Posts Tagged ‘President Obama’

The Police Lobby Pushes Back

Thursday, August 28th, 2014 by Vbhotla

AFTER SIGNIFICANT CRITICISM AND concerns expressed by civil rights groups, the media, and politicians over the military tactics and equipment used by local police in Ferguson, Mo. in recent weeks, president Obama has ordered a review of federal programs that supply surplus military equipment to municipal police departments, the Washington Post reports. The move comes after local police deployed what many viewed as excessive military tactics, including tear gas, armored tactical vehicles, and acoustic riot control (LRAD) devices against protests that have been largely peaceful.

But police associations are pushing back, arguing that there is a great deal of misinformation about how military equipment is being used by police departments. The Hill reports that the Fraternal Order of Police has made its presence felt on Capitol Hill in recent weeks, and they’re only one of several police associations that have contacted members and staff about their concerns regarding potentially stripping police of military gear. Bill Johnson, the executive director of the National Association of Police Organizations, said that any decision on the federal programs should be delayed, arguing that emotions are running too high in the wake of the Ferguson protests for a rational decision to be made. The Daily Beast reports that the National Tactical Officers Association, which represents SWAT teams nationwide, has e-mailed every legislative staffer in both the House and Senate, arguing that police need advanced equipment to stay “one step ahead” of criminals.

Despite concerns from the police lobby, it appears that the conversation in Washington has generally been in opposition to police tactics and equipment used in Ferguson. The Hill reports that the Fraternal Order has already met with Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) after she made public statements against police militarization on MSNBC, but lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have expressed concerns that police militarization threatens civil liberties, including Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.). Meanwhile, Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) has introduced a bill to demilitarize local police forces.

It’s still unclear whether significant inroads will be made in demilitarizing police departments, but events in Ferguson have certainly put a spotlight on the issue. It remains to be seen whether the police lobby’s efforts will stem the tide or if public outrage will sway lawmakers into taking legislative action.

State of the Union

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012 by Vbhotla

Every time I watch the State of the Union address, I always wish I was a more optimistic person. I remember being genuinely excited when President Clinton used the line (not very original) “the state of our union is STRONG” in 1998. I have always believed, whether a Democrat or Republican is speaking, that the State of the Union address should be used to inspire and present the ideas that we should aspire to. Basically, I think the perfect State of the Union should make me want to sing out a certain “Team America” song whose name I can’t print here. Last night, while listening to President Obama, I kinda, sorta felt that way.

And I don’t mean that in a partisan way. Like most of the people now on the outside looking in, I’ve always believed that for President Obama to maximize his potential in office, he needs to be more combative. Even when I disagree, I’d rather he or the Republicans in Congress take a bigger chance; it isn’t like either side’s poll numbers are that great now. At the moment, it feels like I am watching a football game where both sides are so scared of turning the ball over they punt every 1st down.

What’s more sickening is the idea that we need a rebuttal response from the opposition. The idea that it is even needed in the first place just rings of two kids going “No, you’re wrong!” Can’t we put aside partisan bickering for one night and let the President, whichever party they are from, have the limelight? Even when President Obama said something that traditionally is “right of center” he couldn’t catch a break. I really don’t know why you’d even want to respond. It seems like the better political strategy is to just let it go, not seem contrarian, and move on to the next thing. Also, because it airs right after the State, there is no way for them to truly prepare online casino poker to “respond” to whatever the President actually says.

Why do I say that? Because the rebuttal is just another chance to make a mistake when you don’t have to. Michelle Bachmann’s ‘tea party’ response last year was a great example of this. Also, despite popular opinion, it isn’t like it really makes a difference in the polls. The historic “bump” that people believe the State of the Union gives the incumbent (especially during an election year) is minimum, if at all. Gallup did a great break down in 2010. (Already two years ago!)The biggest bump since the ‘70s came from that ’98 Address, though granted it was the first time in most people’s lives they were hearing or remembering the President announcing a balanced budget.

One last thought. Legislatively, it seems like the big issue the President pushes for each State of the Union has just around a 50/50 shot of working out well. Just ask President Bush about Social Security. Even when it does work, like Obama’s health care plan, it can seem like a Pyrrhic victory. I think it is just hopeful thinking that in the Halls of Congress we’d all have a “come to the light” moment where everyone goes “Oooooohhhhhh, that’s what we should be doing! OK”.

While President Kennedy didn’t declare we would end up on the moon in his State of the Union Address (I’m cheating here because it was still a joint session when he did it) that is what I believe the Address should be about. It is supposed to be a night where we come together and say “ok, this is where we are as a country.” Now we can’t even agree what our problems are, much less the solutions. As an American, I want to hear the unbridled and hopeful optimism regardless of the “political lean” of the idea. For me, the State of the Union has always been about defining the impossible: and how we will turn it into possible.

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.

State of the Union goes High Tech

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011 by Vbhotla

President Obama has unveiled a webpage designed to supplement tonight’s State of the Union address.  The first of its kind, the website boasts that “Americans can choose an enhanced viewing experience for the President’s State of the Union address.”

A White House panel consisting of Brian Deese, Deputy Director, National Economic Council; Roberto Rodriguez, Special Assistant to the President for Education Policy; David Simas, Director and Aide to the Senior Advisor; and Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications has been assembled to answer questions submitted via Facebook, Twitter, or the site itself immediately after the address.Other key members of the administration will be participating in online discussions throughout the week.

President Obama himself will engage in a YouTube interview Thursday afternoon.  Also on Thursday, there will be a live roundtable discussion featuring the Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Chairman of the Council of Economic AdvisorsAustan Goolsbee and Dennis McDonough, Deputy National Security Director.

The page will stream the address live and also includes charts, graphs and other content to supplement the speech.

Obama caused lobbyist deregistrations! (maybe not so much)

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010 by Drew

The Washington Post ran a story this past Monday looking at the phenomenon of lobbyist deregistrations that occurred in the wake of Obama’s election and subsequent crackdown on lobbyists. Here’s the gist:

A report from November last year, jointly written by OMB Watch and the Center for Responsive Politics,  showed nearly 1,500 deregistrations during the second quarter 2009–a significant increase over the previous two years–which seemed to be a response to Obama’s election and passage of new lobbying restrictions.

Then, two weeks ago, OMB Watch and the Center for Responsive Politics released another report showing all those deregistrations may not have been a result of Obama’s election after all. The problem, they say, is that “deregistration” is a vague term, and measuring data on when and why lobbyists deregister is difficult, making it extremely hard to draw conclusions on why exactly a deregistration spike may have occurred.

Regardless, the Washington Post article explains that it’s hard to definitively say that lobbyists who have “deregistered” have stopped all advocacy activities. In the article, Dave Wenhold, president of the American League of Lobbyists, says, “Do I think these people went back to Arkansas and became farmers? No, they just weren’t doing it 20 percent anymore.” Wenhold is referring, of course, to the 20 percent trigger whereby a lobbyist must register if they spend more than 20 percent of their time on behalf of a client lobbying.

Why would some lobbyists stay under the 20 percent trigger? Because of Obama’s stricter lobbying rules? Who knows.

Are you in compliance with all the lobbying disclosure rules? Check out’s Lobbying Compliance Center to find out.

Tuesday Ethics Tip

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010 by Vbhotla

Baseball season is upon us. From President Obama’s first pitch at Nationals Stadium, to escaping the dog days of summer with a little baseball stadium R&R, to October’s playoffs (maybe?), lobbyists must be careful when inviting their favorite members of Congress or Congressional staffers out to Nats games. (Or, for our other DC-sports fans, Capitols, D.C. United, or Wizards games. What did I forget? Shout it out).

Below is an abbreviated explanation of when you can or cannot invite someone to a sporting event.

Remember: The gift rule is that lobbyists or lobbying firms may not provide anything of value to a member of Congress or Congressional staffer.

Tickets and Events: Members and staff may be offered tickets to sporting events, concerts, and other types of events. The rules specify what may and may not be accepted and how such tickets are to be priced for purposes of personal payment by Members and staff.

How much does a Member or staffer have to pay for a ticket to a sporting event or concert? The price would differ depending on the source of the ticket and the amount (if any) on the ticket.

Source: The source of tickets is the entity or person who paid for the tickets.  For example, if a lobbyist wants to take a Member or staffer to a ticketed event using tickets provided by his/her firm or company, he/she would not be the source of the tickets. In this case, the firm or company is the source, AND the personal friendship rule would not permit a Member or staffer to accompany a lobbyist date to an event using such a ticket. The individuals themselves would be required to pay the face value of the tickets to the firm or company in order for the tickets to be used.

Valuation: Generally speaking, all gifts are valued at their retail, not wholesale, value under the gift rules.  Further, for tickets to sporting or other entertainment events, the rules provide specific guidance as to how to value tickets for purposes of Member/staff payment for their use.  The general rule: Members and staff must pay market value for all gifts unless there is an applicable exception.

Type of Ticketed Event House Senate
Athletic, sporting event – ticket with face value Member/staffer pays face value, if identical to price available for tickets sold to the public

Member/staffer pays face value, if identical to price available for tickets sold to the public
Athletic, sporting event – ticket with NO face value Member/staffer pays highest individually-priced ticket for the event Member/staffer pays highest individually-priced ticket for the event or may ask for Senate Ethics approval in advance of event to pay price of a comparable ticket to same event.  Written and independently verifiable information (including seat location, parking, access to areas not open to the public, and the availability of food and refreshments) must be submitted to show that the ticket offered them is equivalent to another ticket that does have a face value
Event in a skybox with food, beverages, and/or parking Member/staffer pays either face value or highest individually-priced ticket for the event plus the value/costs of food and parking in accordance with other gift rules and exceptions See above

This information is adapted from’s Compliance Center.