July, 2011

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Bloomberg: Carmakers Blitz U.S. Lawmakers Amid Fight Over Fuel-Economy Rule

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011

“Auto lobbyists had to tread carefully in Washington for a couple of years after the bailout, but as business and profits are restored, so is the industry’s credibility — and clout — with lawmakers.”

Bloomberg

The U.S. auto industry, rejuvenated after the government’s $80 billion bailout of General Motors Co. (GM) and Chrysler Group LLC, is stepping up its lobbying and spending on political donations as the White House moves to boost fuel economy standards.

GM spent $5.5 million during the first six months of 2011 to try to influence Congress and federal agencies, up from $4.1 million in the same period a year earlier, according to lobbying disclosures released yesterday. Ford Motor Co. (F) spent $3.4 million in 2011, versus $2.8 million in 2010. Chrysler more than doubled its lobbying spending to $2.4 million from $1.1 million. Auto companies’ political action committees also gave more to federal campaigns, Federal Election Commission reports show.

The White House is in talks with automakers on fuel economy standards for 2017 to 2025. President Barack Obama’s administration in June floated the idea of a fleetwide average of 56.2 miles per gallon by the end of the period, up from 27.3 mpg now. That represents about a 5 percent annual increase. Regulators’ final proposal is due in September.

“It is a life-or-death issue” for the automakers, James Burnley, a former U.S. transportation secretary, said in a telephone interview. “They have to use the usual tools to educate decision-makers.

Bloomberg: Koch, Exxon Mobil Among Corporations Helping Write State Laws

Saturday, July 23rd, 2011

Corporations are “paying for an opportunity to connect directly with legislators,” said Jeremy Kalin, a former Democratic Minnesota state representative. “It’s an end-run around transparency and disclosure laws. Corporate interests that would otherwise be required to register as lobbyists are writing legislation behind closed doors.”

Bloomberg

Koch Industries Inc. and Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) are among companies that would benefit from almost identical energy legislation introduced in state capitals from Oregon to New Mexico to New Hampshire — and that’s by design.

The energy companies helped write the legislation at a meeting organized by a group they finance, the American Legislative Exchange Council, a Washington-based policy institute known as ALEC.

The corporations, both ALEC members, took a seat at the legislative drafting table beside elected officials and policy analysts by paying a fee between $3,000 and $10,000, according to documents obtained by Bloomberg News.

The opportunity for corporations to become co-authors of state laws legally through ALEC covers a wide range of issues from energy to taxes to agriculture. The price for participation is an ALEC membership fee of as much as $25,000 — and the few extra thousands to join one of the group’s legislative-writing task forces. Once the “model legislation” is complete, it’s up to ALEC’s legislator members to shepherd it into law.

“This is just another hidden way for corporations to buy their way into the legislative process,” said Bob Edgar, president of Common Cause, a Washington-based group that advocates for limits on money in politics.

As a tax-exempt organization, however, ALEC doesn’t disclose its corporate donors. ALEC doesn’t reveal its corporate and legislative members beyond those who serve as committee chairmen. Its model bills, which now total almost 1,000, are listed on its website, although their full texts can be called up only by members.

MarketWatch: NIC Technologies Brings Mobile Access to Federal Campaign Finance Filings

Saturday, July 9th, 2011

New iPhone application brings searchable access to financial filings for Presidential and Congressional candidates

MarketWatch

Transparency into presidential and Congressional campaign finances became more convenient today as NIC Technologies, LLC announces the launch of a free iPhone application, “FEC Campaign Finance $earch,” providing mobile access to public Federal Election Commission (FEC) data. Available for free download on iTunes, users can search by federal candidate and/or committee, resulting in totals for net contributions, net distributions, cash and debt, as reported by that candidate or committee.

“This application gives real-time access to public information on federal campaign finance totals,” said Randall Bartlett, president of NIC Technologies, LLC. “We independently developed this as a public service to give mobile access to this important data.”

The new iPhone application also includes an advanced search giving users election finance data from 2001 to the present, with office, political party, and candidate status search fields. Senate and House searches also include state, and where appropriate the district criteria.

“A quick search on the new FEC Campaign Finance $earch app provides information on over 150 presidential candidates who filed with the FEC in the last Presidential election year, 2008,” said Bartlett. “The app will provide mobile ‘ringside seat’ access for current information on candidates in the upcoming 2012 presidential election.”