The profitable (White House) network

Written by admin on April 2nd, 2011

Some recent examples of the Washington revolving door from government official to private industry job.

Washington Post via Miami Herald

Peter Orszag, Obama’s former budget director, enhanced his own budget by taking a top job with Citigroup.   Ron Klain, Vice President Biden’s former staff chief, now makes money taking care of Steve Case’s money.   The Chamber of Commerce announced recently that former national security advisor James Jones is now advising its members.   Obama’s former deputy chief of staff, Mona Sutphen, staffs UBS Wealth Management.   Former White House counsel Greg Craig counsels clients of a big corporate law firm.  Former social secretary Desiree Rogers socializes with associates of the publishing company she runs.

And those are just a few.

Cashing in after a stint in government is certainly not new, but that doesn’t make it any less disappointing that so many Obama administration officials are rushing to turn their public service into personal profit.   The Center for Responsive Politics already counts 314 Obama administration officials who have passed through the revolving door between the public and private sectors, compared to 511 from George W. Bush’s eight years and 348 from Bill Clinton’s.

Perhaps this shouldn’t be surprising, because political figures of all stripes seem to have shed their senses of shame as they convert their influence into wealth.   Seven senators from the last Congress are already in lobbying-related businesses: Evan Bayh, D-Ind., Bob Bennett, R-Utah, Kit Bond, R-Mo., Chris Dodd, D-Conn., Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., Judd Gregg, R-N.H., and Mel Martinez, R-Fla.   Fifteen recent House members are in lobbying trades, too, including once-dignified committee chairmen such as Ike Skelton, D-Mo., and Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich.   A dozen other just-retired lawmakers went into the corporate world.

 

The President speaks out on lobbyists

Written by admin on March 27th, 2011

The President’s statement:

“I think the public ought to know the extraordinary exertions being made by the lobby in Washington to gain recognition for alterations of the bill.

Washington has seldom seen so industrious or so insidious a lobby.  The newspapers are being filled with paid advertisements calculated to mislead the judgement of public men, not only, but also the public opinion of the country itself.

There is every evidence that money without limit is being spent to sustain this lobby and to create the appearance of a pressure of public opinion antagonistic to some of the chief items of [this] bill”

See the news here

Some things never change.

 

Politico: Nuclear industry lobbyists’ clout felt on Hill

Written by admin on March 25th, 2011

In view of the disaster in Japan, note the actions of firms representing the interests of the nuclear power industry here in the United States

Politico

During the past election cycle alone, the Nuclear Energy Institute and more than a dozen companies with big nuclear portfolios have spent tens of millions of dollars on lobbying and campaign contributions to lawmakers in key leadership slots and across influential state delegations

NEI, the industry’s biggest voice in Washington, for example, spent $3.76 million to lobby the federal government and an additional $323,000 through its political action committee on a bipartisan congressional slate, including 134 House and 30 Senate candidates, according to data compiled by the CRP.

Alex Flint, NEI’s senior vice president for government affairs, said the spending is a byproduct of record high demand for his industry.

“The fact that the day after the election, both the president and [House Speaker John Boehner] said nuclear was an area where it’s something they can agree, it’s made us that much more in demand,” Flint said. “Our lobbying expenses have gone up more in large part because we have more people talking to more members of Congress.”

Nearly all of the investor-owned power companies that operate U.S. nuclear reactors play in the donation game.

Exelon, the owner of the nation’s largest nuclear fleet, gave nearly $515,000 during the 2009-10 election cycle. The company contributed to more Democrats than Republicans (58 percent to 40 percent), though it made sure to cover all of the key bases. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) got the $10,000 limit from Exelon for primary and general election fights, while California Rep. Henry Waxman’s campaign account received $5,000.

 

Follett Library Resources: Publisher’s Pick

Written by admin on March 16th, 2011

The Follett Library Resources, the largest supplier of books, eBooks, and audiovisual materials to PreK-12 schools, has named “The Best Government Money Can Buy?” as one of their Publisher’s Picks.

Follett Library Resources

 

 

Politico: Dem committees seek K Street cash

Written by admin on March 14th, 2011

While President Obama claims to be declining campaign contributions from lobbyists, the Democratic Committees are aggressively seeking funds.

Politico

President Barack Obama and the Democratic National Committee might not want their money, but Democratic lobbyists say the House and Senate campaign committees are happily scooping up their cash and fundraising help as the 2012 election season gets under way.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee are actively raising money from lobbyists put on the sidelines by Obama’s policy of banning their contributions to the DNC and his reelection campaign.

“The DSCC and the DCCC, clearly, they’re willing to take our money and have called. No question about it,” said a lobbyist who is a member of the DSCC’s Majority Trust, an elite group of donors who contribute the maximum allowed under law, which is $30,800 per year for this election cycle.

Indeed, the influence class, long a pariah in Obama’s Washington, is one of the only donor bases left untouched by the president’s reelection machine, leaving it to the committees to work, and compete, over.

And there’s big money there. In the 2010 midterm elections, 122 lobbyists raised at least $8.9 million for Democratic candidates, according to a POLITICO review of Federal Election Commission data.

The DSCC is aggressively courting lobbyists to host fundraisers, bundle contributions and give more personal money than they have in the past. Committee finance officials are e-mailing, calling and meeting with lobbyists, asking them to get more personally engaged this cycle.

“They’re trying to tap into individual Democratic lobbyists who are getting no requests from the presidential [campaign] or the DNC,” said a senior Democratic lobbyist. “They’re looking to jump into that space that is a little vacant right now.

 

New York Times: Records Reveal Holes in Campaign-Finance Law

Written by admin on March 13th, 2011

Chicago’s Mayoral race shows how rapidly loopholes in campaign finance laws are exploited.

New York Times

A review of campaign-finance reports found that loopholes in the new regulations on political donations emerged almost immediately.

The campaign for mayor became the test case for how a “how a state that is reform-averse adapts to reform,” said Cindi Canary, executive director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, a nonprofit based in Chicago that helped draft the law.

“It’s not like this is Vermont or Minnesota,” Ms. Canary added.

The new law, which went into effect on Jan. 1, in the middle of the race to succeed Mayor Richard M. Daley, capped donations in Illinois campaigns for the first time. But the mayoral campaign exposed some of the reform effort’s shortcomings.

In the case of Mr. Chico and the Puigs, campaign-finance reports show that Mr. Chico, a former school board president, received $5,000 from each of four Puig-run businesses at a building on the Near North Side. A fifth $5,000 came from a Puig company that the Chico campaign listed at an address in Lincolnwood, though state records place the business in the same building as the other four companies, on West Willow Street. The sixth $5,000 donation on Feb. 3 came from a Puig company at another address on the Near North Side.

Luis Puig Jr. said he and other family members jointly own all six of the entities that made the donations. He said he was unaware of the new state law and had not structured the donations to get around the limits.

“Our bank accounts were not that big, so we took a little from each company” and gave it to Mr. Chico, Mr. Puig said. “He is our attorney, when people owe us money. His daughter and our daughter went to school together in Edgebrook.”

Ms. Canary said the Puigs’ donations appeared to be legal because the authors of the new law had not drafted language that clearly addressed situations in which closely related companies make multiple donations to the same candidate. The contributions from the Puig companies “violate the spirit of what we were trying to do,” she said, adding, “We need to figure out how to address that.”

Until the law changed, Illinois was among the few states that placed no limits on the size of contributions, a situation that many reformers tied to the state’s sordid political culture.

Illinois is one of the only places in America where literally anyone can walk in the door and spend whatever they want to influence the outcome of an election,” according to a 2007 report from the Brennan Center for Justice and New York University School of Law. “The system is almost an open invitation to corruption.”

 

Huffington Post: Regulations Lead to Lobbying Surge by the For-Profit College Industry

Written by admin on March 11th, 2011

When your entire business model depends on Government money, potential changes bring out vast amounts of lobbying dollars.

Huffington Post

The lobbying conference comes as the industry finds itself fighting on all fronts to block a proposed rule meant to rein in what many are calling bad practices by the industry. This fight has spurred the highest lobbying spending by the industry in its nascent history.

In 2010 the for-profit college industry spent $7.57 million on lobbying, almost three times as much as it spent in 2009. The industry also doled out over $1.3 million in campaign contributions over the 2010 election cycle.

Last year ProPublica examined the contributions to members signing protest letters over the education rules. This report looked only at contributions made in 2010 (not the cycle) and found that contributions from the industry skyrocketed to these members after the first letter was sent on March 22, 2010 and were often clustered around dates when the letters were sent. More than ninety percent of industry contributions to letter signatories in 2010 came on or after the date, March 22, that the first letter was sent.

A further examination shows executives and employees of for-profits clustering their contributions along with industry political action committees (PAC).

Campaign finance records show thirty-five contributions totaling $40,500 to Reps. Buck McKeon and John Kline from executives, employees, and political action committees of Corinthian Colleges, Education Management Corp., and the Keiser University system reported on May 28, 2010. The two Republican congressmen each held the position of ranking member of the Education & Labor Committee in 2010; Kline is currently the chairman of the committee.

McKeon and Kline had already signed a letter in opposition to the rule on March 22. Kline had also signed another letter on April 30. The congressmen are the top two recipients of for-profit college money among those who signed letters oppose the new rules receiving $99,750 and $71,500 respectively.

Another letter signatory who received clustered contributions is Rep. Donald Payne. On July 19 Payne cosigned a letter to the Department of Education opposing the rules. This came after having signed onto two other letters on March 22 and April 30.

From the month preceding the July 19 letter, Payne received sixteen contributions totaling $18,500 from ten different for-profit college organizations. This spurt of contributions accounted for all but $3,000 of Payne’s haul from the for-profit industry. Payne would sign a fourth letter on September 8, a date on which he also reports receiving a $1,000 contribution from Bridgepoint Education.

Rep. Alcee Hastings signed his name to more letters than any other congressman. Hastings received seven contributions totaling $7,400 over the course of one week in April. This occurred in between Hastings signing a letter on March 22 and a second letter on April 30. According to Hastings’ publicly available schedule the congressman met with representatives from Education Management Corporation the week after receiving these contributions. (None of the contributions to Hastings came from Education Management.)

These letters were part of a larger grassroots lobbying campaign by the for-profit college industry that included swamping the Department of Education with comments opposing the proposed rules. The rules ultimately received over 90,000 comments, many of them coming in bulk submissions from both opponents and supporters of the rules.

 

USA Today: Federal shutdown dodged, but lobbying battles rage on

Written by admin on March 9th, 2011

With the stakes higher than ever,  lobbyists are swarming Capitol Hill to protect their interests.

USA Today

Congress and the White House have temporarily averted a government shutdown, but big lobbying battles loom over dozens of major cuts House Republicans approved last month.

Planned Parenthood, public radio stations and scores of other interests are scrambling to make their cases heard on Capitol Hill, hiring new lobbyists, mailing petitions, buying TV ads and, in one case, deploying PBS‘ Arthur the Aardvark cartoon character to Congress to rescue the Corporation for Public Broadcasting from budget cutters.

A focus of the lobbying free-for-all: a House-passed bill to fund the government through Sept. 30 that would cut $61 billion in federal spending.

“What was supposed to be a spending bill became a vehicle for every sort of pet effort to limit environmental protection,” said David Goldston, director of government affairs for the Natural Resources Defense Council, who has identified 19 provisions he calls “anti-environment.”

Among environmentalists’ concerns: House decisions to halt the regulation of mercury emissions from cement kilns and to eliminate taxpayer money the Environmental Protection Agency would use to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions from power plants and factories. In all, the agency’s budget would be cut by a third.

“The EPA has overstepped their authority by imposing the regulation, and it’s hurting American businesses,” said Shaylyn Hynes, a spokeswoman for Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, who pushed to end the EPA’s oversight of greenhouse gases.

Other high-profile budget fights center on provisions to:

•Eliminate taxpayer money for public broadcasting. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which helps fund public radio and television stations, has “outlived its usefulness,” said Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., who authored legislation to cut the funding. The corporation is set to receive $430 million this year.

“In this day and age, we have 150 cable channels and the Internet over our cellphones,” Lamborn said. “We no longer need a government source of media. This seems to be a natural place to start the discussion about getting our fiscal house in order.”

Patrick Butler, head of the Association of Public Television Stations, called the measure a “mortal threat” and said it would do little to reduce this year’s $1.6 trillion federal deficit.

“It’s true that there are lots of outlets, but the only people who are taking educational programming very seriously is public broadcasting,” he said.

 

Bloomberg: Revolving Door Keeps Spinning as Former U.S. Lawmakers Join Lobbying Firms

Written by admin on March 8th, 2011

Despite ‘cooling off periods’ designed to slow the revolving door, former lawmakers have found loopholes enabling them to go directly to work for lobbying firms by calling their work ‘consulting’.

Bloomberg

Rules enacted in 2007 by a Democratic Congress haven’t slowed the revolving door linking Capitol Hill to nearby lobbying offices. Even as they must wait one to two years before attempting to directly influence former colleagues, ex-lawmakers can immediately plot strategy, offer advice and help their new clients navigate both Congress and federal agencies.

Bennett, 77, said his firm’s clients “will benefit from me being able to sit down with them and say, ‘Yes, you have a grief that’s legitimate,’ or ‘No, you don’t.’ They have many lobbyists who are able to take the outcome of that strategic advice and counseling up to the Hill.”

At least 17 ex-lawmakers who left office in January have joined law firms, trade associations or other lobbying enterprises, or set up their own consultancies, according to tracking by Bloomberg News and the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based research group.

Movie Group

Former Senator Chris Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat, earlier this month was named chief executive officer of the Washington- based Motion Picture Association of America, the trade association for Hollywood studios. Two freshmen House members defeated last November for re-election, Democrat Walt Minnick of Idaho and Republican Charles Djou of Hawaii, formed their own firm.

“When racehorses retire, they go to stud; when members of Congress retire, they go to K Street,” said Rogan Kersh, an associate dean at New York University, referring to the location of many Washington lobbying firms.

The migration hasn’t slowed in the wake of Tea Party-fueled anger against Congress and the budget deficit. And the intensified push on Capitol Hill to cut federal spending could amplify the clout of ex-lawmakers as groups fight over slices of a diminishing budget pie, said Nels Olson, head of the Washington office of Korn/Ferry International, an executive recruitment firm based in Los Angeles.

“This is a time when you need to make sure your interests are represented,” Olson said. Former lawmakers have “relationships that can be advantageous.”

 

Daily Beast: Throw Thomas Off the Bench

Written by admin on March 4th, 2011

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas lied about his wife’s lobbying income for the past 7 years. He claims to have misunderstood the financial disclosure requirements when he affirmed that his wife had no non-investment income during that time.

Ginny Thomas was paid more than $700,000 by lobbying groups who had interests in legal issues before the Supreme Court since 2003.

Martha Stewart went to jail for violating the law that Justice Thomas could be charged for breaking.

Daily Beast

The Supreme Court justice broke the law by not disclosing his wife’s $700K think-tank payday. Paul Campos on Clarence Thomas’ “preposterous” defense and why he likely won’t be punished.

The criminal-law scholar George Fletcher once quipped that the maxim “ignorance of the law is no excuse” is one of the few fundamental principles of law that most people actually know. As harsh as this principle may sometimes be when applied to ordinary citizens, applying it to justices of the Supreme Court seems only reasonable.

Thus it’s difficult to feel sympathy for Clarence Thomas, as he finds himself embroiled in a controversy over his failure to reveal the sources of his wife’s non-investment income (or indeed that she even had any such income). The 1978 Ethics in Government Act requires all federal judges to fill out annual financial-disclosure forms. The relevant question on the disclosure form isn’t complicated: Even if Justice Thomas wasn’t a lawyer, he shouldn’t have needed to hire one to explain to him that the box marked NONE next to the phrase “Spouse’s Non-Investment Income” should only be checked if his spouse had no non-investment income.

In fact Ginni Thomas was paid nearly $700,000 by the Heritage Foundation, a “conservative think tank,” a.k.a. a right-wing propaganda mill, between 2003 and 2007, as well as an undisclosed amount by another lobbying group in 2009. Justice Thomas’ false statements regarding his wife’s income certainly constitute a misdemeanor, and quite probably a felony, under federal law. (They would be felonies if he were prosecuted under 18. U.S.C. 1001, which criminalizes knowingly making false statements of material fact to a federal agency. This is the law Martha Stewart was convicted of breaking by lying to investigators.)

Thomas’ defense is that he didn’t knowingly violate the law, because he “misunderstood” the filing requirements. This is preposterous on its face.