Posts Tagged ‘earmarks ban’

SOTU aftermath: lobbying is not dead

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011 by Vbhotla

In last night’s State of the Union address, anti-lobbying rhetoric was relatively low.  Sure, there was the jab that “a parade of lobbyists has rigged the tax code,” and the statement that constituents “deserve to know when [their] elected officials are meeting with lobbyists,”but all in all, no real lobbying talk.  And really, it’s not a bad thing for citizens to know that lobbyists are working on their behalf to make concerns known in Congress.

One thing that many in the profession could have anticipated, but were probably still less than thrilled to hear was President Obama’s decree that “If a bill comes to my desk with earmarks inside, I will veto it.”  This idea is not unique to the president; there has been talk of a ban on earmarks all through the most recent campaign cycle.  And while there is currently no ban on earmarks in either the House or the Senate rules, it is worth noting that the Republican Conference rules do ban them.

This was a great departure from the emphasis on special interest groups the president put on last year’s address, and lobbyists should be cautiously optimistic about what this means for opportunities for them to effectively do their jobs.  If there’s one thing that lobbyists can learn from President Obama, it’s his ability to organize and effectively carry out a grassroots campaign.  Prior to the primaries leading up to the 2008 election, many people did not even know who he was.  It was his ability to organize and rally people behind him that launched him into the public spotlight and then the White House.

What does this mean for you?  In this no-earmarks climate, one of the most effective lobbying tactics will be grassroots and grasstops efforts.  In a session Monday before over 60 attendees, Dom Ruscio, of Cavarocchi, Ruscio, Dennis & Associates, LLC, and the Podesta Group’s John Scofield emphasized this point as being one of the best ways to lobby the budget and appropriations process, and indeed it is universally true.

A new study by the Partnership for a More Perfect Union and the Congressional Management Foundation indicated that the number one way to sway a Congressperson’s mind on an issue if (s)he has not already taken a firm position is in-person constituent visits.  Take the opportunity to organize lobby days with key constituents set to appear.  (Be careful to limit the visits to five people per visit, in consideration of space limitations within Congressional offices.)  Go often and make the message clear.  Because despite the talk, lobbying is not dead in this Administration nor in this Congress.  It may just simply need to embrace one of the key themes in Obama’s speech last night: reinvention.

Top Headlines of 2010

Monday, January 3rd, 2011 by Vbhotla

Last year saw Executive Orders and court rulings and legislative movements and the passing of some of the profession’s most dearly-loved members.  Here is a look back at the top headlines of 2010:

  1. Trials, convictions and releases – Kevin Ring was convicted on five counts of corruption November 15 and awaits sentencing, after a 2009 trial resulted in a hung jury.  Paul Magliocchetti pleaded guilty in September to making illegal campaign contributions.  The justice department is seeking a 57 month imprisonment for what prosecutors are calling “one of the largest criminal schemes in U.S. history to violate federal campaign finance laws.”  Jack Abramoff, initially sentenced to six years for  fraud, tax evasion, and conspiracy to bribe public officials, was released from federal prison in June, and his term at a work-release-like program at a Baltimore pizzeria ended in early December.
  2. Court rulings – In January, the Supreme Court ruled in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission corporate funding of independent campaign ads could not be limited under the First Amendment.  Many consider the March Speechnow ruling to be a follow-up to Citizens United; the spring case allowed for unlimited giving to “independent expenditures committees.”  Both cases, however, upheld disclosure requirements while lifting spending restrictions.
  3. Legislative Bullying – Congress sought to “fix” the Citizens United ruling with the DISCLOSE Act, which would require organizations that back federal election campaigns to disclose the names of large donors, as well as list said donors in any campaign ads the organizations run, and ban foreign governments, government contractors, and TARP recipients from donating to campaigns.  The act passed in the House in June, but failed in the lame duck session in the Senate.  In addition, a proposed ban on earmarks failed in the Senate November 30.
  4. Executive Orders – In June, President Obama issued an order banning lobbyists from advisory boards of federal departments and agencies.  It also banned all gifts from lobbyists to executive branch appointees, appointees-turned-lobbyists from lobbying the branch for the duration of his administration, and tightened revolving door policies.
  5. Deaths – Patti Jo Baber, executive director of the American League of Lobbyists, passed in December.  She was described as the “backbone” of the organization and a prominent member of the lobbying community.