and, since late 2014, Baker Donelson, where he set up his own subsidiary, The Daschle Group,” according to The Center for Responsive Politics.

Venezuela Lobbying in Legal Fight

March 24th, 2016 by Matthew Barnes

In a strategic move, Venezuela has registered part of its legal team at Hogan Lovells as lobbyists in its international dispute with a U.S. oil company that could land before the Supreme Court. This move will enable them to “sit down with Justice Department lawyers as the legal fight intensifies,” reports to The Hill. The firm “will seek to meet with the Justice Department’s solicitor general, according to forms filed under the Foreign Agents Registration Act signed by counsel Bruce Oakley, the managing partner of the firm’s Houston office.” In 2015 Hogan Lovells brought in $12.6 million in lobbying revenue according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Oil rigging company Helmerich & Payne brought a legal challenge against Venezuela following a drilling dispute in 2010. The Hill reports, “Helmerich & Payne’s local subsidiary — H&P-V — had been operating in the country for decades. But in 2010, following a contract dispute with the state-owned oil company, Helmerich & Payne said its subsidiary would stop drilling in the country. The country’s National Guard then blocked off 11 rigs with its boats, and Venezuela seized the subsidiary’s oil rigs and other equipment. The confiscation was part of then- Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez’s move to nationalize his country’s oil industry.” According to the suit the confiscation of the oil rigs and equipment breached a contract, hurting the Oklahoma-based parent company and violating international law.

As the case progresses Venezuela’s lobbyists will likely urge the administration to ask the Supreme Court to take up the case after filing documents with the court encouraging action.

Legislative Fly-In App

March 16th, 2016 by Matthew Barnes

As D.C. emerges from a snowy winter, the legislative fly-in season is already off and running in the warm sunshine of spring. This week the Hill is playing host to the American Bankers Association, which has 1,000 people attending its summit this week according to Politico. 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, 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.

As exemplified above, 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 that help government relations professionals successfully get the job done.

The Value of Lobbying

March 10th, 2016 by Matthew Barnes

For many people lobbying has become a dirty word, alluding to professional government insiders who pull the strings in a defunct Washington. In the ongoing presidential campaigns we have heard candidates from Bernie Sanders to Donald Trump condemn the industry saying, ““I know the system better than anybody. The fact is that whether it’s Jeb, or Hillary, or any of ’em—they’re all controlled by these people! And the people that control them are the special interests, the lobbyists and the donors.” However, we know that this is not the case for majority of government relations professionals. I was fortunate enough to be able to listen to Connie Tipton, President and CEO, International Dairy Foods Association discuss our right to petition the government and the value of lobbying before the American Society of Association Executives’ (ASAE) 2016 Americans Associations Day on the Hill. In her remarks Ms. Tipton did a terrific job of explaining our right to lobby and its value.

Remarks by Connie Tipton, American Society of Association Executives Washington, DC Fly-In, American Associations Day, March 9-10, 2016

“We also have the freedoms granted us in the United States Constitution. Most notable, at least for our purpose at this conference, is our First Amendment right to freedom of speech and to petition our government.

Let’s consider these constitutional freedoms separately for a moment. Free speech is frequently hailed as an unassailable right, supported by many Americans even when they don’t agree with what’s being said.

But petitioning our government through issue advocacy, or lobbying, seems to always get thrown under the proverbial bus as something evil. Even the term “lobbying” has taken on a sinister meaning for some, especially in recent political campaigns.

In fact, President Obama took villainizing lobbyists to a new level when he came to the White House. He loudly threatened that he would bar any former lobbyist from serving in his administration and made sure no one with a lobbying background could serve on any advisory committees. As you may have guessed, that eliminates a lot of extremely qualified and well informed people, so in the end, it was a threat he found impossible to stick with, but he succeeded in putting another black mark on the name of lobbying.

Even in the current presidential primaries, lobbyists are often served up as something corrupt or unscrupulous. Of course there have been “bad apples,” just as there are in any profession or political campaign, for that matter, but the work of our government relies on people representing their interests and those of their constituents in order to arrive at the best outcomes on policies. There is no way members of Congress can imagine all of the tangential impacts a particular proposal may have when it’s put into law. Informing them of the nuances only someone steeped in a particular issue or industry would know is our right and responsibility; that’s why you’re here – and why it is important to share your stories.

It is our right as American citizens to advocate for our interests with our elected officials and to try to have a real impact on the policies and programs that govern our lives.

As Americans we are very fortunate, indeed, to have these freedoms to invest in endeavors we enjoy and believe in, to associate with others we agree with, and to use our collective voices to make a difference in policies that will shape our future.

I have served for a number of years on the board of the Bryce Harlow Foundation, an organization that provides scholarships to people pursuing advanced degrees that will help them in careers as business advocates. Bryce Harlow was an early leader in providing and promoting business advocacy with integrity. Before he became a lobbyist, he worked in the Eisenhower White House as the first congressional liaison. And he spoke often of the importance of maintaining relationships with members of Congress.

In a 1965 speech about business advocacy, Harlow said, it “is not simply good citizenship, it is hardheaded realism. It often means dollars and cents in profits. It may well mean avoidance of economic disaster.” And then he continued, “Many are the times that it means keeping the ‘free’ in free enterprise.”

Simply put, lobbying is advocating a particular point of view. Lobbying is a legitimate and necessary part of our democratic political process. Government decisions affect both people and organizations, and public officials cannot make fair and informed decisions without considering information from a broad range of interested parties. All sides of an issue must be explored to produce equitable government policies.”

Apple’s Battle in Washington

March 2nd, 2016 by Matthew Barnes

On Tuesday, March 1, 2016 FBI Director James Comey and Bruce Sewell, Senior Vice President and General Counsel to Apple, Inc., among others, participated in a House Judiciary Committee hearing on “The Encryption Tightrope: Balancing Americans’ Security and Privacy.” The hearing represents the first confrontation between law enforcement and Apple over accessing the data stored on the iPhone used by Syed Rizwan Farook, one of the terrorists in the Dec. 2015 San Bernardino attack.

The New York times reports, “Many lawmakers at Tuesday’s hearing of the House Judiciary Committee seemed torn over where to draw the line.” Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) asserted “The big question for our country is how much privacy are we going to give up in the name of security, and there’s no easy answer to that.” Providing strong support for the FBI Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) questioned if “We’re going to create evidence-free zones? Am I missing something? How the hell you can’t access a phone, I just find baffling.”

The hearings point to Apple being at a strategic disadvantage in Washington. The Washington Post reports, “Apple’s lobbying presence in Washington is tiny compared to other tech firms. The company spent roughly $4.5 million on lobbying last year.” In comparison Mircrosoft spent 8.5 million, Facebook spent almost $10 million, and Google (now Alphabet) spent over 16.5 million on lobbying in 2015. According to the Post, “In some ways, Apple’s relative dearth of relationships on Capitol Hill makes it a more vulnerable target. Unlike companies with large, well-funded lobbying teams, Apple lacks the means to avoid the government spotlight when it happens to settle upon them. Apple has few lawmakers that it can reliably call to its defense.”

According to Politico, “All eyes are on the hearing today as most tech companies, while quietly sympathetic to Apple, are keeping their heads down. One tech lobbyist said his clients are eager for intel on the proposals but don’t want an advocacy push just yet. As Information Technology Industry Council President and CEO Dean Garfield said in a statement yesterday, “this is the beginning of the conversation.””

Fierce Government Relations and Franklin Square Group represent Apple on encryption.

Merger – Squire Patton Boggs & Carroll, Burdick & McDonough

February 24th, 2016 by Matthew Barnes

Lobbying powerhouse Squire Patton Boggs has announced it is merging with California-based Carroll, Burdick & McDonough.  According to the press release, “The combination will create the world’s premier product quality, brand protection and compliance practice, joining together Squire Patton Boggs’ leading global platform of over 1,500 lawyers spanning 45 offices in 21 countries in the Americas, Asia Pacific, Europe and the Middle East, with Carroll Burdick, a complex litigation and products risk management powerhouse with over 50 lawyers on three continents.” Carroll Burdick has offices in Böblingen, Germany, Hong Kong and Los Angeles.

Politico reports that on the public policy front, cars are key to the merger between the two firms. In a statement issued by Squire Patton Boggs Global Chairman Mark Ruehlmann, he said, “The combination will allow us to enhance substantially our presence in the automotive industry at a time when automobiles are approaching an industry-defining and transformative moment — the widespread deployment of ‘smart cars. Global regulatory scrutiny of the automotive industry will surely grow more intense.”

In last year’s Quarter 4 lobbying disclosures Squire Patton Boggs ranked 5th in terms of lobbying revenue, bringing in $5.44M. Recently the firm’s Joseph LeBaron, the former ambassador, registered to lobby the State Department to use the Sunrise Estate Development for housing embassy personnel in Abuja, Nigeria.

DNC Lifts Lobbying Restrictions

February 17th, 2016 by Matthew Barnes

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) has removed its restrictions that banned political donations from lobbyists and PACS, which were introduced in 2008 under then presidential candidate Barack Obama. The lifting of the restrictions follows last summer’s announcement that the DNC was lifting a ban on lobbyist contributions to convention-related expenses. The Washington Post reports, “The DNC’s recent change in guidelines will ensure that we continue to have the resources and infrastructure in place to best support whoever emerges as our eventual nominee,” according to Mark Paustenbach, deputy communications director for the DNC. “Electing a Democrat to the White House is vital to building on the progress we’ve made over the last seven years, which has resulted in a record 71 straight months of private-sector job growth and nearly 14 million new jobs.” Of the old rules the only remaining portion is that “lobbyists and PAC representatives will still not be able to attend events that feature Obama, Vice President Biden or their spouses,” according to Paustenbach.

This change in policy at the DNC could have a profound effect on the 2016 election as Sec. Hillary Clinton has a significant fundraising advantage among lobbyists and PACs compared to her Democratic primary rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders. The International Business Times reports that, “From 2000 to 2008 she [Clinton] raised more than $30 million from those classified as lawyers and lobbyists, data compiled by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics show. That group’s data show in that same time period, Sanders accepted more than $310,000 from those classified as lawyers and lobbyists.”

The 2016 presidential campaigns have thus far painted a similar picture. According to the International Business Times Sec. Clinton’s campaign has raised “roughly $725,000 from lobbyists for this year’s contests. Sen. Sanders has received $4,228 worth of contributions from lobbyists during his presidential bid.”

Following the announcement from the DNC, Sen. Sanders campaign spokesman Michael Briggs said in a statement, “This is an unfortunate step backward. We support the restrictions that President Obama put in place and we hope Secretary Clinton will join us in supporting the president.”

Joining Forces: When Lobbying Meets PR

February 10th, 2016 by Matthew Barnes

The practice of lobbying has grown and developed over the years with different firms providing many services beyond the traditional “shoe leather lobbying”. Recently, as client’s needs have evolved, firms have begun to incorporate public relations services.  According to The Hill, “Offering PR services, many in the industry say, has become a necessity in an era when controlling the media message is just as important to clients as cultivating relationships.” Incorporating PR capabilities into traditional lobbying practices can turn a firm into a one-stop-shop for their clients, helping them by reducing the need to hire separate firms for grassroots, federal or state lobbying and strategic communications.

In fact, the connection between lobbying and PR is so strong that The New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethic issued Advisory Opinion 16-01 which redefines lobbying to include PR professionals who work with political figures.PR Week reports that “On January 26, the Joint Commission voted 10-3 to treat political consultants’ contact with members of the press as lobbying. All PR consultants and their clients must now disclose communication they have with the media and government officials in the state, if the communication intends to influence.”

On Monday, the all GOP S-3 Group became latest firm to make this transition by merging with Bryant Row Public Affairs to form S-3 Public Affairs. The Hill reports, “Stationed in a row house in Eastern Market, S-3 Public Affairs plans to integrate lobbying services with coalition management, digital advocacy campaigns, crisis communications and brand development.”

Similarly, in September 2015, the Democratic leaning lobbying powerhouse Elmendorf | Ryan merged with the PR firm Home Front Communications to create a new 70-person organization named Subject Matter.  Discussing the merger Steve Elmendorf, one of the firm’s founders said, “I think lobbying is changing. People realize that decision makers get their information in so many different ways than they used to, and there are more channels of information. You need to do more than just [direct] lobbying.”

Lobby Blog will continue to monitor and report on the latest changes and trends in the lobbying community.

The Big 5-0

February 3rd, 2016 by Matthew Barnes

The Big 5-0

According to new analysis from The Hill, a group of 50 elite companies and trade associations spent $714 million on lobbying in 2015, more than a quarter of all the money spent on lobbying the federal government. In 2015 to make the top 50 lobbying spenders, a company or trade association must have spent at least $7.77 million on lobbying, a little less than a 1% decrease from the $7.83 million threshold for the top 50 in 2014.  The Hill reports, “while $714 million is an eye-popping figure, it is a 5 percent drop from 2014, when the top 50’s spending totaled roughly $749 million, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.”

The 2015 legislative calendar saw a few large battles including over the Export-Import Bank and the Trade Promotion Authority. According to The Hill, “Several groups heavily involved in both those issues, including the Business Roundtable and the National Association of Manufacturers, increased their lobbying expenditures by at least 30 percent.” The National Association of Manufacturers began steadily ramping up its lobbying spending since 2013, spending $7.6 million, $12.4 million in 2014 and $16.9 million in 2015.

In 2015 five new companies or trade associations break into the top 50 list. The new additions included Qualcomm (No. 48), Amazon (No. 35), UPS (No.45), Oracle (No. 40) and the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (No. 50).

Other highlights from The Hill’s report include Boeing surpassing Google and Comcast “as the top corporate spender on lobbying as it fought to save the Export-Import Bank. The aerospace giant spent $21.9 million on lobbying last year, a 30 percent increase over the $16.8 million it spent in 2014.” Additionally, “Amazon and the Grocery Manufacturers Association posted the biggest percentage increases in lobbying spending last year, with increases of 91 percent and 83 percent, respectively.”

See the full list here.

Lobbying in 2015

January 27th, 2016 by Matthew Barnes

A new report by the Center of Responsive Politics has found that the lobbying industry continued to contract in 2015. According to the report, “Overall spending dipped just slightly last year, from $3.24 billion in 2014 to $3.20 billion, but the number became the latest data point in the long, slow slide in total outlays by clients lobbying the federal government.” Similarly, the number of registered lobbyists has continued to fall. In 2015 there were 11,465 registered lobbyists, 1,489 less than were reported in 2010.

Despite some negative figures from the report, not everyone on K Street had a bad year. In fact, a number of big firms including:  Akin Gump, BGR Group, Brownstein Hyatt, Cornerstone Government Affairs, Covington & Burling, Greenberg Traurig, Ogilvy and Venable were all able to bring in over $1 million more from clients in 2015 than they did in 2014.

In 2015 the energy and natural resources industry suffered the biggest decline in lobbying spending.  Contributing to this decline, the “oil and gas companies extended their lobbying slump for a third year…. That decrease is reminiscent of the downward slope in lobbying by electric utilities after a 2010 nosedive.” Much of the slump from oil and gas companies can be attributed to the collapsing price of oil in 2015. According to the Wall Street Journal, “After plunging from more than $100 a barrel to nearly $50 a barrel last year, U.S. oil prices fell 30% in 2015 to $37.04 a barrel. Brent, the global benchmark, fell 35% to $37.28 a barrel.” Currently, oil sits at $30.97 a barrel.

In 2016 we will continue to monitor the industry and report on the latest lobbying trends, news, and rules and regulations.

2014 Revolving Door Is Open For Business

January 21st, 2016 by Matthew Barnes

After completing the mandatory “cooling off” period, members of the House who retired, resigned or lost re-election in 2014 are now officially able to lobby. According to House ethics rules, senior aides and former members of Congress are prohibited from lobbying their former colleagues for one year after leaving the Hill. Former senators are prohibited for two years after they leave the Hill. According to analysis from The Hill, “Roughly one-third of the former lawmakers in that group have gone on to work for companies, universities, trade associations or firms that lobby the federal government.”

During the “cooling off” period some former lawmakers have “refrained from speaking with former colleagues since leaving office, even about matters that did not pertain to business.” The Hill reports former Rep. Buck McKeon saying he “avoided even seeing them [other Members] because I didn’t even want the appearance” of impropriety.” However, other former members comply with the regulations, but still take an active role in advocacy. For example, former Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) joined his son’s boutique lobby firm, Waxman Strategies, and has been actively working on advocating before the executive branch, which former lawmakers are not restricted from in any way.

In recent years a number of former Members of Congress have gravitated to non-lobbying roles after leaving the Hill. Former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) has joined the investment bank Moelis & Co. as a vice chairman and managing director and Former Rep. Steven Horsford (D-Nev.) returned to Nevada-based public relations firm R&R Resources, where he worked before running for office.  However, according to The Hill, “law and lobby shops remain the most common destination for former lawmakers. Former Reps. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) and Jim Matheson (D-Utah) landed at Squire Patton Boggs, which has a lobby shop led by former Sens. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and John Breaux (D-La.). The Louisiana-based shop the Picard Group hired former Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-La.), and Rep. Robert Andrews (D-N.J.) went to Dilworth Paxon.”

Missouri & A Different Meaning of Gift

January 13th, 2016 by Matthew Barnes

In the latest change to state lobbying requirements, last week in Missouri, Representative Bart Korman (R-Mo. 42nd District) introduced legislation that defines sex between lobbyists and lawmakers as a gift. This means lobbyists in the state will have to report any “sexual relations” with state legislators as a “gift” in their state ethics commission disclosures. According to the bill, (House Bill No. 2059), “the term “gift” shall include sexual relations between a registered lobbyist and a member of the general assembly or his or her staff. Relations between married persons or between persons who entered into a relationship prior to the registration of the lobbyist, the election of the member to the general assembly, or the employment of the staff person shall not be reportable under this subdivision. The reporting of sexual relations for purposes of this subdivision shall not require a dollar valuation.”

Last year Missouri went through several sexual scandals involving its lawmakers. According to the Associated Press, in July 2015 “Missouri state Sen. Paul LeVota submitted his resignation…following allegations that he made unwanted sexual advances toward interns.” This followed hot on the heels of a scandal in May, when a sexually charged relationship between House Speaker John Diehl and an intern was uncovered. Politico reported that “Missouri House Speaker John Diehl resigned Thursday, the day after a report surfaced that he had exchanged sexually charged messages with a 19-year-old intern in his office at the Capitol in Jefferson City.”

Explaining his decision to report sexual relations as a gift Rep. Korman has said, “We’ve already got a lobbyist gift reporting requirement and so that’s how I worked it in there, by treating it as a definition of gift…I hope it deters any of that activity, but that if activity does occur, it’s at least transparent.”

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.