Posts Tagged ‘Silicon Valley’

On K St.’s Heterogeneity

Thursday, June 5th, 2014 by Geoffrey Lyons

TWO BLACK VULTURES recently made K St. their home, prompting the sort of jokes that one would expect when the caricature of an entire industry nests on its doorstep.  When lobbyist Charlie Dewitt was informed of the vultures’ arrival, he provided the most telling response: “of the bird variety?”

Yet generalizations of any sort would seem unfitting after reading the Washington Post’s brief sketch of K St.’s “new landscape.”  The article provides short portraits of four firms – Franklin Square Group, Chamber Hill Strategies, Policy Resolution Group, and lobbying powerhouse Holland & Knight – each of which is distinguished by some unique characteristic.  Holland & Knight, for example, was the first lobbying group within a law firm to cease using billable hours.  According to Rich Gold, the firm’s head of public policy, this decision meant “not having to worry about how many people to put on a client matter for fear that their collective hourly billing might surpass the monthly retainer the client is paying.”  Policy Resolution Group is equally notable for being a wholly-owned subsidiary of the law firm Bracewell & Guiliani.  According to senior leaders in the firm, “having a separate subsidiary allows non-lawyer lobbyists and professionals to rise to a position that is equivalent to partner, and that helps recruit the best people.”

And it’s not just structural and operational nuances that separate these firms from the pack.  Franklin Square Group, which specializes in technology, prides itself on being the “bridge” between the vastly different cultures of Silicon Valley and Washington.  Of course, they too have a structural distinction in that every partner owns some form of stock option in the firm, but they prefer to see themselves as straddling the line between the fast-moving and risk-driven milieu of the Bay Area and the stodginess of the Beltway.  Taken together, all of these differences account for nothing when the K St. stereotype is very much alive.  The vultures’ choice for nesting grounds helped drive this point home.

Yelp Gives Lobbying Five Stars

Friday, January 10th, 2014 by Vbhotla

IT’S UNDERSTOOD WITHIN the beltway that to remain successful, companies should lobby. As Apple learned the hard way, not having friends in Washington can backfire when the political winds are unfavorable. That’s a lesson fellow tech company Yelp has taken to heart, as they’ve dramatically boosted their Washington lobbying presence in the last few months.

Before this fall, it seemed as though Yelp didn’t think much of having advocates on the Hill, but that’s rapidly changing. In October, The Hill reported that the tech company hired its first lobbyist in Laurent Crenshaw, a former aide to Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) on the House Oversight Committee.

Unlike fellow tech companies like Google and Facebook, both of which have had a lobbying presence on Capitol Hill for years, Yelp is late to the lobbying game. But they seem intent on making up for lost time. Ars Technica reports that Yelp registered its first PAC with the Federal Election Commission on December 31st, a sure sign that the company intends to step into the influence game.

So on what issues will Yelp focus its lobbying efforts? As The Hill notes, Yelp depends on user-generated reviews, so it must ensure that it can host negative reviews of businesses without being vulnerable to libel suits. Further, Yelp is seeking the creation of a federal anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuits against public participation) law. Supporters of the bill argue that such lawsuits are used to intimidate users of companies such as Yelp who post negative reviews of businesses. By supporting an anti-SLAPP bill, Yelp would ensure that its livelihood (namely user reviews) is protected.

Of course, as The Huffington Post notes, Yelp will also likely lobby on many of the same issues that Facebook and Google have backed, in particular the Innovation Act, which seeks to curtail patent trolls and which passed the House of Representatives last month.

Will Yelp’s efforts pay off?  History suggests that they will. As The Sunlight Foundation found in 2012, companies who lobby do better than companies that don’t, and with Apple’s advocacy face plant fresh in Silicon Valley’s mind, it seems likely that other tech companies will take Yelp’s lead.