Posts Tagged ‘the hill’

Lobbying at a Glance

Friday, April 12th, 2013 by Geoffrey Lyons

JACK ABRAMOFF  penned an advice column in Businessweek titled “How to Get Your Perk Into a Bill.” “In most cases,” he argues, “you won’t worry about members of Congress who are opposed to you. If you do your job right, they’ll only find out about it once it’s already the law.”

Mark Zuckerberg hired a couple of lobbyists for his new advocacy group. “Zuckerberg is teaming with other Silicon Valley execs like Joe Green to start the group, which is expected to broadly focus on economic issues like immigration and education reform.” The lobbyists were picked up from Fierce, Isakowitz & Blalock and Peck, Madigan, Jones & Stewart.

From The Hill: “The beer giant Anheuser-Busch Companies Inc. has added lobbying help as it tries to acquire the producer of Corona and other popular beer brands.” See an earlier LobbyBlog post “Beer Industry Infighting Returns to Congress.”

“I’ve decided not to be the model penitent for your unconstitutional tribunal,” said a gun lobbyist in Colorado before walking out of an ethics investigation exploring whether he violated a rule against intimidating legislators. “Neville [the lobbyist] was escorted from the capitol that day and Gerou [Rep. Cheri Gerou, a Republican legislator] filed an ethics complaint against him, alleging that his mention of sending mailers to her constituents violated an ethics rule — Rule 36 — against attempting to intimidate or influence legislators.”

On a humorous note, Dog the Bounty Hunter lobbied the Oklahoma legislature for tougher bail enforcement. “The state Senate took the occasion to pass a resolution honoring the 27-year bounty hunter and former bail bondsman. Presumably, lawmakers were scared not to do so”

Beer Industry Infighting Returns to Congress

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013 by Geoffrey Lyons

POLITICO AND THE HILL have recently reported on the Small Brewer Reinvestment and Expanding Workforce Act (Small BREW), and how it is becoming the focal point of an advocacy battle between big-name beers and their smaller counterparts. POLITICO notes that “the Craft Brewers Association sent 243 of its members to Capitol Hill this week to lobby [for the bill…]” which, according to OpenSecrets, the association’s leader (Bob Pease) is calling “the biggest-ever lobby day — setting up meetings for 250 brewery owners with 90 Senate and 250 House offices.”

The aim of Small BREW, which has just recently been revived after its introduction in 2011,  is to “amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide for a reduced rate of excise tax on beer produced domestically by certain small producers.”  “If enacted,” according to the Hill:

…the Small BREW Act would cut the federal excise tax on beer from $7 a barrel to $3.50, which is placed on a small brewer’s first 60,000 barrels produced per year. After that initial 60,000 barrels, small brewers must pay $18 per barrel, which would be lowered to $16 under the bill.

The Beer Institute, whose members include corporate mammoths like Heineken USA, MillerCoors, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., and Anheuser-Busch, is opposed to the bill on the grounds that it divides the industry.  It instead supports an alternative measure – the Brewer’s Employment and Excise Relief (BEER) Act – which would lower excise taxes on all brewers, not just the small ones.  But whereas The Beer Institute will “actively oppose” Small BREW, the Brewers Association supports both bills.  It just prefers its own.

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

 

A Friend of a Friend is a Friend

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012 by Geoffrey Lyons

EXAMINE THE FOLLOWING passage from this morning’s The Hill, which despite its verbiage is furnished with a simple truth about lobbying:

“[Wayne] Abernathy is one of a few lobbyists who are considered close to [Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas)], a former aide to ex-Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Texas) who has served five terms in the House. Lobbyists say several former Gramm aides who are now on K Street remain close to Hensarling.”

Translation: if you’re in with Phil, you’re in with Jeb, and therefore – considering the latter’s ascent to the chair of the House Committee on Financial Services – you’re in.

Lobbying is often blithely described as being “about who you know” (though it should be whom).  But if it’s “about” anything, it may rather be whom they know.  Though H

ouse Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) can be reached via his Chief of Staff, Alexis Covey-Brandt, a lobbyist might opt for a more kindred spirit in ex-Chief of Staff Cory Alexander, now Senior VP of Government Affairs for UnitedHealth Group.  In another vein, someone once in business with ex-Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.) shouldn’t mourn a loss of influence.  Her replacement is Rep. Ron Barber, who formerly served as her district director.

Gaining access to the circles in which a lawmaker walks is therefore aided by an understanding of their range.  Some politicians may stay in touch with their bosses (Hensarling), some their staff (Hoyer).  Some may pass the torch to a campaign director (Giffords), some their son (Bud Shuster, succeeded by Bill Shuster).  If you know these things, and you leverage them correctly…you’re in.

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For Defense Contractors, Lobbyists, More Than Just Sequester

Thursday, November 15th, 2012 by Geoffrey Lyons

THE PENTAGON HAS been the source of much worry in Washington lately.  An impending sequester that would strip billions from its budget is fueling premonitions of a fiscal cliff from which the whole nation would plunge.  And while lobbyists from all corners are scrambling to prevent across-the-board cuts, it’s the folks in defense who are most active in the frenzy.

As if this weren’t enough, another alarm is being sounded.  Susan Warshaw Ebner of Asmar, Schor, and McKenna claims that the impact of an emerging issue, and pending regulations to address it, will rattle the entire defense industry.  The issue: counterfeit parts; the stakeholders: virtually everyone.

“Sequester or no sequester, this is going to be a huge issue with huge costs,” said Ebner.  “It’s a virtual certainty that lobbyists and trade associations will have a role to play.”

Essentially, the Pentagon is overdue to roll out regulations that aim to purge the threat of counterfeit electronic parts entering defense equipment (a threat which is elaborated in a Senate report released in May).  Compliance from the industry will implicate all sectors of the defense supply chain to “prevent, detect, remediate, and investigate counterfeiting….”  What this specifically entails hinges largely upon how “counterfeit electronic part” is defined – something DoD was supposed to make clear in its guidance and regulations.

The costs of assuring compliance and ferreting out suspect counterfeits could be crippling.  Ebner evokes a scenario in which a defense contractor learns that a certain make and model of electronic chip, already integrated in systems being shipped abroad, was counterfeited.

“You are likely to face significant costs to figure out if you or any of your lower tier subcontractors and suppliers bought the counterfeit, who from, and if they were used,” said Ebner.   “The question of how to best Online Pokies define and implement requirements is squarely before the DoD right now.”

But while attempting to influence the regulatory language will be an important task for lobbyists, “the first thing lobbyists and trade associations need to do is educate their companies about the problem, the statute, and the risks.  Nobody can afford to be ignorant of what’s at stake.”

This last point is bolstered by the title of an advisory Ebner and her firm released in August: “Counterfeit Parts – An Emerging Issue You Need To Know About!”  It’s also bolstered by facts.  An October white paper released by the American Bar Association’s Task Force on Counterfeit Parts (which Ebner chairs), states that “remedial action” by the Pentagon will include “but [is] not limited to suspension and debarment…in the case of a supplier that repeatedly fails to detect or avoid counterfeit parts or fairs to exercise due diligence.”

For lobbyists closing their eyes and ears to anything but sequestration, some of this may be hard to swallow.

Timeline

12/31/11 – Congress passes Section 818, “Detection and Avoidance of Counterfeit Electronic Parts,” of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012.

3/16/12 – Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Frank Kendall, issues a memo broadly defining “counterfeit material.”

3/26/12 – The Government Accountability Office releases a report detailing the availability of counterfeit military parts in China.  Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) says the report poses a “clear and present danger” and a “threat to our troops.”

5/21/12 – The Senate Armed Services Committee releases a report on its two-year study of counterfeit parts in the defense supply chain.

9/26/12 – Regulations outlined in 818 are due to be issued, but aren’t.

10/8/12 – House Intelligence Committee releases report on national security threats posed by Chinese telecommunications companies.

What K St. is Saying About the Election

Thursday, November 8th, 2012 by Geoffrey Lyons

As election night sulking and celebrating slowly ebbs outside the beltway, here’s a flavor of what the lobbying insiders are talking about:

On the “status quo election”

Republican lobbying firm Clark Lytle Geduldig & Cranford  in a memo to clients: “Leader Reid will have a tenuous majority from a policy perspective as several Democratic senators are philosophically closer to Republicans than many of their more progressive elected leaders.”

Lobbyist Bruce Mehlman of Mehlman, Vogel, Castagnetti: “The overwhelmingly high reelection rate of incumbents means Congress can attack the big issue logjam immediately. 2013 promises to be busier, more intense and more bipartisan than any year since 1997, with huge issues such as tax and fiscal reform actually starting to move.  Our Senate Democrats and House Republicans are already running full-speed.”

On lame ducks moving to K St.

Ivan Adler, principal at the McCormick Group:

  • “Those members who are seen [as] friendlier to business will have a much easier time getting hired by these firms than others.   The game is to get clients. You’re going to have to find people who can reach across the aisle in order to service them.”
  • If [Scott Brown] wanted to go lobby, I think he’s gold-plated.  Someone with Massachusetts interests should be looking at him.”
  • “The election has solidified the job prospects of the people working on the regulatory side, especially when it comes to ObamaCare and Dodd-Frank. Those laws are here to stay.  K Street is going to hire people who can play goalie. They are going to have to be able to stop a lot of pucks.”

Chris Jones, managing partner at CapitolWorks: “Democrats that have come from a red state and Blue Dogs will continue to be a prized commodity.”

The Hill: “Though a number of lawmakers who lost their election bids will likely enter the lobbyist pool, several senators who were already known to be leaving Capitol Hill next year — including Sens. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) — remain the most coveted prospects for K Street.”

On the lobbying agenda

Tim Ryan, chief executive of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association: “With the election now over, it is vital that we return to the work at hand, namely, the continued implementation of Dodd-Frank and addressing the fiscal cliff.”

Tony Podesta, founder and chairman of Podesta Group: “If the [House] Speaker and the [Senate] majority leader are for it, you have got a shot at it. There won’t be any markup where you can add a few extraneous items to the bill. … The lobbying will be very narrow.  The odds of a passionate member of the leadership adding something to the bill may be low. The odds of the rank-and-file membership getting something into the bill are zero.”

Bob Van Heuvelen, founder of VH Strategies: “We are not going to be adding things to this Christmas tree. We are going to be clarifying what programs should and should not be cut. There are cuts that are going to be made, and that leads to winners and losers, which leads to the need for advocacy.  It’s going to be hard, but it’s not going to be impossible.”

Former Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.), now special counsel to Alston & Bird: “If gridlock is a drought season for our kind of work, we’re going to enter the rainy season.”