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September 4, 2009

AUTO DEALERS SPENT $776,000 ON LOBBYING IN SECOND QUARTER Auto dealers spent $776,000 lobbying for the Cash for Clunkers program and other causes in the second quarter, according to the Associated Press.

The McLean, Va-based National Automobile Dealers Association, which represents more than 20,000 franchised new car and truck dealers, also sponsored lobbying on the repeal of the "death tax," excise taxes and labor issues during the April-June period, according to a report filed by the House clerk's office.

More here.

--Jenna Staul

ASHCROFT AIDE AVOIDS TESTIFYING AGAINST LOBBYIST

A top aide to former Attorney General John Ashcroft may take the Fifth to avoid testifying against a GOP lobbyist involved in the Jack Abramoff scandal.

Politico's John Bresnahan reports that David Ayres, who served as Ashcroft's chief of staff, helped Abramoff obtain $16 million in Department of Justice grants for one of his lobbying clients, the Mississippi Choctaw tribe.

Abramoff was paid millions by the tribe, owners of a hugely successful casino. In return, he sought help from numerous lawmakers in winning federal funds for them.

More here.

--Jenna Staul

HEALTH CARE REFORM ADVOCACY TO INTENSIFY THIS MONTH Interest groups on both sides of the health-care debate plan to step up their lobbying efforts as lawmakers return to Capital Hill from the August recess, the Associated Press reports.

The AARP will unveil an 8 million-piece direct mail campaign in favor of the overhaul, while the US Chamber of Commerce plans to send lawmakers a letter signed by 2,800 companies and business organizations opposing the measure.

Television airwaves played more than $28 million worth of health care ads in August and may be even more inundated this month, said Evan Tracey, president of the Campaign Media Analysis Group.

Said Tracey:

"It's not just a couple of big players, this is coming from all corners, large and small," said Tracey, who said over 60 groups have advertised on the issue so far, more than he's seen on past issues. "This has only one way to go, and that's up.

More here

--Jenna Staul

September 3, 2009

HUNDREDS OF FORMER CONGRESSIONAL STAFFERS NOW HEALTH CARE LOBBYISTS Analysts at the LittleSis Blog have identified more than 450 former congressional staffers who now work as health care lobbyists.

According to LittleSis' findings, many of the lobbyists were once on the payroll of the "Gang of Six" --- Montana Sen. Max Baucus led the list with 12 staffers and Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley came in second with ten.

Other highlights:

A large number of the lobbyists have previously worked for the Senate Finance Committee (where the current bill is stalled), the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and the Department of Health and Human Services.

[...]

These folks are making heavy contributions to the Democrats: 45 lobbyists on our lists have made private donations to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Another 42 donated to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Perhaps not surprisingly, third place in this category went to the Blue Dog Political Action Committee.

The blog also features a comprehensive list of the lobbyists and their backgrounds.

More here.

-- Jenna Staul

BLANCHE LINCOLN IS THE QUEEN OF CASH FROM THE HEALTH INDUSTRY The Sunlight Foundation's Paul Blumenthal reports that Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) has taken more money in campaign contributions from the health industry than all but one of her Democratic peers in 2009. According to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, Lincoln benefited from $325,350 in contributions from the health industry in the first half of 2009.

"The large amount in contributions underlies a constantly shifting position by the senator on health care reform," notes Blumenthal. Lincoln sits on the Senate Finance Committee, the lone panel that has so far failed to get its act together on health care reform legislation.

Lincoln told the Huffington Post's Ryan Grim in May that she was open to a public option. "We're looking at that option to see if it's going to be competitive and, you know, if it's going to be productive," she said. "I'm still open minded."

On Tuesday, Lincoln revealed that her mind had apparently closed. "I would not support a solely government-funded public option. We can't afford that," she said, according to Arkansas News.

The Sunlight Foundation's got the goods on the tangled web of staffers-turned-lobbyists who help the industry funnel money to Lincoln and her colleagues. For more, including a helpful chart, go here.

Correction: This item originally reported that Lincoln had taken more money from the health industry than any Democratic senator. In fact, Harry Reid has taken more. (Lincoln is still the queen.)

-- Arthur Delaney

ENVIRONMENTALISTS SPEND MORE ON ADVERTISING, LESS ON LOBBYING
Environmentalist groups are pouring money behind advertising -- not direct lobbying, in support of a measure to curb green house gases, reports USA Today's Fredreka Schouten.

Backers of climate change legislation have spent $8 million this year in television advertising, while opponents of the measure spent just $7.4 million.

But those figures pale in comparison to what other special interest groups typically invest in lobbying.

Schouten writes:

Even so, the ad blitz by environmental and liberal groups stands in contrast to lobbying patterns. Oil and gas interests have spent more than $82 million in lobbying during the first six months of this year, according to federal data compiled by the non-partisan
Center for Responsive Politics. By comparison, environmental groups spent $9.8 million.

A senate panel plans to unveil their plan for the measure later this month.

More here.

-- Jenna Staul


September 2, 2009

VERIZON CONNECTS WITH PRO-COAL GROUPS On Labor Day, there will be a big, big rally opposing climate change legislation in West Virginia, featuring such luminaries as Ted Nugent and Sean Hannity. The Friends of America Rally is sponsored by regional fossil fuel interests, chiefly mountaintop miner Massey Energy Company, and also...Verizon Wireless? Indeed.

CREDO Action has launched a campaign to get Verizon to drop its sponsorship. ThinkProgress reports that CREDO's Becky Bond notified Verizon spokesman Jim Gerace to let him know about CREDO's campaign, and that Gerace responded, "This is how our response is going over with the activists. Becky once lived in a tree for a while. At least now I know where the emails are coming from."

Weird. ThinkProgress notes: "For the record, Bond never lived in a tree."

More here.

-- Arthur Delaney

MASSACHUSETTS SENATE CONTENDERS BRING NEW SPECIAL INTEREST SUPPORT Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick announced a special election will take place Jan. 18 to fill the seat of the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, leaving little time for candidates to raise campaign funding.

OpenSecrets.org's Lindsay Renick Mayer reports that Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley will run for the seat, and the list of potential candidates includes Kennedy's nephew, former Rep. Joe Kennedy II, and several federal lawmakers.

Of interest to Lobbyblog readers is Mayer's well-informed at-a-glance summaries of other contenders -- Democratic Reps. Michael Capuano, Stephen Lynch, and Edward Markey -- who are also in the mix.

The summaries show how these potential contenders stack up to Kennedy in terms of their fundraising prowess, and the special interests that are likely to have an influence over each.

--Jenna Staul

THIS DAY IN HEALTH CARE LOBBYING ORGIES USA Today's Fredreka Schouten runs the numbers on how lobbyists have feathered the nests of the most notable names in the health care debate.

As the debate intensifies in Congress, health care sector contributions to lawmakers on the committees overseeing the massive change to the nation's health care system are on the upswing -- rising 8% between the first and second quarter of the year, according to data compiled by the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics.

In the first six months of the year, health care interests donated $19.7 million to all federal lawmakers. More than 40% -- $8.1 million -- went to the campaign and political action committees of lawmakers on the five House and Senate committees that are working on health care.

Craig Holman, of the watchdog group Public Citizen, said the giving allows health care lobbyists "to get one-on-one time with officeholders" as lawmakers craft legislation.

Lobbyists have really gotten one-on-one with Senator Chuck Grassley, the GOP's top beneficiary. Grassley has seen the amount of largess go up considerably in 2009: "$53,200 during the first three months of the year to $125,800 during the second quarter." That's a good take for someone who is only attempting to ensure no law gets passed.

More, including a handy-dandy chart of lawmakers-to-cash, here.

DEMOCRATS RECEIVE MOST LOBBYIST DONATIONS Most of the $94.7 million donated to federal candidates and campaigns through political action committees this year has gone to Democrats.


A mid-year analysis conducted by Lobbyist.info
showed 63 percent of donations from PACs went to Democrats, while 37 percent of donations went to Republicans, reported the National Journal's Beth Sussman.

The analysis also found that organizations donated $22.5 million through funds not associated with their PACs and lobbyists donated $13 million from personal funds.

The late Sen. Edward Kennedy topped the list as the highest Senate recipient of PAC money, receiving $1.6 million. The top House recipient from organization PACs was Minority Whip Eric Cantor, who received $1.2 million.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers was the top donating organization PAC, giving $1.6 million.

More here.

-- Jason Linkins

BAUCUS' TIES Kevin Connor at LittleSis makes note of the fact that Senator Max Baucus' chief health adviser, Elizabeth Fowler, who Politico has referred to as health care reform's "chief operating officer," has -- surprise, surprise! -- extensive health care industry connections:

Fowler, as it turns out, is also fresh off a lucrative stint working for the insurance industry: from 2006 to 2008, she was VP of public policy for Wellpoint, the insurance giant.

Connor goes on to note that the person who advised Baucus prior to Fowler, currently lobbies on behalf of Wellpoint. One might think that Baucus' perspective on the matter of health care reform is thus, an extremely limited one.

-- Jenna Staul

KUCINICH DEMANDS DETAILS FROM INSURANCE INDUSTRY LEADERS Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich wants insurance company executives to explain their business practices -- namely how much money is spent determining a patient's coverage.

Politico's Chris Frates reports that Kucinich, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Domestic Policy Subcommittee, sent letters last month to executives at Aetna, WellPoint, Cigna, United Health and Humana asking them to testify before his committee on Sept. 17. The companies have until Tuesday to respond to his request.

"We're looking at their business model," Kucinich said in an interview. "There seems to be a misunderstanding of the nature of the insurance companies. They have an investment model, and their job is to get a return for their shareholders; it is not to provide health care. There's misperception that somehow their job is to provide health care.

Kucinich explained to Politico: "If you don't understand the business model of insurance companies, any legislation that you may craft may actually be off the mark...There's not that much transparency with respect to their business, so this is an opportunity for insurance company executives to come forward and just explain their business."

Politico also notes:

Kurt Bardella, a spokesman for the Republican members of the House Oversight Committee, said Democrats have ignored GOP calls to investigate the billions of dollars in stimulus spending and bank and other bailouts in favor of scoring "cheap political points."

More here. --Jenna Staul

AFL-CIO LOOKS TO TAX RISKY WALL STREET BEHAVIOR The AFL-CIO is pushing Democratic allies in Congress to tax financial activity on Wall Street in an attempt to curb reckless trading.

The tax, reports The Hill's Alexander Bolton, would access about a tenth of a percent on every stock transaction. Though the tax won't affect small investment firms, heavyweight firms that practice high frequency trading, such as Goldman Sachs, would be hit the hardest.

Goldman Sachs took in $3.44 billion in profits during the second quarter of 2009, and high frequency trading is estimated to earn about $20 billion in profits for the nation's leading investment firms.

More here. --Jenna Staul

LEFT HOOK IN HEALTH CARE DEBATE Progressives are revving up after an awful August for proponents of health care reform. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees threw a "rocking block party" on Monday at AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington, D.C., the National Journal reports. Other groups ramping up health care reform efforts: the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, "a network of lefty state activist groups spearheaded by Denver-based ProgressNow," and, of course, Organizing for America.

MORE HOT DOGS!!! If you missed the rocking block party, head over to National Republican Senatorial Committee headquarters for yet another "Dog Days of Summer Cookout." The Sunlight Foundation has the invite -- it only costs a hundred bucks to get in! But be warned: We showed up for the last one, $100 in hand, and we were told to get lost. Not sure why.

ADMINISTRATION MONEY GOING TO LOBBY GROUPS? The oil industry is whining that the administration is giving money to trade groups that promote "ethanol, natural gas, propane and biodiesel products," the New York Times reports. $1.6 million went to industry trade group the Alternative Fuel Trade Alliance. INTERESTING:

One of its members, the Renewable Fuels Association, is a trade group that lobbies for ethanol subsidies, although the group said the grants would go only to marketing, not lobbying. Other organizations in the alliance are nonprofits closely allied with lobbying trade groups: the National Biodiesel Foundation, whose executive director is an official of a biodiesel lobbying group; and the Clean Vehicle Education Foundation, a sister organization of the natural gas trade group.

Another group is the Propane Education and Research Council, an industry group that was created by Congressional legislation and is forbidden to lobby. (Propane is a byproduct of fossil fuel production, and its makers say it gives off less pollution.) The other member of the alliance is ASG Renaissance, a Michigan-based marketing firm that specializes in clean energy.

More here.

-- Arthur Delaney

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