Posts Tagged ‘Lobbying’

House of Cards: Fact or Fiction?

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013 by Geoffrey Lyons

DESPITE PROFUSE PLEAS from friends and family, your humble blogger hasn’t seen House of Cards. According to Roll Call, that amounts to repeated missed opportunities to catch a glimpse of Cassidy & Associates’ G St. facade. According to The Economist, it means passing up scenes of politicians:

…lying, leaking secrets to lobbyists, framing rivals, indulging in fistfights (one in front of wide-eyed children) and snorting cocaine, as well as sleeping with prostitutes, their own staff and a story-hungry reporter.

While the Cassidy building’s existence is undisputed, it’s dubious whether any lawmakers are snorting coke. So what’s the veracity of the show?

It’s pretty accurate…

“Honestly, the egos and the quest and thirst for power is very prevalent in Washington…just the drive, you know, the drive to the next position or the drive for the position of power” Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.)

“The accuracy of the props—from congressional doorplates to visitors’ badges—is much discussed, and praised.” – The Economist

“…after the first couple of shows, [Underwood’s] office starts looking like my office. I have this big map, right, sitting in there. I look over on the wall, he’s got that whip sitting up there….Then in the ninth episode, he’s trying to pass this bill, and he says, ‘I’m going to tell you one thing: You vote your district, you vote your conscience. Just don’t surprise me.’ [I said that.]” Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) 

“It’s like evil ‘West Wing.’ And some of the shadier parts are so realistic.” – GOP strategist Amy Thoma

It’s fantasy…

“In real life, says a Democratic campaign aide, members of Congress are too nannied by staff to stride about hatching plots, one-on-one. In the real Washington, says a Republican staffer, leadership coups take longer to ferment….Other errors fall under the heading of flattery: the clothes are too elegant for DC, and the ratio of sexual trysts to committee meetings is strikingly high.” – The Economist

“The notion of any of our leadership team having sex with a reporter makes me laugh out loud.  And besides, everyone knows there is no decent barbecue in Washington.” – Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.)

“[The characters] do mix fundraising and legislation far more than people would do…offering x dollars to anyone who would support this bill.  That would never occur in real life.” – Thoma

“If I were to make one criticism of the show, it’s [that] a South Carolina congressman’s barbecue of choice appears to be fairly sticky ribs, when true South Carolina barbecue uses a mustard-based sauce and even when it’s not that, it’s a more North Carolina vinegar mop.” –  Mike BoberMeat Week founder and Capital Spice blogger

Keystone Part Deux

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013 by Geoffrey Lyons

KEYSTONE XL IS reemerging as a central environmental issue after the State Department released a Draft Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement (DSEIS) last Friday.  Environmentalists are “fuming”  and green groups  “reeling” at the Department’s findings.  According to The Hill:

Opponents of Keystone are furious at State’s environmental assessment of the project, which brushed aside  one of their central arguments against it: namely, that it would exacerbate clime change by expanding the use of oil sands.

It can easily be expected that Keystone advocates and opponents alike will shower more money on the issue as a direct result of the report, the former feeding their momentum and the latter doing all in their power to starve it.  Here are last year’s numbers, from CRP:

Oil and Gas Lobbying in 2012

Royal Dutch Shell $14,480,000
Exxon Mobil $12,970,000
Koch Industries $10,540,000
Chevron Corp $9,550,000
BP $8,590,000

 

Environmental Lobbying in 2012

Environmental Defense Fund

$1,819,000

Nature Conservancy

$1,550,000

BlueGreen Alliance

$1,190,000

Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund

$888,933

Defenders of Wildlife

$620,555

 

Lobbying at a Glance

Thursday, February 21st, 2013 by Geoffrey Lyons

FIRST IT WAS mid-sized banks (see previous post), now it’s credit unions. The latter have been lobbying against Dodd Frank reforms, arguing that they’re too harsh. “Credit unions are well-managed, well-run institutions that did not engage in the practices that led to the financial crisis,” said Fred Becker, [The National Association of Federal Credit Unions (NAFCU)] president and CEO. “Yet, the regulatory burden on our nation’s credit unions has reached epic proportions and that must be addressed immediately.” – The Hill

Associations are increasingly using Relationships, Advocability, and Political capital (RAP) indices to gain leverage on the Hill: “Here’s how it works: a trade association or advocacy group sends the RAP Index survey to their members by email. The software confirms their address, and finds a list of their local, state or federal elected officials. The survey asks members in-depth questions about any relationships with those officials and whether they’d be willing to be media surrogates.” – POLITICO

Nike is lobbying on behalf of the Trans-Pacific Partnership treaty (TPP), which was designed in part to remove tariffs between the U.S. and other countries along the Pacific Rim. The $67 billion shoe company would benefit from the elimination of duties on shoes made abroad: “But others are fighting to keep the tariffs in place. New Balance, the Boston-based athletic shoe maker, wants to maintain tariffs on shoes from Vietnam in order to protect the jobs of 1,350 New Balance workers who make footwear in the United States. A quarter of the shoes the company sells in North America are made in its U.S. manufacturing facilities.” – The Washington Post

The Keystone pipeline is still very much an issue, with thousands upon thousands gathering on the Mall Sunday to rally against its construction: “The rally, which was organized by the Sierra Club, 350.org and the Hip Hop Caucus, was billed as the largest climate rally in American history. Organizers estimated that about 35,000 people participated in the rally. The U.S. Park Police does not give crowd estimates.” – POLITICO

Some lobbyists continue to deploy opposition (“oppo”) researchers to disarm and discredit their foes: “Oppo researchers — who often have backgrounds in politics, government and law enforcement that may include the FBI or even the intelligence community — will also scan court documents, public records, campaign finance and lobbying disclosures and reach out to their contacts on Capitol Hill, K Street and in local communities.” – Roll Call

 

Are Lobbyists Unethical?

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013 by Geoffrey Lyons

Are lobbyists unethical?  Email 100 words or less to glyons@columbiabooks.com.  The best response will be posted.

FOR MOST AMERICANS, the answer to the above question is too securely in the affirmative to merit a response. It can best be classified as a rhetorical substitute for “yes,” much like “is the sky blue?” E.g.: “Is Washington broken?” “Um, are lobbyists unethical?”

It may be the case that many lobbyists are unethical, but to no greater extent than many school teachers or doctors are. These last are part of noble professions that contain some ignoble people. If lobbyists were incorrigibly unethical, there would have to be something incorrigibly unethical about lobbying.

But if the object of the question is the business of lobbying, and not the lobbyists themselves (if it is best read “is lobbying unethical?”), then all logic errs on the side of the negative. The activity of lobbying is ethically neutral: it can go in the direction of big tobacco or bone cancer research.  Assessed through the lens of the Constitution, lobbying attains a positive ethical charge.  The common thread that unites all lobbyists is their exercise of the freedom of speech and to petition, both couched in the First Amendment.

The assumption (dare I say conviction) that lobbyists are unethical is also fueled by a very unhistorical sentiment: nostalgia (or as the late sociologist Robert Nisbet called it, “the rust of memory.”) In the words of  Harvard professor Lawrence Lessig:

The ordinary lobbyist today is a Boy Scout compared with the criminal of the nineteenth century. The lobbyist today is ethical, and well educated. He or she works extremely hard to live within the letter of the law. More than ever before, most lobbyists are just well-paid policy wonks, expert in a field and able to advise and guide Congress well. Regulation is complex; regulators understand very little; the lobbyist is the essential link between what the regulator wants to do and how it can get done…. Most of it is decent, aboveboard, the sort of stuff we would hope happens inside the Beltway.  (Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress—and a Plan to Stop It)

To Lessig, lobbyists are not only not unethical, they’re admirable. Paradoxically, they’re the model of what most people think they corrupt.

Lobbying at a Glance

Friday, February 8th, 2013 by Geoffrey Lyons

LOBBYISTS ARE CLAMORING for a mention in the President’s big speech next Wednesday. According to Bob Deans of the Natural Resources Defense Council:“A lot of people compete for space in the State of the Union, and it’s weeks, months in the works….Every single priority lobbies hard for inclusion. We understand space is tight, time is limited and time is valuable.” – Roll Call

James Pinkerton, co-chair of the RATE Coalition: “Everybody hangs on every word the president says in the State of the Union, looking for their word, their sentence, their phrase, with fingers crossed,” said James Pinkerton, who co-chairs the RATE Coalition, which lobbies for a lower corporate tax rate.

Year-end disclosure reports reveal that the energy drink business is beefing up its lobbying efforts: “Since November, Monster Energy has spent $100,000 to lobby on ‘legislation and oversight regarding energy drinks.’….[Since] Nov. 26, Red Bull has spent $20,000 on lobbying.” – The Washington Post

This comes in the wake of FDA investigations into “adverse events” linked to the drinks. According to a November press release published just weeks before Red Bull and Monster began their lobbying crusade:

So-called “energy” products are relatively new to the market, and manufacturers of these products have labeled some as dietary supplements and others as conventional foods….FDA cautions consumers that products marketed as “energy shots” or “energy drinks” are not alternatives to rest or sleep….If you are thinking about taking one of these products, please consult your health care provider…

(Imagine hearing “ask your doctor if Red Bull is right for you.”)

The Post article continues:  “Between 2004 and October 2012, 17 people died and more than 100 had chest pains, cardiac arrest and other health problems after consuming 5-Hour Energy, Monster and Rockstar beverages, according to FDA data. The FDA noted that the reports do not mean the drinks necessarily caused those ailments.”

Jake Perry, aide to Harry Reid since ’98, has set up lobby firm Jake Perry + Partners: “Jake Perry + Partners is currently based in downtown Washington and is aiming to sign on a broad range of clients, including those in the financial services sector. Perry, who still has family in Nevada, says he plans to one day widen his company’s base of operation to his home state as well.” – POLITICO

The Medical Marijuana PAC slashed “Medical” from its name: “The move came in the aftermath of two members of Congress introducing a bill to legalize and regulate marijuana at the federal level. And it’s a sign that pot advocacy groups are moving away from the ‘medical’ argument – which was always seen as a first step towards full legalization – and embracing the argument for full-on recreational usage.” – POLITICO

 

Lobbying at a Glance

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013 by Geoffrey Lyons

AFFORDABLE CARE ACT regulations that would require retail food sellers to label the calorie content in their food are rousing lobbyists from every corner: “Some pizza companies have demanded more flexibility, grocery and convenience stores insist they should be left out of it altogether and movie theaters really don’t want to shout out how many calories are in those buckets of popcorn.” – POLITICO

Ex-Senator Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) will become a lobbyist, the latest in a growing list of recently retired lawmakers migrating to K St.: “The former senator has been named CEO of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC). He will be the group’s chief spokesman and primary advocate in Washington. NAIC is made up of state insurance regulators and helps coordinate their oversight across the country.” – The Hill

Ex-Senator Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) will become a lobbyist…again: “Like Democratic moderate Evan Bayh before him, Nelson is taking two K Street jobs. In addition to the NAIC, Nelson will be a ‘senior partner’ at public affairs firm Agenda.”  Tim Carney of the Washington Examiner adds: “Ben Nelson, as a Senator, provided crucial support for both [the Affordable Care Act and Dodd-Frank]….This is one reason moderates have the quickest track to K Street. Their economic vision is generally both pro-business and pro-government. Whatever effect this has on business and the economy, it makes lots of work for lobbyists.” – The Washington Examiner

Four years after his executive order banning lobbyist gifts to executive agency appointees and slowing the revolving door, the President’s “lobby posture” is attracting revivified scrutiny: “Most lobbyists have complained that Obama’s executive orders on the revolving door have kept out some of the savviest policy experts, who are registered lobbyists. Further, they say, by branding registered lobbyists, whose clients and fees are publicly disclosed, with what amounts to a scarlet letter “L,” Obama has increased the ranks of the unlobbyists, those who peddle influence but don’t register with Congress.” – Roll Call

Disclosure reports are in, revealing a lackluster year for lobby firms: “Few K Street firms were able to escape the downward pull, with even industry leaders Patton Boggs and Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld reporting a drop in their lobbying revenue from 2011….Lobbyists across the board expressed high hopes for the year to come. A reelected and reinvigorated president and a Congress more willing to consider big legislative items should be the ticket to stronger growth, they said.” – The Hill

A $100 cap on lobbyist gifts in Georgia is stoking some interesting debate: “One argument supporting higher legislator pay ties into the gift issue: If lawmakers earned more, they “would be less likely to feel entitled to the free meals, booze, and tickets to concerts and football games” given by lobbyists.” – Smyrna-Vinings Patch

Federal Lobbying Disclosure Due

Friday, January 18th, 2013 by Geoffrey Lyons

LOBBYBLOG REMINDS YOU that two disclosure deadlines are approaching:

January 20 – LD-2
The once semi-annual, now quarterly report of lobbying income/expenditures is due for the fourth quarter of the LD-2 reporting calendar (see below). “Each registrant must file a quarterly report on Form LD-2 no later than 20 days (or on the first business day after such 20th day if the 20th day is not a business day) after the end of the quarterly period beginning on the first day of January, April, July and October of each year in which a registrant is registered.” (House Office of the Clerk). January 20th is in fact a Sunday, and the following Monday is a holiday, so make sure to get your LD-2 forms ready by Tuesday the 22nd.

Reporting Period    Filing Date
Jan 1 – March 31 April 20
April 1 – June 30 July 20
July 1 – Sept 30 Oct 20
Oct 1 – Dec 31 Jan 20

January 30 – LD-203
The semi-annual report is required of all lobbyists to certify ethics compliance and disclosure. “Form LD-203 is required to be filed semiannually by July 30th and January 30th (or next business day should either of those days fall on a weekend or holiday) covering the first and second calendar halves of the year. Registrants and active lobbyists (who are not terminated for all clients) must file separate reports which detail FECA contributions, honorary contributions, presidential library contributions, and payments for event costs.”  January 30th is a Wednesday.

For quick guidance on disclosure, visit lobbyingdisclosure.house.gov.  For a more substantive reference guide, consider The Lobbying Compliance Handbook

Two New Resources for Lobbyists

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013 by Geoffrey Lyons

The State Lobbying Compliance Handbook is available fore pre-order here.  The 113th Congressional Freshmen Report can be ordered as a full report or with select member profiles here.   

THIS BLOG HAS  no objection to self-promotion. But even if it did it would strain to suppress the announcement of Lobbyists.info’s two latest publications, The State Lobbying Compliance Handbook and The 113th Congressional Freshmen Report, both of which cast fresh light on areas hitherto very dim.

Take state lobbying. Until now, there have only been feeble attempts to conglomerate the disparate and contradictory elements of state lobby law. Yet the appetite for such a project has grown in recent years. Post-recession stimulus provoked a clamoring for clout in state legislatures and governors’ offices. Washington gridlock has driven many to look elsewhere.  State and local government affairs operations have sprung up to compete with their federal counterparts. Natural as these actions were, they each brought headaches – nobody knew what they were doing. There was no authority to declare that principals must register in California whereas across the border in Oregon and Nevada no such requirement exists. There was no treasury of paperwork from which lobbyists and practitioners could access any form requisite to compliance. There simply was no escape from the cumbersome research required to get things moving.

The State Lobbying Compliance Handbook, published by Columbia Books in collaboration with Holtzman Vogel Josefiak PLLC, is a deliverance from these woes. Due in March (and available for pre-order here), the book offers as its main feature concise summaries of each state’s lobbying regulations with up-to-date forms ready for submission. In just a few hundred pages, it slashes the countless opportunity costs that would otherwise be squandered on research, and extinguishes the potential risk of noncompliance.

Though very different, The 113th Congressional Freshmen Report has a similar function. Like the state handbook, it brings understanding where understanding is both anxiously wanted and hopelessly lacking. The freshman class of the 113th Congress is, to a large extent, unknown. Its members have no congressional track record, and many haven’t uttered a breath on policy positions important to lobbyists. Most significantly, this unfamiliar cohort comprises over a sixth of Congress.

Dr. Gary Feld, founder of PowerBase Associates, assigned his research staff the task of discovering more about these newcomers. After combing through thousands of media sources, filtering the results, and fitting them into a readable guide, the report was born.  Now being published by Columbia Books, its use will hopefully make the new Congress less of an enigma.

Lobbying at a Glance

Thursday, December 27th, 2012 by Geoffrey Lyons

FORMER SENATOR Bob Bennet (R-Utah) will return to Washington as a lobbyist, ending what he calls a “let's-punish-politicians-for-being-politicians” cool-off period.  The Examiner’s Tim Carney shared a few words on Bennet's appeal to the first amendment for the right to lobby.

Georgia will begin 2013 with a $100 gift cap.

The Maryland Ethics Commission released its list of top-paid lobbyists.

A petition to deport CNN's Piers Morgan “for attacking [the] 2nd amendment,” made the White House petition page, and has since (as of this posting) garnered over 82,000 signatures.  A less successful counter-petition aims to keep Morgan in the U.S., partly “to see how loads of angry Americans react.”

Congressman elect Joe Kennedy III (D-Mass.) has become a “how to get your ex back

184800091.html”>Congressional Friend” of the Irish National Caucus.  His soon-to-be predecessor, outgoing Online Pokies Congressman Barney Frank, has been sitting for numerous exit interviews.  In this one, Frank is asked “what grade do you give yourself? 1-10?”  His reply: “I give myself a 10 for being smart enough not to answer that question.”

According to The Atlantic, lobbyists should expect incoming Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), who is replacing the late Daniel Inoyue, “…to be a consistent liberal in a reliably Democratic state. He supported a 2009 bill to legalize civil unions that was vetoed by then-Gov. Linda Lingle. In keeping with his work in saving beaches, he's also emphasized environmental concerns and served on energy- and environment-related committees in the Hawaii House.”

Looming over all of this is the fiscal cliff.  The Wall Street Journal's fiscal cliff graphics page makes an otherwise tiresome and complicated subject intelligible. (Also see the Nov. 30 LobbyBlog).

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