Posts Tagged ‘roll call’

How Earmarks Affect Lobbying

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013 by Geoffrey Lyons

FOR EACH OF the three years since earmarks were outlawed by Congress, total lobbying expenditures have diminished.  Other factors are surely at play, not least of which is congressional gridlock.  The recent government shutdown, for example, kept many lobbyists entirely out of the fray.  But the earmark moratorium has dealt a unique blow to the influence industry, one that simply cannot be gainsaid.

The most obvious reason for this is that the absence of earmarks, long used as bargaining chips, permits less opportunity for leverage in the political arena.  Earlier this month, former Rep. George Nethercutt (R. Wash.), an opponent of the ban, wrote in a blog post for The Hill that an “unintended consequence” of banning earmarks is the creation of “purist legislators who largely disdain compromise” and “resist seniority.” For lobbyists, these members would become off limits, thus narrowing the playing field.  (A retort to Nethercutt’s argument can be found here).  Jim Dyer of Podesta has gone so far as to say that lobbying will never be the same again. “Opponents of earmarks, they won,” Dyer told Roll Call. “And look what they got: complete paralysis.”

But some lobbying firms have lost more than just a tool for leverage–they’ve lost significant business.  Cassidy & Associates is an example of a firm, cited by Roll Call’s Kate Ackley, that “pioneered the dash for earmarks,” and thus relied heavily on their existence.  For Cassidy and others, losing earmarks was like losing the ground on which they stood:

[Cassidy] had the highest grossing fees (more than $27 million) back in 2000 as measured by the Lobbying Disclosure Act. Last year, Cassidy reported about $15.5 million….In December 2010, on the cusp of the earmark moratorium, the firm restructured and laid off about a dozen employees.

So while the earmark debate still rages, doing its damage to Republican unity (see here and here), lobbyists of both parties are left weakened in its wake, forced to search for alternatives to a process they’ve spent years to master.  Whether or not a ban on earmarks is good for the country is still very much in question.  To doubt its effect on Washington lobbying is to ignore plain facts.

Why Comply?

Thursday, June 20th, 2013 by Geoffrey Lyons

EVERY YEAR THE Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports that most lobbyists are doing what they’re legally bound to do: register and disclose. Despite some shortcomings – such as failing to round expenses to the nearest $10,000 and neglecting to report formerly held covered positions – lobbyists are a law abiding and diligent bunch. (Registered lobbyists, of course. Many lobbyists are in fact operating beyond the current legal framework).

But this rosy picture does little to deter those tempted to quit compliance all together. Some are asking: why comply? Nobody is getting more than a slap on the wrist for their negligence, so why bother?

An identical question was posed to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in D.C. against Biassi Business Services Inc., which failed to submit 124 compliance forms and now faces up to $33 million in fines. The oft-repeated criticism that the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA) and the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act (HLOGA) “lack teeth” was met brusquely by Davidson: “Does a $33 million penalty count as teeth?”

Some may still think not. $33 million is a hefty fine, yes, but 124 repeated offences exceeds negligence and borders on willful disobedience.  In fact, this latest case may do very little by way of a warning to lobbyists.  If it’s only the “chronic offenders” facing costs for noncompliance, then skipping a disclosure deadline or two will still maintain its appeal.  Though compliance is the safest route, people make a good point just by asking “why comply?”

How Much is Too Much?

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013 by Geoffrey Lyons

LOBBYING HAS ALWAYS been a difficult job. Yet more seems to be expected of lobbyists by the day. When it comes to fundraising, for example, “much of the pressure falls to K St.” This is resulting in the unenviable phenomenon of “no downtime.”

But the burden of fundraising is doing much more than corroding lobbyists’ leisure, which is always in short supply.  It’s also affecting their finances.  In order to meet the demands of a post-Citizens world, lobbyists are cutting more checks.  An anonymous lobbyist in the above-linked article laments how “my kids are all going to community college since I’m giving all this money away.”  Apparently time itself is no longer a sufficient sacrifice on K St.

On the one hand, nothing is new here.  Campaign pledges and donations have long been used by lobbyists for leverage.  Some have perfected the art of winning support through piecemeal contributions, effectively luring lawmakers to their cause, donation by donation, pledge by pledge.

On the other hand, everything is new.  When a certain group of robed justices blows the top off years of campaign finance precedence (which they’re primed to do again), the debris will fall for years.  The full effect of Citizens is thus yet to be felt by lobbyists.  One thing is overwhelmingly evident: the depth of their wallets has a limit, whereas what’s expected of them does not.  This forces a question upon all lobbyists struggling to stay relevant: how much is too much?

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

 

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

Lobbying at a Glance

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013 by Geoffrey Lyons

FRANK FAHRENKOPF, former chairman of the RNC from ’83-’89, is stepping down as head of the American Gaming Association (AGA). The AGA spent $4.2 million on lobbying in 2011-2012 (Center for Reponsive Politics). “Competition for the prestigious AGA job is likely to be intense. Fahrenkopf earned more than $1.9 million in compensation in 2010, according to the AGA’s tax form for that year, making it one of the highest-paying lobby jobs in Washington.” – The Hill

Former Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-Ohio), who served in Congress from ’95-’03, announced that he will become a lobbyist: “LaTourette and his wife will open a Washington, D.C.-based government affairs subsidiary of McDonald Hopkins LLC, a large Cleveland, Ohio law firm. Jennifer LaTourette, a lobbyist with Van Scoyoc and Associates who has represented the Airports Council International, will join him in the new office overlooking Capitol Hill, according to a press release.” – Roll Call

Sandy Hook has apparently elicited a tectonic shift in the advocacy community: “The classic lobbying nemeses over gun laws have been the National Rifle Association and the Washington gun control group, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. But the Newtown tragedy is prompting some locally based advocacy groups that have previously been silent on gun control to consider stepping in.” – The Washington Post

In the same vein, former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.) and her husband, Mark Kelly, launched an online anti-gun violence campaign called Americans for Responsible Solutions: “The website launch is accompanied by an op-ed in USA Today, coming on the two-year anniversary of the shooting attack that killed six and wounded another 12 people on Jan. 8, 2011″ – Politico

According to new research, lobbyists should think twice about boosting their ego: “A growing body of research, including new studies by Berkeley’s Juliana Breines and Serena Chen, suggest that self-compassion, rather than self-esteem, may be the key to unlocking your true potential for greatness.” – Harvard Business Review