Posts Tagged ‘the hill’

Niche Lobby Shops Reap Rewards from Big Changes

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014 by Linnae O'Flahavan

WASHINGTON’S BOUTIQUE LOBBY shops are thriving as a direct result of the major changes cialis online that have plagued K St.

powerhouses in recent cialis cheap years, according to The Hill. In just the first two quarters of 2014, for example, there have been 39 law firm mergers and acquisitions—the total for all of 2010. In the past year, Greenberg Traurig has acquired almost 40 attorneys and lobbyists, including thirteen from rival Dickstein Shapiro.

And Patton Boggs, which has also been losing partners and top lobbyists to other firms such as Holland & Knight and Wilmer Hale, recently announced their merger with Squire Sanders.

Smaller lobby firms are finding success in part by steering clear of this chaos, and by specializing in niche practices that work underneath top tier issues.  They’re also benefiting from K St.’s culture of defections and “poaching of talent,” as The Hill describes it, which opens space for more specialized lobby shops to grab hold of significant clients such as Facebook, Google, Verizon, and Goldman Sachs.  These major changes, which are supposed to reward the K St. behemoths, are ironically creating room for start-ups to get a stronger foothold.

But while the lobbying landscape is undoubtedly changing at a rapid pace, and the trend seems to indicate that smaller shops are profiting as a consequence, the question remains whether this is sustainable.  Once DC’s major players begin to settle down, presumably these unique opportunities will begin to fade.  In the meantime, however, there’s yet more poaching to do.

Bitcoin Hires Lobbyists

Thursday, July 17th, 2014 by James Cameron

BITCOIN’S PUBLIC PROFILE has grown significantly in the past year, and like any burgeoning cause or industry, it has lobbyists. The Wall Street Journal reported last week that the Bitcoin Foundation, a nonprofit with the goal of standardizing, protecting, and promoting Bitcoin, has hired Thorsen French Advocacy to represent the Foundation on Capitol Hill.

The Bitcoin Foundation is by no means the first group to lobby on issues related to the digital currency. The Hill notes that Falcon Global Capital, a Bitcoin investment group, hired lobbying firm Thompson Hine in May, and also registered an in-house lobbyist. MasterCard, meanwhile, has Peck Madigan Jones monitoring or working on Bitcoin issues.

Bitcoin has steadily gained visibility in the past year, with the FEC approving the cryptocurrency for PAC contributions, although the PAC must convert Bitcoins into dollars before depositing them into a campaign account. But it has also faced significant public mistrust following the disappearance of $460 million in Bitcoin from Mt. Gox, formerly the world’s largest Bitcoin exchange.

While Bitcoin still has a long way to go to reach mainstream acceptance among lawmakers and the general public, the Bitcoin Foundation’s lobbying hire should do much to advance the currency’s profile on Capitol Hill. It remains to be seen whether it will ever become the borderless, non-political, and widely trusted currency that its proponents hope for.

NCAA Pays Lobbyists in Hopes of Never Paying Athletes

Friday, June 20th, 2014 by Geoffrey Lyons

BOTH THE NATIONAL Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the Big 12 have hired lobbyists for the first time.  The issue: the “welfare of student-athletes,” what The Hill describes as “a key turn of phrase being used to underscore that players are students…and not professional athletes who should receive compensation.”

The debate on whether student-athletes deserve pay has been heated for years, and came to a boil most recently when the Chicago division of the National Labor Relations Board decided that Northwestern football players qualify as “employees” and therefore can unionize.  But until now, the NCAA has relied on in-house lobbyists to bring the issue to the Hill, which cost them $180,000 in 2013 alone.

It’s unclear how difficult the NCAA’s task will be.  One lobbyist speculated that when Major League Baseball was last on the Hill, it caved on its steroid policy.  Whether there’s even a chance that the NCAA will do the same depends on how earnestly the issue is taken up by Congress.  At the moment, The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, has yet to reschedule a hearing.

K St. Drools Over Cantor

Thursday, June 12th, 2014 by Geoffrey Lyons

AFTER HOUSE MAJORITY leader Eric Cantor’s (R-Va.) unpredictable defeat Tuesday night, a predictable response: what’s next for the Virginian?

Perhaps the most eager to know are those willing to coax the lame duck into working for them.  His leadership position, writes the Hill, makes him an incredibly lucrative prize.  And depending on the results of this year’s midterm elections, his stock could rise in just a matter of months. The timing of his defeat combined with his length of service and rank within the Republican party are the chief ingredients that make Cantor even more magnetic than “Blue Dog” Democrats, a “popular breed” on K St. for their bipartisanship and amity towards business.

Whether Cantor’s staff will get a share of this fortune is less certain.  Some are arguing that their value will sink as a result of the defeat, while others are skeptical of this assessment.  Ivan Adler, a principal at The McCormick Group, told The Hill “being in leadership means you know the entire caucus; that’s something that’s really important. Those relationships don’t go away because your boss is not there.”  POLITICO’s stance appears to incorporate both views, noting that former Cantor staffers on K St.

are [all] lobbyists with extensive relationships all over town who will ultimately be fine without their Cantor connection on Capitol Hill. But Cantor’s exit – assuming he doesn’t mount a quixotic write-in campaign – shifts the center of gravity and talent on K Street significantly.

As for Cantor’s donors, a potential measure of his influence, POLITICO adds that it’s “futile” to list them “because it’s essentially a who’s who of Fortune 500 and major trade associations.”

Of course, these discussions tend to invite needless speculation, so it’s worth ending on two points of consensus: Eric Cantor has his pick of the crop, and whoever gets him will profit immensely.

McCutcheon’s Effect on Lobbyists

Monday, April 7th, 2014 by Geoffrey Lyons

WHATEVER ONE’S VIEWS on the Supreme Court’s ruling in McCutcehon v. FEC, there’s one incontrovertable fact: lobbyists will suffer.

According to CNN, “lobbyists fret that the ruling could mean they’ll be on the hook to hand over even more campaign cash to lawmakers.”

POLITICO added that these lobbyists “are already inundated by fundraising calls from lawmakers, email solicitations and events that fill their calendars for breakfasts, lunches and dinners in the run-up to the quarterly deadlines.”

The Hill called the decision “groan-inducing” for lobbyists, noting that the aggregate limits had until now acted as “a ready-made excuse for turning down fundraising appeals.”

Of course, not everyone is extending their pity.  Huffington Post blogger Jason Linkins bitterly remarked that these complaints teach only that “there is no greater disadvantage in life than having all the advantages.”

Yet virtually nobody is challenging the fact that lobbyists will be expected to pony up a larger share of their income in the years ahead.  Perhaps a collective reluctance will help minimize the damage.

Wage War

Thursday, February 27th, 2014 by James Cameron

PRESIDENT OBAMA HAS called the proposed federal minimum wage hike “giving America a raise,” but whether the legislation succeeds or not, lobbyists are likely to enjoy a windfall.  Raising the minimum wage from its current rate of $7.25/hr to $10.10/hr is a centerpiece of congressional Democrats’ 2014 legislative agenda, and groups on both sides of the issue have already spent millions of lobbying dollars to influence lawmakers on the fence.  With recent news that a vote on the legislation will be put off, lobbying campaigns for both sides are heating up.

The Hill reports that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has delayed a vote on the legislation as support for the hike has waned among vulnerable congressional Democrats. A coalition of labor unions and liberal advocacy groups has hailed the move, saying that it gives them time to mount a national grassroots lobbying campaign to drum up support for the legislation.

Vowing to fight the bill are numerous retail, restaurant, and service organizations. The American Hotel & Lodging Association, which overhauled its lobbying team last year, strongly opposes a minimum wage hike, claiming that it would inhibit companies’ ability to hire more workers.

Complicating the issue is the difficulty of sifting through a myriad of reports from disparate sources to piece together an accurate picture of the hike’s potential impact. Although it seems likely that the Congressional Budget Office’s recent report that the hike could cost as many as 500,000 minimum wage jobs but increase earnings for more than 16.5 million workers is accurate and nonpartisan, data from other sources may be suspect. The New York Times reports that some nonprofits and think tanks that publish economic reports on legislation are in fact funded (often secretly) by groups with a significant stake in the legislation. The Employment Policies Institute, for example, has published academic reports warning that raising the minimum wage would adversely impact poverty, unemployment, and the economy. But the Times also notes that the group is run by a PR firm that also represents the restaurant industry, which strongly opposes the wage hike. Just as lobbying has gradually moved underground and become more opaque, so too are groups attempting to influence policy in nebulous and indirect ways, as the current fight over the minimum wage illustrates.

Although the Congressional battle over “America’s raise” has been delayed for now, the lobbying fight over the wage hike has just begun. With heavy hitters like Wal-Mart still out of the fray, the battle is likely to get even more intense before it’s over.

Yelp Gives Lobbying Five Stars

Friday, January 10th, 2014 by James Cameron

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.

Food Fight: Major Crop Associations Divided Over Farm Bill Subsidies

Thursday, December 5th, 2013 by James Cameron

ONE MIGHT ASSUME that agricultural associations would find common cause in the passage of a new farm bill.  But as POLITICO reports, the most prominent cash crop growers—including those growing corn, soybeans, rice, and cotton—are butting heads over their share of limited subsidies, and it’s putting the new bill in peril.

Part of the reason for this is that there’s far less money to go around than in previous farm bills, and lobbyists for each crop are at each other’s throats over the limited funds. Further, as The Hill reports, both Democrats and Republicans on the House Agriculture Committee insist on basing subsidies on what farmers actually plant, rather than on historical crop yields.

Also contributing to the fractious (and possibly self-defeating) relationship between commodity interest groups is the fact that there isn’t a trade association with enough power to unite the warring factions.  Bob Stallman, President of the American Farm Bureau Federation, said that AFBF will “do what it can to help close ranks on any remaining issues – for the good of the whole of American agriculture,” but so far growers remain divided.

The good news?  For one, as The Hill notes, the farm bill won’t automatically die if a deal isn’t reached by the end of the year.  This leaves open the possibility that a deal is struck before Christmas, with a vote coming in January.  Indeed, Congress is under pressure to pass a new farm bill by 2014, when current subsidies for milk would expire, causing dairy prices to rise.

A lot is at stake for both agricultural associations and Congress in the weeks leading up to Christmas.  A deal may get done eventually, but it’s clear that the rival associations aren’t doing themselves any favors by remaining at odds.  Many swords must be turned to plowshares before there’s reconciliation in the farming community.

A Casino Divided: Adelson, AGA Split on Online Gambling

Thursday, November 21st, 2013 by James Cameron

AT FIRST GLANCE, online gambling seems a no-brainer for the gaming industry.  Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson disagrees.  The Washington Post reports that Adelson, one of the world’s richest men, is launching a public campaign against it, even as the wind appears to be blowing in the other direction.  Three states—Delaware, Nevada, and New Jersey—have already legalized it, and the Post expects that a dozen more will soon follow.  Further, The Hill notes that the American Gaming Association has thrown its full support behind it.

If federally legalized, online gambling is projected to generate more than 50 billion dollars in revenue, why, then, is Adelson so adamantly against what would appear to be a lucrative business for the gaming industry?  The reason, it seems, is at least partly ideological.  Per Forbes, he is pushing the idea that Internet gambling is a danger to both children and gambling addicts, and according to The Post, he is passionate about the issue.

Is he likely to succeed, despite staunch opposition from the AGA?  It’s probably too early to tell, but Adelson’s influence isn’t being taken lightly.  The Hill reports that gaming industry leaders convened in Washington this past Tuesday to establish a strategy to counter his crusade.  The industry’s concern isn’t without reason: Adelson donated a record-breaking $100 million to GOP candidates in the 2012 election cycle, and the Washington Post reports that he has hired Patton Boggs and Husch Blackwell to lobby in favor of an online gambling ban.  He has also upped the ante by hiring several prominent former politicians to co-chair his anti-Internet gambling coalition, including former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb (D), former Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), and former New York governor George Pataki (R).

Although it’s anyone’s guess whether Adelson’s all-in effort will succeed, his wealth and determination against a united AGA means that the lobbying fight over online gambling has more than just a few more rounds of bets.

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.

K St., Meet Pakistan

Friday, November 15th, 2013 by James Cameron

EVEN FOR COUNTRIES with troubled relations with the United States, investing in lobbying can pay dividends. That’s why, as The Hill reports, it’s likely that Pakistan will hire a lobbying firm soon after being without representation on K St. since July 31, when Locke Lord Strategies terminated its contract with the country.

Pakistan and the United States have had an uneasy relationship since Bin Laden was killed in Abbottabad in May 2011. The discovery of the infamous terrorist leader living in comfort near Pakistan’s capitol city put a strain on the United States’ trust in the country. By the same token, the Pakistani government blasted the raid as an unauthorized military action on Pakistani soil without the government’s knowledge or approval.

Despite the frosty alliance between the two countries, The Sunlight Foundation notes that last month, the United States was preparing to unfreeze approximately $1.6 billion in aid that had been on hold since the Bin Laden raid, but Congress remains  wary of being seen as supporting Pakistan. As a former Pakistani government official notes in The Hill’s article, “Unless Pakistan mounts a major lobbying effort, it will be difficult to turn the opinions on the Hill around.”

Have renewed lobbying efforts by other countries paid off? For Egypt, it’s too early to tell. Last month, Egypt hired the Glover Park Group after the United States put a freeze on military aid to the troubled nation. The hire comes after more than a year-long hiatus without K St. representation, during which time Egypt’s favorability rating has plummeted in the United States.  While this doesn’t prove that hiring a lobbyists automatically earns approval, doing so certainly couldn’t hurt, especially in Pakistan’s case.

Top Lobbyists of 2013

Friday, November 1st, 2013 by Geoffrey Lyons

THE HILL HAS  just unveiled it’s annual “Top Lobbyists” list, and LobbyBlog seized the opportunity, as it did last year, to speak with its wearied compiler-in-chief, Business & Lobbying Editor Dustin Weaver.  It did not go unnoticed that the short time Weaver spared for these questions came at the expense of an impending print deadline, so many thanks are owed.  Any typographical errors in the latest print edition of The Hill can be blamed squarely on LobbyBlog.

LobbyBlog: Only two people are new to the list of top corporate lobbyists. Does this reflect the difficulty of breaking into corporate lobbying in Washington?

Dustin Weaver: It reflects the fact that corporations don’t like to talk about their lobbying. The people who work for them usually operate behind the scenes and aren’t seeking to publicize their work.

LB: The premise to last year’s list read that 2012 “hasn’t been the best year for K Street…” How has 2013 been?

DW: It’s shaping up as another down year. Most firms are treading water when it comes to revenue, and there’s not much hope of things getting better before the midterm elections. Gridlock in Congress is the new normal, and it’s making it harder for lobbyists to drum up business.

LB: What key characteristics distinguish the lobbyists who make the list from those who don’t? What is it that makes them so influential?

DW: Influence, like charisma, is one of those things that can’t be quantified; you know it when you see it. Some of the Top Lobbyists are masters of policy, others are great at building relationships. Some have great access, while others shape the debate using grassroots organizing. People rise to the top in different ways.

LB: One of last year’s big trends was the growth in the number of tech companies hiring lobbyists – Twitter, for example. Yelp just hired a lobbyist earlier this month. Is this an ongoing trend?

DW: Tech is the new boom industry, and their growing lobbying presence reflects that. The bigger companies like Google and Facebook get, the more lobbying help they need in Washington.

LB: Here’s an excerpt from Mark Leibovich’s This Town, which received a lot of buzz this year: “In 1974, 3 percent of retiring members of Congress became lobbyists. Now, 50 percent of senators and 42 percent of congressmen do. No one goes home anymore.” Can you expand on this?

DW: Law and lobby firms definitely place a high value on the insider knowledge that only lawmakers can provide.  Why more lawmakers are choosing to make the jump to K Street, I can’t say. But as a career move, it seems to be more acceptable now than it used to be.

From Tinseltown To K Street

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013 by James Cameron

HOLLYWOOD AND POLITICS aren’t strangers by any stretch, and lately they’ve been getting even cozier.  As The Hill reported last week, lobbyists are increasingly using the allure of Hollywood to get the attention of politicians, using advance movie screenings and meetings with movie stars to bring attention to key policy issues.

Although groups such as the Motion Picture Association of America (headed by former Sen. Chris Dodd) have long used movie screenings as an advocacy tool, other groups are beginning to catch on, especially when a film can be used to call attention to specific policy points.

The American Gaming Association, for example, frames the upcoming film Runner Runner, which portrays the seedy underside of offshore gambling, as a “cautionary tale” on the dangers of illegal online gambling.  Similarly, The Hill reports that Captain Phillips, which is currently in theaters, is being screened by the International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots to highlight the issues faced by the Merchant Marine.  About 50 members of Congress were invited.

But are these screenings actually an effective way to curry favor with lawmakers?  Many groups are finding that they’re an extremely useful advocacy tool.  As The Hill reports, last years’ Oscar-winning Silver Linings Playbook was an incredible boon for the National Alliance on Mental Illness.  Bradley Cooper’s portrayal of a man with bipolar disorder attached a famous face to a crucial issue for the organization.

In a world with many competing distractions, lobbyists are finding that the glamour of Hollywood can still grab the attention of policymakers. And for advocacy groups, the next big film could be their big break.

ACA Begets New Breed of Experts

Thursday, August 29th, 2013 by James Cameron

IT STANDS TO REASON that the most comprehensive healthcare reform in nearly 50 years comes with a lot of fine print and red tape. What lobbyists and lobbying firms are discovering is that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) also generates a lot of revenue.

The Hill reports that big lobbying firms are clamoring for Obamacare veterans. Many of K Street’s largest firms, including Akin Gump, Alston & Bird, and The Glover Park Group now have someone who was involved in the creation of ACA on their rosters, as do the lobbying wings of a number of major corporations.

Why are Obamacare insiders such a hot commodity? A law with the size and scope of ACA is subject to incredibly complex regulations and fine print, so having someone on staff who can explain that to clients is invaluable to firms. Additionally, much of the law is being implemented by the agencies, which are not subject to the same level of transparency as Congress. From The Hill:

 “Congress is easy to watch,” said Tim LaPira, a politics professor at James Madison University who researches the government affairs industry, “but agencies are harder to watch because their actions are often opaque.”

This is why, as The Hill notes, veterans of the Department of Health and Human Services are among the highest-paid Obamacare specialists.

But the industry experts aren’t the only ones reaping benefits from knowing the ins and outs of the act.  Law firms are also yielding gains by attracting clients from the multitude of industries that will be impacted by the law’s provisions. Although lobbying revenues have been on the decline in 2013, the influx of ACA specialists should help things improve.

Because the implementation of ACA is staggered, with some provisions going into effect immediately while others trigger in 2014 and beyond, it seems clear that ACA insiders will continue to enjoy a high demand for their services.  Whether they’ll be needed in three, four, ten years hence is more dubious.

Lions and Tigers and K St., Oh My!

Thursday, May 30th, 2013 by Geoffrey Lyons

ACCORDING TO THE HILL’S Kevin Bogardus, the latest lobbying battle is centered around cats. Big cats. Bogardus reports that

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and other groups are throwing their weight behind the Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act, which would ban keeping the animals as pets or breeding them for sale.

Public disclosure records reveal that the IFAW hasn’t been throwing much weight behind anything since the mid-90′s, when in 1996 alone it raised half a million dollars and spent, if you’ll pardon the pun, the lion’s share. The Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act may reverse that trend, bringing IFAW back to the vanguard of animal rights lobbying.

But despite the involvement of animal rights groups, advocates are emphasizing public safety as the measure’s central cause.*  The implication is that this approach will enhance the visibility (and ultimately the palatability) of the proposed legislation.  The name of the bill is itself a testament to this, in which the bulk of its syllabic frame is occupied by the public safety bit, with “Big Cats” being dispensed with up front and early.  Also, there’s no allusion to animal welfare in this designation.

How else is the message being pushed?  Metro ads.  To LobbyBlog’s readers on K St.: look for images of caged lions and tigers the next time you board at Farragut.

*IFAW says that “in just the past two decades, dangerous incidents involving captive big cats in the U.S. have resulted in the deaths of 22 people (including 5 children); and over 200 additional humans have been mauled or injured.”