Posts Tagged ‘Capitol Hill’

For Defense Contractors, Lobbyists, More Than Just Sequester

Thursday, November 15th, 2012 by Geoffrey Lyons

THE PENTAGON HAS been the source of much worry in Washington lately.  An impending sequester that would strip billions from its budget is fueling premonitions of a fiscal cliff from which the whole nation would plunge.  And while lobbyists from all corners are scrambling to prevent across-the-board cuts, it’s the folks in defense who are most active in the frenzy.

As if this weren’t enough, another alarm is being sounded.  Susan Warshaw Ebner of Asmar, Schor, and McKenna claims that the impact of an emerging issue, and pending regulations to address it, will rattle the entire defense industry.  The issue: counterfeit parts; the stakeholders: virtually everyone.

“Sequester or no sequester, this is going to be a huge issue with huge costs,” said Ebner.  “It’s a virtual certainty that lobbyists and trade associations will have a role to play.”

Essentially, the Pentagon is overdue to roll out regulations that aim to purge the threat of counterfeit electronic parts entering defense equipment (a threat which is elaborated in a Senate report released in May).  Compliance from the industry will implicate all sectors of the defense supply chain to “prevent, detect, remediate, and investigate counterfeiting….”  What this specifically entails hinges largely upon how “counterfeit electronic part” is defined – something DoD was supposed to make clear in its guidance and regulations.

The costs of assuring compliance and ferreting out suspect counterfeits could be crippling.  Ebner evokes a scenario in which a defense contractor learns that a certain make and model of electronic chip, already integrated in systems being shipped abroad, was counterfeited.

“You are likely to face significant costs to figure out if you or any of your lower tier subcontractors and suppliers bought the counterfeit, who from, and if they were used,” said Ebner.   “The question of how to best Online Pokies define and implement requirements is squarely before the DoD right now.”

But while attempting to influence the regulatory language will be an important task for lobbyists, “the first thing lobbyists and trade associations need to do is educate their companies about the problem, the statute, and the risks.  Nobody can afford to be ignorant of what’s at stake.”

This last point is bolstered by the title of an advisory Ebner and her firm released in August: “Counterfeit Parts – An Emerging Issue You Need To Know About!”  It’s also bolstered by facts.  An October white paper released by the American Bar Association’s Task Force on Counterfeit Parts (which Ebner chairs), states that “remedial action” by the Pentagon will include “but [is] not limited to suspension and debarment…in the case of a supplier that repeatedly fails to detect or avoid counterfeit parts or fairs to exercise due diligence.”

For lobbyists closing their eyes and ears to anything but sequestration, some of this may be hard to swallow.

Timeline

12/31/11 – Congress passes Section 818, “Detection and Avoidance of Counterfeit Electronic Parts,” of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012.

3/16/12 – Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Frank Kendall, issues a memo broadly defining “counterfeit material.”

3/26/12 – The Government Accountability Office releases a report detailing the availability of counterfeit military parts in China.  Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) says the report poses a “clear and present danger” and a “threat to our troops.”

5/21/12 – The Senate Armed Services Committee releases a report on its two-year study of counterfeit parts in the defense supply chain.

9/26/12 – Regulations outlined in 818 are due to be issued, but aren’t.

10/8/12 – House Intelligence Committee releases report on national security threats posed by Chinese telecommunications companies.

“Top Lobbyists” of 2012 Reveal Changes on K St.

Friday, November 2nd, 2012 by Geoffrey Lyons

THE HILL RECENTLY released its annual list of top lobbyists, which comes at an interesting time considering a pre-election want of congressional activity.  (The Senate is holding daily pro forma sessions; the House doesn’t reconvene until the 12th).  I spoke briefly with the list’s compiler-in-chief, Business and Lobbying Editor Dustin Weaver, to review his findings.

“It’s more of an art than a craft,” said Weaver, describing the criteria used to select the lobbyists. “As an editorial team, we’re simply looking for people who shape the debate – people at the forefront.”

People at the forefront indeed.  The “Hired Guns” section not only contains K St. all-stars – Tony Podesta, for instance, founder and chairman of the prominent Podesta Group – but it also includes household names: Chris Dodd, Trent Lott, Haley Barbour, among others.  “Barbour’s new to the list,” said Weaver, “but that’s only because he just returned to lobbying – otherwise he’s a no-brainer.”

But not everyone who was selected is an established veteran.  Colin Crowell, new to the list this year, is Weaver. “Tech is the fastest growing industry in America, and it’s definitely rubbing off on K St.”

But besides attracting more techies, how else is K St. changing?  Weaver indicated two trends:

For the short term, it’s losing revenue.  The August and September recesses have depleted the coffers even of giants like Patton Boggs, which recently reported a 4% earnings drop from this time last year.  “But recess doesn’t mean lobbyists are twiddling their thumbs,” said Weaver.  “There are a lot of big-ticket issues to prepare for when Congress reconvenes.”

For the long term, it’s fundamentally reshaping itself.  Trends show an increasing preference for small, independent lobby shops over the larger, staid firms.  “A lot of lobbyists don’t feel the need to work for big shops anymore,” said Weaver.  “Many of them have been wildly successful on their own.”

It’s doubtful any of these patterns will bring about radical changes in the lobbying world.  It’s safer to assume the Barbours and Podestas of the industry will remain fixtures for years to come.  The Hill’s annual list will be a reliable test for this assessment.

Spring Forward into Lobby Days

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011 by Brittany

Lobby days are a good way to connect with elected officials and their staff at their offices in Washington, D.C., or at the state capital. Although advocates are ultimately responsible for making those connections, a lot of planning and effort must be undertaken by the organization hosting the lobby day – as well as the advocates!

What are they?

For purposes of this manual, the term “lobby day” is used to refer to any effort to connect advocates with policymakers through meetings, either physically or virtually, on a given day or week.  Some organizations might refer to these events as “advocacy days,” “fly-ins” or “Capitol Hill days.” Members of the legislative branch are usually the target audience for these events, although some organizations arrange meetings with regulators and other members of the executive branch, such as staff of the governor’s office.

Why is it useful?

Recent reports suggest that in-person meetings from constituents are one of the most effective ways to influence elected officials.

When should it be used?

Any organization with a core of committed advocates can benefit from coordinating a lobby day event, either individually or in concert with a coalition partner.  Lobbying events are most successful, however, when the organization has a specific policy agenda and core ask. 

Asking advocates to get involved

Asking advocates to participate in a lobby day effort Viagra generally involves more than simply sending out an action alert and hoping people respond, particularly for those situations where advocates will be investing their own time and money.  Options for marketing the event include:

  • Conference marketing materials, including brochures, mailers and web site information.  Marketing materials should include links to online and hard copy registration materials
  • Press releases about the event to industry publications
  • Outreach through coalitions
  • Articles / columns in the organization’s own publications
  • Web 2.0 outreach techniques, such as setting up a Facebook or MySpace page for the event

Key points to consider in developing the materials:

  • Outline the value of direct constituent communications in influencing the policymaking process.  Advocates need to understand why their direct participation is critical to policy success.
  • Be sure that advocates know what they are agreeing to do when registering for the event.  Unless advocate leaders are very specific about what the event entails, some advocates may not understand that they will be meeting individually or in small groups with their policymakers.
  • Ensure that the registration form captures all relevant information, including the address to be used for matching advocates with policymakers and cell phone numbers.
  • Establish an early bird deadline that allows those scheduling the meetings enough time to initiate meeting requests and coordinate schedules.

For more information or to purchase the Advocacy Handbook click here.