ABOUT THIS BLOG
I shall post videos, graphs, news stories, and other material. We shall use some of this material in class, and you may review the rest at your convenience. You will all receive invitations to post to the blog. I encourage you to use the blog in these ways:
· To post questions or comments;
· To follow up on class discussions;
· To post relevant news items or videos.
There are only two major limitations: no coarse language, and no derogatory comments about people at the Claremont Colleges.
The syllabus is at http://www1.cmc.edu/pages/faculty/JPitney/gov106-fall15.html
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Green energy means work for lobbyists
By: Jeanne Cummings
May 6, 2008 12:51 PM EST
Congressional leaders and all three presidential contenders are talking about spurring the economy by pumping money into renewable fuel research and creating green jobs.
But unlike many political promises, this is one for which they can actually begin to take some credit. Already, they have created new green jobs, and many of them are right here in Washington.
Ten years ago, the alternative energy industry spent less than $2 million on lobbying, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. As Congress began moving on two global warming bills last year, that spending reached nearly $16 million.
The American Wind Energy Association spent $815,700 on lobbyists last year, according to lobbying disclosure reports. The National Biodiesel Board shelled out $1.2 million — more than double its lobbying budget for 2006.
Behind those figures are lots and lots of new jobs.
In the first quarter of this year, for instance, the USA Biomass Power Producers Alliance paid Ernst & Young $70,000 for help on Capitol Hill. That relatively small contract alone helped keep 18 individual lobbyists busy from January to March, according to lobbying disclosure reports.
The emerging industry has also stepped up its political giving to lawmakers, which, of course, represents a different kind of jobs program.
In 1998, the alternative energy sector accounted for $308,000 in donations to candidates. So far this cycle, green industry donors have given nearly $528,000 — putting them on track to match or surpass their high water mark of nearly $957,000 in 2000, when global warming guru Al Gore topped the Democratic presidential ticket.
To be sure, the investment of the green companies in Congress pales in comparison to that of the established energy sector players.
Political giving by the oil and gas crowd this cycle has already surpassed $11.5 million — roughly 22 times more than the energy sector’s green newcomers.
Meanwhile, the oil and gas industries are a perennial entry on the center’s list of top lobbying sectors. They spent $82.6 million on lobbying last year, up from a record-breaking $75.3 million in 2006.
But the promise of economic growth and government grants in the green sector is turning some of the old energy giants into converts.
Take coal, for instance.
The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, representing coal producers, transporters and customers, is circling the Lieberman-Warner global warming bill, looking for a way to get in on the research grants and other goodies that might be included in it.
The coal industry, a perennial polluter, is developing new technology to capture its greenhouse emissions and transform itself from a dirty industry into a cleaner, if not clean, one.
That makes it a competitor of the wind and solar companies for research cash. But it also could turn it into a powerful new ally in pushing the legislation through the sharply divided Congress. Historically, the greens have given overwhelmingly to Democrats, while old energy’s political donations have tilted heavily toward Republicans.
Of course, old disagreements still simmer.
Much of the environmental community still shuns coal and questions its ability to go clean. An Illinois demonstration project aimed at creating a cleaner coal plant ran well over budget and didn’t meet expectations.
Meanwhile, the newly converted coal industry executives who see a green future must also keep an eye on their smokier present and resist change that comes too fast and is too costly for their industry.
The speed of reform proposed in the Senate global warming bill is a concern of theirs, but the industry hasn’t come out against the legislation. Instead, it has launched a nearly $40 million campaign to educate lawmakers about the role it hopes to have in a new green economy. The effort includes a national advertising campaign on cable television and a mobilization of hundreds of thousands of coal-friendly voters to reach out to House and Senate members.
Their pitch: Any new energy policy should proceed incrementally, include a broad diversity of fuels to protect national security and keep costs affordable for consumers.
“It’s obvious the next president and the next Congress are going to make decisions that will leave an indelible mark on the energy future of our country,” said Joe Lucas, a former Clinton administration energy official who’s now the coalition’s vice president for communications.
“If we have too abrupt a shift, it will create a disruption in energy markets that disadvantage consumers,” he added.
But Bruce Nilles, who heads the Sierra Club’s National Coal Campaign, says the federal government has waited too long to implement new energy policy.
Like the coal industry, the Sierra Club has stepped up its lobbying efforts in Washington. But it is being badly outmanned. Sierra’s lobbying payments amounted to $380,000 last year, while the National Mining Association spent $4 million.
Nilles is working with state governors to combat global warming, and he’s coordinating a grass-roots effort to block some two dozen applications to build new coal-burning plants. Approval of those applications would increase pollution and reduce the market need for cleaner renewable energy producers, he argues.
“Rather than stepping up to make the demonstration project work, the industry goes on a $40 million ad campaign to confuse the issue and delay strong action at the federal level and oppose state efforts,” Nilles said.
“The coal industry has consistently refused to demonstrate how it can have a future in a world where we are trying to reduce global warming.”
Monday, May 5, 2008
Thursday, May 1, 2008
"We want to raise awareness and let the community know about the plan," Faulconer said. "Some people in the community don’t even realize this document is out."
"I do know that this proposal for the huge parking structure is not one people support and we urge the airport authority to make changes to their current proposal," Faulconer said.
Faulconer aims to mobilize grassroots to convince the Airport Board Authority to develop their land in a more traffic-efficient manner.
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Monday, April 28, 2008
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Local governments are creatures of the state.
Here in California, lobbyists must navigate municipal, county, and district governments.
Local governments often offer opportunities for public comment. Such opportunities may mean less than you think
As Nownes says, land use is a major issue for local government. Zoning is the word. A key concept is the conditional use permit.
Also as Nownes says, the process is so complex that interests often need consultants.
Big business does not always win:
Back to state government. Eminent domain is a big issue with the duel between Proposition 98 and Proposition 99.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
In a word, access. Unlike Mr. McCain and Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Obama is relatively new to national politics and is therefore open to bringing new people — and new money — into the tent. For money types who want a table, or at least to look involved and get an invitation to the right parties, Mr. Obama is the candidate. As one of the hedge fund managers on the Alpha list said, “To be in Hillary’s inner circle, you had to be giving a decade ago, when Bill was president.” The same goes for Mr. McCain.
Monday, April 21, 2008
Information on behested payments.
California campaign finance limits. Note the absence of limits for ballot measures.
The mechanics of direct democracy:
- States with the initiative and referendum.
- Requirements in California
- Eighteen states have the recall process for state officials.
- Requirements in California
- The case of Prop 87 (2006)
Argument for (with rebuttal)
- Argument against (with rebuttal)
- Ad against
- The finances behind both sides.
Ballot measures are big business. Firms specialize just in petition signatures.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Although he spends most of the letter explaining how "liberals" like Obama, Clinton, and Pelosi are plotting to "win total control of the government" and laying out plans to "pass record-setting tax increases," he also takes a jab at MoveOn.org:
If liberal organizations like MoveOn.org have their way, our troops will be recklessly pulled out of Iraq and our enemies will be handed a victory they have neither won nor deserve. [sic] [replaced original underlining with bold]Well, if MoveOn.org wants it, it must be a bad idea. I'm sure my mother would agree.
EDIT: This HTML Editor = fail. Here are the links to the letter:
Oil companies are usually powerful. But in California, the education lobby is more powerful.
Want to know about lobbyists in California? Look here.
Some lobbyist profiles:
Institute of Governmental Advocates ethics code.
FPPC information on lobbyists
From the CA Lobbying Disclosure Information Manual: "Gifts made directly to members of an official’s immediate family are not subject to the gift limits unless the family member is also a public official described above, but are subject to disclosure on quarterly reports"
There are limits on gifts, but members have used campaign funds for personal purposes:
Monday, April 14, 2008
States and localities lobby Washington. Here is a tenant list in the Hall of the States building.
Sources on federalism and state government.
Except in California and Texas, state legislators represent many fewer people than their counterparts in Congress.
Where do they spend our money?
States tend to have plurality in the executive. Consider Texas.
Fifteen states have term limits on legislators.
Want to know about lobbyists in California? Look here.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
A Growing Number of the World's Emigrants Are Heading East,
Rather Than West, in Search of Safety, Tolerance and Opportunity
Sunday, October 21, 2007; Page A16
YIWU, China -- For more than three years, Khaled Rasheed and his family spent the nights huddled in fear as bombs exploded near their home in Baghdad. Like generations of would-be emigrants before him, he dreamed of a better life elsewhere. But where?
Finding a place that was safe was Rasheed's top priority, but openness to Islam and bright business prospects were also important.
It wasn't long before he settled on a place that had everything he was looking for: China.
For a growing number of the world's emigrants, China -- not the United States -- is the land where opportunities are endless, individual enterprise is rewarded and tolerance is universal.
"In China, life is good for us. For the first time in a long time, my whole family is very happy," said Rasheed, 50, who in February moved with his wife and five children to Yiwu, a trading city about four hours south of Shanghai.
Wilson typology of policy arenas. An illustration: In the Dubai ports deal two years ago, Dubai was not able to prevail when the issue went public.
More here on diaspora politics and dual citizenship.
Ike warned about the military-industrial complex:
The complex still exists, but has shrunk since the end of the Cold War.
Groups against administration policy in Iraq:
- Americans Against Escalation in Iraq
- Iraq Veterans Against the War
- United for Peace and Justice
- Code Pink
An example of AAEI tactics:
See Moveon.org's "General Betray-us" ad.
Code Pink at work:
The major groups favoring administration policy in Iraq is Move American Forward.
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
With great fanfare, Congress adopted strict ethics rules last year requiring members to disclose when they steered federal money to pet projects. But it turns out lawmakers can still secretly direct billions of dollars to favored organizations by making vague requests rather than issuing explicit instructions to government agencies in committee reports and spending bills. That seeming courtesy is the difference between “soft earmarks” and the more insistent “hard earmarks.”
How to spot a soft earmark? Easy. The language is that of a respectful suggestion: A committee “endorses” or notes it “is aware” of deserving programs and “urges” or “recommends” that agencies finance them.
After hard earmarks figured into several Congressional scandals and prompted criticism of wasteful spending from government agencies and watchdog groups, Congress cut back on their number last year and required disclosure of most of them. (There were more than 10,000, costing nearly $20 billion last year, according to the Congressional Research Service.)
But soft earmarks, while not a new phenomenon, have drawn virtually no attention and were not included in the ethics changes — and current ones under consideration — because Congress does not view them as true earmarks.
Their total cost is not known. But the research service found that they amounted to more than $3 billion in one spending bill alone in 2006, out of 13 annual appropriations bills. And the committee that handles the bill, which involves foreign operations, has increasingly converted hard earmarks to soft ones.
Soft earmarks are included in a number of spending measures, but they tend to occur more frequently in spending bills that give money to the State Department, the United States Agency for International Development and other foreign aid programs.
Federal agencies are not required to finance soft earmarks. However, officials have traditionally felt obliged to comply with such requests.
“Soft earmarks, while not legally binding, frequently come with an implicit threat: If you don’t take our suggestions, we will give you a hard earmark next,” said Andrew Natsios, former administrator of A.I.D. in the Bush administration.
Monday, April 7, 2008
More detail from The New York Times:
Mr. Penn met with the Colombians in his role as chief executive of Burson-Marsteller, a global public relations firm. He has refused to sever his ties to the company, which also represented Countrywide Financial, the nation’s largest mortgage lender, and through a subsidiary represented Blackwater Worldwide, the military contractor blamed for numerous civilian deaths in Iraq.
The Japan Foundation is one avenue of foreign influence.FEC information on campaign contributions and foreign nationals.
There are restrictions on PAC activity by US subsidiaries of foreign corporations (see link above). But there are plenty of foreign-connected PACs.
An example of direct government lobbying: the Canadian embassy.
APCO issued a response to the Silverstein story.
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
Northrop, which teamed up with Airbus parent EADS to clinch the first stage of the $35 billion program, is facing an official protest from losing bidder Boeing Co and threats from some lawmakers to block funding of the deal.
"We're making our way through them," said Paul Meyer, vice president of Northrop's air mobility systems unit, referring to individual members of Congress. "We are going to be very prevalent and stay focused in front of the press to make sure the facts are always on the table."
Boeing, which was widely expected to win the tanker contract, has faulted the Air Force's decision-making process.
Meanwhile, its congressional supporters -- chiefly from the states of Washington and Kansas, where Boeing has its main plane-making plants -- have accused the Air Force of exporting jobs and endangering national security by awarding the job to the Northrop/EADS team.
The surprise announcement in February sparked a war of words between Boeing and Northrop and their respective supporters, through speeches in Congress, on television and in prominent newspaper ads.
Boeing has protested the award to the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO), which is expected to rule on the case by mid-June. Northrop cannot perform any work on the tanker until the GAO rules on the matter.
But even if Boeing's protest fails, Congress has the power to block funding for the deal, which would effectively overturn the contract. That sets up a battle between two politically savvy companies to win hearts and minds in Washington.
Google probably competed with many other companies, especially Yahoo, for this opportunity, and one can imagine that lobbyists had a great deal of influence.
- The Supreme Court, interest groups, and the presidential campaign:
- Washington Legal Foundation (conservative)
- American Civil Liberties Union (liberal)
- American Center for Law and Justice (conservative)
- NAACP (liberal) and NAACP Legal Defense Fund
- Federalist Society (conservative)
- American Bar Association (liberal)
- American Civil Rights Institute (conservative)
- People for the American Way (liberal)
- Institute for Justice (conservative)
- Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (liberal)
Monday, March 31, 2008
The new law changes the filing schedule from semiannual to quarterly and adds a raft of additional reporting requirements. Haley saw an opportunity to fill a growing need for lobbying disclosure assistance. Her new firm, Capitol Filings, opened its doors last week. Capitol Filings is dedicated solely to helping lobbyists fulfill the increasingly complex tasks of monitoring and reporting on their business, as mandated by the federal government.
The new ethics and lobbying law (PL 110-81) allows lawmakers to keep their job searches secret from the public unless they see a clear conflict of interest on the horizon. The new law requires House members to file notice with the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct within three business days of beginning negotiations for a new job. In an advisory last Sept. 28, the ethics panel notified House members that the term “job negotiation” had not been defined in the new law, but “merely sending a private entity a copy of a resume is not considered negotiating for future employment.”
Executive Branch Lobbying:
Note the significance of federal advisory committees such as The National Petroleum Council.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Bundlers for presidential candidates.
The revolving door.
An academic institute that got a lot of contributions.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Monday, March 24, 2008
- The National Kidney Foundation, the lead organization in its field, is a 501(c)(3). Despite the restrictions on 501(c)(3) groups, it does devote some resources to lobbying. This information provides context for this video:
Anonymous Philanthropist Donates 200 Human Kidneys To Hospital
Thank You for Smoking offered a lightly-disguised portrait of the now-deceased Tobacco Institute:
Some general sources for policy and compliance monitoring:
- The Federal Register
- The Budget
Here is a list of ideas for more ethical means of persuasion.
Friday, March 14, 2008
Thursday, March 13, 2008
If you are asked to testify before a congressional committee or other policymaking body or public forum, a sound knowledge of your subject, some advance preparation, and the following guidelines can maximize the positive impact of your statement. Keep in mind that you will be asked to prepare both a written statement for the record and a short (usually five-minute) oral statement.
Below are some tips to help you prepare and deliver your testimony:
- Briefly Introduce Yourself
Tell who you are and give information about the program you are representing (i.e., how many people you represent, how many people you serve, successes you have had). Acknowledge your appreciation to the panel for considering the issue and inviting you as a witness. This should take no more than one or two paragraphs.
- State Your Goal and Outline Your Major Points
In a few sentences, tell the committee or panel what you hope to accomplish in your statement. Again, be brief.
- Talk About the Problem
Begin, for example, by discussing the problems that CTE is solving or can solve for the nation. This informs the decision-maker but also helps cast you in the role of a problem solver rather than one simply representing a vested self-interest. Discuss the national significance of the issue and try to relate it to your state and community. Even better, try to relate the problem to the states or districts of the legislators before whom you are testifying.
- Talk About Current Efforts to Resolve the Problem
Describe solutions that are being tried or considered. Has anything worked in various states or communities on an experimental or demonstration basis? Explain why the efforts are insufficient or how they can be improved.
- List Your Specific, Concise Recommendations
Focus on what Congress can do to help solve the problem at hand.
Delivering Your Oral Statement
When delivering your oral statement, pay attention to the following “do” and “don’t” lists.
- Remember that your elected representatives are people too. Although you maybe nervous, remember that these representatives are looking to you as the experts. Relax, remain calm, and speak like the expert you are.
- Personalize your testimony. While statistics are important, one way to assist elected officials (and get their attention) is to let them know how the issue affects their constituents.
- Make eye contact. Look at the legislators as you talk so that the material is delivered with your eyes. To facilitate eye contact: 1) separate your pages, removing clips and staples; 2) use large type and double-space your text, triple-spacing between paragraphs; 3) leave a two-inch margin at the bottom of the page so your head won’t have to tilt down too far; and 4) don’t carry a sentence over to the next page.
- Remember that there is a time limit for Congressional testimony. You do not want to find yourself in a position where your time has expired and you have not gotten to the point of your testimony. Before your scheduled time, ask who?, what the time limits are, and practice accordingly.
- Your hope should be that they will be interested enough in you and your subject to ask questions after you finish. Anticipate questions your testimony may prompt and have good answers in mind.
- Focus on the specific issue of the hearing. Make sure your comments are relevant.
- Follow up. Write a thank you note to each legislator present for the opportunity to testify, and provide additional information supporting your cause. Also, ask for support on your issue. Thank you letters published in the local papers are a great incentive to a legislator to invite you or your group to testify again.
- Do use your testimony in other arenas. If you are invited to testify before a group other than Congress, take it! Many of these guidelines can be tailored to fit testimony given to the state legislature, school board, county commissioner, chamber of commerce, or the state board of education.
- Don’t spend more time describing your own qualifications or your programs than you do the issue at hand. You were invited to testify because you are qualified. Use the time you are given to focus on the issue.
- Don’t assume that the panel or committee members are experts. Legislators vote daily on many issues – everything from water projects to space programs. While you do not want to talk down to them, (they probably know more than you think) you should not assume that they know all that you do about the issue at hand.
- Don’t try to tell them everything you know. Simplify, simplify, simplify!
- Don’t be shy. Remember, you’re important! You are the one who votes the legislators into office. But whether it’s to laud or lament, compliment or counsel, be tactful and polite.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Click here for a bit more detail.
A case study (albeit an not-quite-objective "cops and robbers" version)
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
In a major shift, a group of Southern Baptist leaders said their denomination has been "too timid" on environmental issues and has a biblical duty to stop global warming. The declaration, signed by the president of the Southern Baptist Convention among others and released Monday, shows a growing urgency about climate change even within groups that once dismissed claims of an overheating planet as a liberal ruse. The conservative denomination has 16.3 million members and is the largest Protestant group in the U.S.
Click here for the initiative site. (H/t to Alexei Laushkin)
Monday, March 10, 2008
Along with his signature bright white hair, the most striking aspects of Senator John McCain’s physical appearance are his puffy left cheek and the scar that runs down the back of his neck. The marks are cosmetic reminders of the melanoma surgery he underwent in August 2000 [...]And now some data from the article:
In 1999, during Mr. McCain’s first race for president, he gave the public an extraordinary look at his medical history — 1,500 pages of medical and psychiatric records that were amassed as part of a United States Navy project to gauge the health of former prisoners of war. This reporter, who is a physician, interviewed the senator’s doctors in 1999 with his permission.
But this time around, Mr. McCain has yet to make his full medical records or his physicians available to reporters. At least three times since March 2007, campaign officials have told The New York Times that they would provide the detailed information about his current state of health, but they have not done so. The campaign now says it expects to release the information in April. [bold and italics mine]
A 14% chance of recurrence and a 9% chance of death? Not bad. But why stop there?
The melanoma removed in 2000 was Stage IIa on a standard classification that makes Stage IV the most serious. For Stage IIa melanoma, the survival rate 10 years after diagnosis is about 65 percent. But the outlook is much better for patients like Mr. McCain, who have already survived more than seven years.
For patients with a melanoma like Mr. McCain’s who remained free of the disease for the first five years after diagnosis, the probability of recurrence during the next five years was 14 percent and death 9 percent, a study published in 1992 found.
Stage III!? Oh no! Wait--how much bleaker is that? Can we have some sort of number? While the article backs away from this implication, stating that such procedures were the industry standard 8 years ago, page 2 is worse:
Since the 2008 campaign began, doctors not connected with Mr. McCain’s case have expressed intense interest in the extent of the face and neck surgery that he underwent on Aug. 19, 2000, at the Mayo Clinic Scottsdale in Arizona.
Some of these doctors have noted in e-mail messages and in comments to reporters that the surgery appeared to be so extensive that they were surprised his melanoma was not more serious — perhaps Stage III, which would give him a bleaker prognosis. These doctors said they would be surprised to learn that such an operation would be performed without evidence that the melanoma had spread. [bold and italics mine]
The staff hasn't said what tests McCain has used? The patient is "never completely clear"!? He's "slathering on powerful sunscreen"??!! I suppose it's not what Mr. Altman is saying, but rather what he is not saying that is important. One interpretation could read: "Senator McCain hasn't released his medical records, his staff isn't talking, and he's using gobs of super sunscreen. I sure hope he doesn't drop dead the next time the U.S. has an existential crisis."
Doctors advise melanoma patients to have regular checkups to detect new skin cancers and the spread of old ones because melanomas can be quirky. Mr. McCain’s staff has not said what tests his doctors have used to monitor his case.
Most recurrences of melanoma occur in the first few years after detection. Survival figures for melanomas are often measured in 10-year periods rather than the 5-year periods for many other cancers.
“With melanoma, a patient is never completely clear,” said Dr. Shapiro, the N.Y.U. expert.
If melanomas do recur, standard treatment options are limited for many to surgery and a difficult form of chemotherapy. The chances of long-term survival diminish.
Now, on the campaign trail, Mr. McCain appears to take care to shield himself from the sun, slathering on powerful sunscreen before outdoor events, finding spots of shade from which to speak and sometimes wearing baseball caps while outside. [bold and italics mine]
And for more of what's quite literally left unsaid, here's the article's big finish:
Mr. McCain is occasionally asked on the campaign trail about his age. But he is almost never asked about his health.Hat Tip: Snarky Bastards
Sunday, March 9, 2008
Some top contract lobbyists:
- Patton Boggs (a law firm)
- Cassidy & Associates
- Quinn Gillespie (a clear example of bipartisan lobbying)
- APCO (example of an internship opporuntity!)
Friday, March 7, 2008
One Florida official on Wednesday, noting that campaign finance regulations are flexible as to financing party activities such as primaries, offered, only half in jest, a novel suggestion: Corporate sponsorship. "We could have the Tropicana Primary or the Miami Dolphins Primary," the official said.
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
Hmm. So what does the public think about a way to pump money in a capital-deprived economy without having to cut rates and further devalue the dollar?
Sovereign wealth funds are teaming up with the private equity industry, business trade associations and major financial institutions to strategize a defense against the growing political scrutiny of the $3 trillion funds.
Last week, about 30 lawyers and lobbyists — organized, according to one attendee, by a representative from private equity firm The Carlyle Group — conferred at JPMorgan’s New York offices to discuss their role in the growing political issue.
Congress, the Treasury Department, the International Monetary Fund and the European Union are questioning the government-backed investment funds that have made several high-profile investments in Western financial institutions in recent months.
Two subcommittees of the House Financial Services Committee plan to hold a joint hearing Wednesday to discuss the role of foreign governments’ investments in the United States [...]
Over the past weeks, lawmakers have launched a series of inquiries into the funds. The IMF estimates that more than 20 of the funds, financed mostly by petrodollars and excess foreign exchange reserves, manage as much as $2.9 trillion — more money than either hedge funds or the private equity industry. [...]
Executives from two of the largest sovereign-wealth funds — the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority and the Government of Singapore Investment Corp. — met two weeks ago with Clay Lowery, the assistant treasury secretary for international affairs. The administration is supporting IMF efforts to create a voluntary code of conduct.
For policymakers, regulating the funds is a delicate balancing act. On one hand, fund investments have propped up financial institutions, bringing in much-needed capital and creating jobs during a period of economic anxiety. Over the past 11 months, the funds infused about $69 billion into financial institutions sapped by the subprime mortgage crisis, according to some estimates.
A survey conducted last week by Public Strategies Inc. found that 55 percent of registered voters thought sovereign-wealth fund investments would hurt national security, and 49 percent believed that investments would negatively affect the U.S. economy.Not that there's no good reason to be suspicious:
“If you think of an investment made by a state fund, there could be multiple motives. Perhaps we want the airline to fly to our country. Perhaps we want the bank to do extensive business in the country. Suppose we want suppliers in our country to be sourced. Perhaps we want some disablement of a competitor for our country’s national champion," he [Senator Christopher Dodd] says.And these sovereign wealth funds play it by the book:
Many of the funds have hired their own lobbyists and public relations specialists, who informally discuss the issue. They also work through existing diplomatic channels, including embassies and congressional trips abroad.
The oh-so-unhip world of business trade associations took a small shot at edginess Monday when nearly a dozen groups launched the blog BizCentral.org, aimed at Washington’s influencers.
In an Internet landscape littered with blogs, the modest venture might seem unremarkable except for the big names on the marquee: Business Roundtable, American Trucking Associations, American Petroleum Institute, CTIA — The Wireless Association, National Association of Chain Drug Stores, National Electrical Manufacturers Association, Nuclear Energy Institute, Organization for International Investment, Personal Care Products Council, Salt Institute and the U.S. Telecom Association.
But persuading the conservative, button-down business groups to enter the shoot’em-up world of blogging is a major advancement, said Pat Cleary, who pushed the idea from the start.
“It goes to all of business’ greatest fears and paranoia. Could somebody say bad stuff about us? You bet. What control do we have once it’s out there? None. Can people use this against us? Yup,” said Cleary, senior vice president of digital public affairs at PR shop Fleishman-Hillard. “It goes against every rule we follow. It’s in the DNA. It is a little bit of a leap to get into this space.”
Cleary preaches the importance of communicating through the Web with the zeal of a convert because he believes businesses ignore the Internet at great risk. Environmentalists, labor unions and other groups that have traditionally banged heads with Big Business have effectively used the blogosphere for years, Cleary said.
But those groups have more of a built-in readership for their blogs, he noted. Who would read a pro-business blog?
“Short answer: people who care about your issues,” such as congressional aides, lawmakers, reporters, policymakers and opinion leaders, Cleary said.
And that’s what drew the chain drugstores’ trade group to the project, said the organization’s spokeswoman, Chrissy Kopple.
“It is kind of a one-stop shop. You could probably find a wide range of issues that are hot on Capitol Hill that each of those organizations have a stake in,” she said.
The blog gives Kopple the ability to respond quickly to policy debates without relying on the media to get her message out. The blog also links associations with similar agendas and helps them quickly identify others who may be potential allies.
Another BizCentral.org member, the Business Roundtable, also blogs regularly on the environmental site Treehugger.com, said Roundtable spokesman Joe Crea. The organization’s posts there touch on sustainability and green business.
“They like having the business perspective on a kind of crunchy site,” Crea said.
Writing on BizCentral.org will allow the group to expand its blogging megaphone from environmental issues to other policy areas like health care, education and trade, Crea said.
Blogging is often an exercise in no-holds-barred communication. But this being a business blog, there is one commandment — “We don’t shoot at one another” — and one rule: “You’ve got to post once a week,” Cleary said.
Cleary got the idea for BizCentral three years ago while he was still an executive at the National Association of Manufacturers. When he moved to Fleishman, the firm gave him the resources to make it happen.
The blog is free to participants and helps Fleishman build its brand as “leaders in the digital space,” Cleary said.
At NAM, Cleary built Shopfloor.org to fight taxes, promote innovation and shake manufacturing’s reputation as an industry filled with dark and dangerous jobs. Two years after its launch in 2004, the blog had a million readers.
Now, Cleary is trying to build on his success with what he calls a first-of-its-kind business association blog. He’s working to use the blogosphere to build influence and drive policy, something business has not yet done in a meaningful way, he said.
“In an association town, every ... association that reads this will be like, ‘What? Let’s check this out,’” Cleary said.
Time will tell.
Monday, March 3, 2008
Sunday, March 2, 2008
Hillary Under Fire for Keeping Donations from Firm Under Investigation for Widespread Sexual Harassment
Thursday, February 28, 2008
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
The article states:
The IRS has stepped up its monitoring of the political activity of nonprofit groups during the 2008 election. It is more common for individual congregations to be targeted, not entire denominations, but very large ministries have been investigated in the past.
The inquiries can take years. Punishments can range from a financial penalty to loss of tax-exempt status -- an outcome that church attorneys call the "death penalty" for nonprofits.
This investigation goes hand in hand with our recent discussions about the different types of organizations and the limits of their political actions and spending.
"The law was passed by Maine voters in a referendum in 1996 and came into effect in 2000. Candidates who demonstrate citizen support by collecting a set number of $5 qualifying contributions from voters within their districts (50 contributions for a State House race, 150 for the state Senate, and 2,500 for a gubernatorial race) are eligible for fixed and equal campaign funding from the Clean Election Fund. To receive their money, candidates must agree to forgo all private contributions (including self-financing), and limit their spending to the amount from the fund.
Participating Clean Money candidates are also given an additional one-for-one match if they are outspent by non-complying opponents or are the target of independent expenditures (such as ads produced by a group not associated with the opposing candidate). Candidates who reject the option of Clean Money or who fail to qualify are still free to collect private money under the existing system."
Same ad in Spanish:
PowerPAC is not a PAC but a 501(c)(4). It has run pro-Obama ads with a religious theme:
Some background on the religion, politics, and the IRS.
Kennedy speech to Greater Houston Ministerial Association:
Obama speech to the United Church of Christ:
In the current decade, as the reading explains, we have seen a clash of Catholic Answers Action and the Catholic Action Network for Social Justice.
See here and here (go to p. 37) for data on religion and electoral preference.
From the Politico:
The National Rifle Association endorsed Rep. Zack Space (D-Ohio) for re-election today, giving the freshman congressman key credibility among gun owners as he runs for re-election in a largely rural and solidly Republican district.I don't know how much the endorsement is going to help Space, but at the very least, it's a bad omen for Republicans living in Ohio's fightin' 18th: if the NRA is endorsing the Democrat in the race, it's doubleplusungood for the Grand Old Party.
"During just my first term in Congress, the NRA and I have already forged a strong working relationship as we both seek to protect the gun owners and sportsmen in the 18th Congressional District,” said Space in a statement.
“We are both committed to preserving the constitutional rights of gun owners and sportsmen everywhere as we work to end the continual whittling away of the Second Amendment by those opposed to gun ownership."
Republicans have had trouble recruiting credible candidates to challenge Space, despite the district’s Republican tilt. The four Republican candidates who have filed for the state’s March 4 primary have hardly raised any money in preparation for the campaign.
Space won election to Congress, fueled by voters’ disgust with the indictment of his predecessor, GOP Rep. Bob Ney. But Republicans had hoped that the district would return to its Republican roots, given the fact President Bush won 57 percent of the vote in 2004.
The NRA’s endorsement suggests that prospect for Republicans is increasingly unlikely, and that Space’s long-term prospects of holding the seat may be better than even he once expected.
Monday, February 25, 2008
Project Vote Smart collects interest group ratings.
The League of Conservation voters has a user-friendly scorecard.
It also offers a "hit list."
LCV, by the way, is a good example of an interest-group conglomerate.
LCV is a 501(c)(4). Thanks to the MCFL decision, it can do a limited amount of candidate activity. Here is an independent-expenditure ad:
See also The Club for Growth
Soft money still exists, albeit not "party" soft money.
In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled in FEC vs. Wisconsin Right to Life that the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) cannot ban corporate and union money from paying for election ads and communications 30 days before a primary and 60 days before a general election — as long as the ads do not directly advocate the election or defeat of a candidate or engage in the “functional equivalent."
Thursday, February 21, 2008
"During Mr. McCain’s four years in the House, Mr. Keating, his family and his business associates contributed heavily to his political campaigns. The banker gave Mr. McCain free rides on his private jet, a violation of Congressional ethics rules (he later said it was an oversight and paid for the trips). They vacationed together in the Bahamas. And in 1986, the year Mr. McCain was elected to the Senate, his wife joined Mr. Keating in investing in an Arizona shopping mall."I wanted to include the McCain campaign response too in order to be fair:
"For years, Mr. McCain complied. At Mr. Keating’s request, he wrote several letters to regulators, introduced legislation and helped secure the nomination of a Keating associate to a banking regulatory board. By early 1987, though, the thrift was careering toward disaster. Mr. McCain agreed to join several senators, eventually known as the Keating Five, for two private meetings with regulators to urge them to ease up."
"In 2001, he helped found the nonprofit Reform Institute to promote his cause and, in the process, his career. It collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in unlimited donations from companies that lobbied the Senate commerce committee. Mr. McCain initially said he saw no problems with the financing, but he severed his ties to the institute in 2005, complaining of “bad publicity” after news reports of the arrangement."
"Like other presidential candidates, he has relied on lobbyists to run his campaigns. Since a cash crunch last summer, several of them — including his campaign manager, Rick Davis, who represented companies before Mr. McCain’s Senate panel — have been working without pay, a gift that could be worth tens of thousands of dollars. In recent weeks, Mr. McCain has hired another lobbyist, Mark Buse, to run his Senate office. In his case, it was a round trip through the revolving door: Mr. Buse had directed Mr. McCain’s committee staff for seven years before leaving in 2001 to lobby for telecommunications companies.""
"In late 1999, Ms. Iseman asked Mr. McCain’s staff to send a letter to the commission to help Paxson, now Ion Media Networks, on another matter. Mr. Paxson was impatient for F.C.C. approval of a television deal, and Ms. Iseman acknowledged in an e-mail message to The Times that she had sent to Mr. McCain’s staff information for drafting a letter urging a swift decision. Mr. McCain complied. He sent two letters to the commission, drawing a rare rebuke for interference from its chairman. In an embarrassing turn for the campaign, news reports invoked the Keating scandal, once again raising questions about intervening for a patron."
“It is a shame that The New York Times has lowered its standards to engage in a hit-and-run smear campaign. John McCain has a 24-year record of serving our country with honor and integrity. He has never violated the public trust, never done favors for special interests or lobbyists, and he will not allow a smear campaign to distract from the issues at stake in this election.
“Americans are sick and tired of this kind of gutter politics, and there is nothing in this story to suggest that John McCain has ever violated the principles that have guided his career.”
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
- PACs stick with incumbents
- Economic sectors divide contributions differently
- Republicans had a hard-money advantage in the past.
- But so far, not this year.
Political parties consist of:
- Party in the electorate
- Party organization
- Party in government
Interest groups influence all three levels.
Unions do a good deal of phone banking:
Lobbyists can still finance convention activities.
As Dan's post suggests (below), Act Blue is very active.
Emily's List has had an impact on the Democratic Party:
Monday, February 18, 2008
As I mentioned at the end of class I would like to learn more and discuss ActBlue. Here are some interesting links and pieces of stories about it:
From the website FAQ:
For the purposes of contribution limits, are contributions made via the ActBlue web site counted separately from other contributions?
For federal campaigns, No. Contributions made via the ActBlue website are just like contributions through other means (e.g. on a candidate’s web site, through the mail, at a fundraiser). ActBlue just helps deliver your contribution to the candidate.
For state-legislature and executive campaigns, it depends. We’re in the process of writing up pages about the rules in every state. Until then, please contact us if you have questions.
From an article in the Wall Street Journal about a state legislative candidate receiving funds:
ActBlue was created as a political action committee in June 2004 by two Democratic activists from Cambridge, Mass., shortly after the presidential campaign of Howard Dean showed the power of online fund raising. The idea was to transfer that force to Democrats more broadly. Since its inception, ActBlue has raised more than $28 million for Democratic candidates, mostly by making it easy for supporters to bundle together small-dollar donations made via credit card. Mr. Edwards, for example, has raised more than $4 million online via ActBlue.Finally from a Politico article regarding ActBlue and the FEC:
The presidential public financing system provides up to $250 in taxpayer money for each donation from an individual. But it expressly excludes from matching funds contributions “drawn on the account of a committee.”
It’s unclear whether contributions processed by ActBlue, a pioneering force in online fundraising for Democrats, would be covered by that language. But the Edwards campaign was worried enough to ask the Federal Election Commission for a legal opinion.