Posts Tagged ‘Tony Podesta’

McCutcheon v FEC: A New Perspective

Thursday, September 26th, 2013 by Geoffrey Lyons

ORAL ARGUMENTS are set to commence in a mere two weeks for McCutcheon v FEC, a Supreme Court case that could decide the constitutionality of biennial limits on individual donors’ total contributions to candidates, PACs, and parties. LobbyBlog last wrote on the case in March, citing lobbyists’ misgivings towards a future without a contribution ceiling.  One such lobbyist, Tony Podesta, explained how a total contribution cap “is helpful to fend off entreaties from candidates who need more money.”

Now, OpenSecrets is pushing the argument that by abolishing the biennial cap, the Supreme Court would effectively nullify all contribution limits. Bob Biersack, Senior Fellow at the Center for Responsive Politics and contributor to OpenSecrets blog, calls this hypothesis “McCutcheon’s Multiplying Effect.” Currently, donors cannot give more than $74,600 total for each two-year cycle to PACs and parties, and no more than $5,000 each calendar year to a single PAC. Because of the biennial cap, each donor is ultimately limited to the number of PACs to which he or she can contribute. If, therefore, the biennial cap is abolished, so too would this limit.

So how would this negate the force of limits imposed on individual candidate contributions (currently set at $2,600 per election), which aren’t even being considered in the McCutcheon case? Here’s the crux of Biersack’s argument: “One of the first things that would surely happen without overall limits would be a wave of newly created PACs focused on specific candidate’s campaigns…” In other words, candidate X, now limited by the number of income sources from which his campaign depends, would benefit from a potentially infinite number of nominally varied PACs, all of which would transfer some portion of its coffers to him.  Biersack again: “Without [biennial] limits, tens of thousands could become hundreds of thousands and hundreds of thousands could turn into millions….So much for $2,600 per election.”

So while it’s still possible the Supreme Court could reach beyond the scope of biennial limits and question other limits imposed by the FEC, it’s likely, according to Open Secrets, that it could achieve the same result with far less effort.  The biennial cap seems much like a keystone holding the other limits in place.  Pulling it out sends the whole edifice crumbling down.

Top Lobby Firms on Fiscal Cliff

Thursday, December 13th, 2012 by Geoffrey Lyons

“FISCAL” AND “CLIFF” may be the two most common words in Washington today behind “and” and “the,” “the” being most frequently used to furnish “the fiscal cliff.”  Yet one has to plow through a lot of weeds to discover the context in which they are used or alluded to by top lobbying firms (googling “fiscal cliff” sure doesn't help).  Here I've done just that:

Patton Boggs –In November, Patton Boggs released a post-election forecast of what to expect in the months and year to come.  From the report: “Many Senators and Representatives recognize the irony that the best way to prevent going over the fiscal cliff this year is to cut a deal that merely creates a bigger cliff that would arrive in another six or twelve months. But doing so would at least keep us at the precipice.”

Akin, Gump -  Arshi Siddiqui, a partner at Akin Gump and former aide to Nanci Pelosi, expressed some optimism  in a November National Journal article: “I was happy about the rhetoric from the last meeting. Everyone realized that they needed a nice tone, and the markets responded nicely.  There will be lots of up and downs before we get to a successful resolution.”  By contrast, these meetings were described in the author’s terms as “Kumbaya rhetoric,” resembling “a stand-off in an old black-and-white Western movie, with two cowboys looking for the other to make the first move.”

Podesta GroupIn a recent Politico article, Tony Podesta, Founder and Chairman of Podesta Group, alluded to the business opportunities the cliff presents:  “This is a once in a generation opportunity to reform the tax code.  Companies I would imagine will put in extra resources. There will be plenty of opportunities.”

Holland & Knight – In the same vein (a

nd in fact the same article) Rich Gold, Partner at Holland & Knight, said “it's springtime in Washington in January”—a rather candid allusion to the gains lobbying firms stand to make by year’s end.

Van Scoyoc – Jeffrey Trinca, vice president of Van Scoyoc Associates, offers a unique perspective on the cliff as a longtime Senate tax counsel.  In a November Government Executive article about the administrative complications a delayed tax deal would bring to the IRS, Trinca said that “Congress is adding to the risk at IRS during the filing season.”  (Now quoting from the article…) “In the “good old days,” he said, Congress would finalize tax changes by the end of November or earlier, and IRS would make the necessary program changes in its computer systems. At the end of November, officials would say “no more” and, barring new legislation, they would “pause everything and focus on load testing,” Trinca said.”

Alston & Bird - Earl Pomeroy, former North Dakota Congressman and current Senior Counsel at Alston & Bird, deems Boehner the central figure in talks: “He has got one whale of a situation on his hands.”

U.S. Chamber - Not a lobby firm but certainly a lobby spender. President and CEO of the Chamber, Tom Donahue, had this to say in an op-ed entitled “America’s Looming Fiscal Cliff”: “We must adopt a fairer, simpler tax system that lowers marginal rates, encourages economic growth, promotes competitiveness and eases compliance. We must make sensible changes to Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and other mandatory spending programs, which make up nearly 60 percent of our budget. Reforming entitlements is essential not just to our nation’s long-term fiscal health but to the future of the programs themselves. We must reform them to keep them solvent for other generations.”

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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.”

“Top Lobbyists” of 2012 Reveal Changes on K St.

Friday, November 2nd, 2012 by Geoffrey Lyons

THE HILL RECENTLY released its annual list of top lobbyists, which comes at an interesting time considering a pre-election want of congressional activity.  (The Senate is holding daily pro forma sessions; the House doesn’t reconvene until the 12th).  I spoke briefly with the list’s compiler-in-chief, Business and Lobbying Editor Dustin Weaver, to review his findings.

“It’s more of an art than a craft,” said Weaver, describing the criteria used to select the lobbyists. “As an editorial team, we’re simply looking for people who shape the debate – people at the forefront.”

People at the forefront indeed.  The “Hired Guns” section not only contains K St. all-stars – Tony Podesta, for instance, founder and chairman of the prominent Podesta Group – but it also includes household names: Chris Dodd, Trent Lott, Haley Barbour, among others.  “Barbour’s new to the list,” said Weaver, “but that’s only because he just returned to lobbying – otherwise he’s a no-brainer.”

But not everyone who was selected is an established veteran.  Colin Crowell, new to the list this year, is Weaver. “Tech is the fastest growing industry in America, and it’s definitely rubbing off on K St.”

But besides attracting more techies, how else is K St. changing?  Weaver indicated two trends:

For the short term, it’s losing revenue.  The August and September recesses have depleted the coffers even of giants like Patton Boggs, which recently reported a 4% earnings drop from this time last year.  “But recess doesn’t mean lobbyists are twiddling their thumbs,” said Weaver.  “There are a lot of big-ticket issues to prepare for when Congress reconvenes.”

For the long term, it’s fundamentally reshaping itself.  Trends show an increasing preference for small, independent lobby shops over the larger, staid firms.  “A lot of lobbyists don’t feel the need to work for big shops anymore,” said Weaver.  “Many of them have been wildly successful on their own.”

It’s doubtful any of these patterns will bring about radical changes in the lobbying world.  It’s safer to assume the Barbours and Podestas of the industry will remain fixtures for years to come.  The Hill’s annual list will be a reliable test for this assessment.

Podestas at the Washington Ideas Forum

Monday, October 4th, 2010 by James

Heather and Tony Podesta talk with Atlantic Media’s Ron Brownstein about lobbying, whether lobbyists really have a “secret edge,” and the current political environment in Washington.

Podestas on Washington Ideas Forum (Video)

Read more at The Atlantic’s site.

Weekly Lobbying News Round-Up

Friday, August 13th, 2010 by James

Weekly newsAs Norm Eisen departs for Prague, the White House announces his replacement: nobody. Well, technically, Bob Bauer will take over Eisen’s “portfolio” at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, and Steven Croley will also join the ethics team. Article at the Washington Post. Also: the Sunlight Foundation doesn’t take kindly to the announcement, listing several ethics promises on which they have yet to see follow-through from the Obama Administration. CREW (which Eisen co-founded) is also not enthused.

Some lawyers think Paul Magliocchetti’s indictment may truly mark the end of the PMA pay-to-play scandal.

Federal Judge Ellen Huvelle refused to throw out charges against accused Jack Abramoff associate Kevin Ring this week. Ring’s attorneys had asked Huvelle to vacate the charges after the Supreme Court’s decisions in three recent cases diminished the power of the honest services fraud statute, one of the statutes under which Ring was charged.

Rep. Maxine Watersethics charges were revealed – and she plans to fight back. Most of the charge appears to focus on the actions of Rep. Waters’ chief of staff, Mikael Moore, in trying to secure federal funding for OneUnited Bank, an entity in which Rep. Waters’ husband held financial stake. This case, in which Waters is being reprimanded for the actions of her staff, bears some resemblance to Rep. Charlie Rangel’s getting in trouble for his staff’s knowledge about the infamous trip to the Caribbean.

Speaking of Charlie Rangel, if you haven’t seen the rambling 30-minute House floor speech that he gave earlier this week, it’s time for a little Friday afternoon work-break.

Are you a corporation planning to use the Citizens United case to spend massive amounts of money in federal elections? Let what happened to Target Corp. in Minnesota be a lesson to you.

GOP Reps. Mike Castle (Dela.) and Bob Platts (Pa.) have teamed up to offer more power to the Office of Congressional Ethics. A new bill by the two Congressmen, titled the Accountability and Transparency in Ethics Act, would give subpoena powers to the mostly investigative body.  Read more at Roll Call, “Castle, Platts Propose Tougher Ethics Measures.”

Interesting little tid-bit from K Street Cafe: How and why does Congress use Twitter (video).

Quote(s) of the Week:

“With Mr. Eisen headed to Europe as an ambassador, his move from the White House ‘is the biggest lobbying success we’ve had all year,’” – Tony Podesta, Washington Post, Aug. 6

“Violations of campaign finance laws are clear cut and lend themselves to easy proof beyond a reasonable doubt… It sounds like this is both the beginning and possibly the end of the PMA matter in terms of prosecution.” – Jan Baran, on the Paul Magliocchetti indictment, Roll Call, Aug. 9

Weekly Lobbying News Round-Up

Friday, July 2nd, 2010 by James

Eric Brown tips us off to an LDA amendment: originally the bill sought to amend the Federal Election Campaign Act, but now amends the Lobbying Disclosure Act to “prohibit any registered lobbyist whose clients include foreign governments which are found to be sponsors of international terrorism or include other foreign nationals from making contributions and other campaign-related disbursements in elections for public office”; bill text is now available from the GPO here (H.R. 5609).

Big acquisition by Patton Boggs reported: Breaux Lott Leadership Group will now be a wholly-owned subsidiary of Patton Boggs; former Senators John Breaux (D-La.) and Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and their small but “effective” boutique lobbying firm will join the large team at Patton Boggs, starting immediately. Bonus (because it’s Friday): did you know Trent Lott’s given name is Chester Trent Lott? His son (also a member of the lobbying group) bears the same name. Now you know. Read about the “strategic coup” at the Blog of Legal Times.

Time profiles Lobbyists and their Return on Investment, in a series of short lobbyist/issue/payoff profiles.

Ex-Rep. John Campbell was taken down by the Jack Abramoff affair; Roll Call profiles Campbell’s life since 2005.

House Ethics Clears Rep. Richardson. The Committee on Standards of Official Conduct released its report in the matter of Rep. Laura Richardson (D-Calif.) and cleared her of any wrongdoing in the mortgage matter. (link is a PDF)

Two great compliance / political law resources to take to the beach with you  over your long holiday weekend:

Quote of the week:

“The irony of it is that every time the president says we lobbyists have all this influence, people who don’t have a lobbyist want one… He exaggerates our power, but he increases demand for our services.” – Tony Podesta, Podesta Group, NYTimes article on the “Superlobbyist,” July 1.

Happy 4th of July Holiday Weekend from all of us at Lobby Blog!

BP Brings Out the Big Guns in DC

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010 by Madiha

Power lobbyist Tony Podesta (Podesta Group) and legal advisor Jamie Gorelick (WilmerHale), a top Justice Department official in the Clinton administration, are part of the formidable team of Democrat lobbyists running Operation Damage Control for British Petroleum, the Washington Post reported on Monday. Facing one PR crisis after another since the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, BP was struck by yet another gaffe this weekend after CEO Tony Hayward was photographed watching a yacht race along the British coast, displaying a remarkable tone-deafness to the political atmosphere.

BP has spent nearly $20 million on lobbying from January 2009 through March 2010, ranking as one of Washington’s top corporate lobbying clients.

Other key players who were involved in the incident have also increased their efforts to avert the disaster spilling over to them.  Jeffrey Turner (Patton Boggs) has been hired by engineering giant Halliburton, which was in charge of cementing the well just before the April 20 explosion, to handle legal and congressional inquiries.

Insiders in the teams representing the embattled companies told the  Post that the emphasis of the lobbying push right now is on giving as much information as possible to lawmakers, as opposed to affecting policy changes. According to the sources, the lobbyists’ attitude at this time is ‘deferential,’ in response to lawmakers’ impatience with the oil industry at present.

Source for lobbying information: Lobbyists.info & Senate Office of Public Records; Washington Post article is here.