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Ever wish you were a fly -- a remote camcorder -- on the wall of a DC congressperson's office, as they were conducting a typical congressperson's daily business?

Me too.  Oh wait they are about to take an important meeting now ...


A Day in the Life of a (PAC-savy) Lobbyist (pdf)

There is no typical day. According to the latest figures, there are 34,785-registered lobbyists in Washington. That figure has doubled in the last 5 years. [...] Can you imagine 34,785 people walking up and down the halls of Congress? And, after those two martini lunches, can you imagine them staggering up and down the halls?

Let me tell you what we really do.
[...]

scanning through these newspapers. We then open the e-mail, [...]

So are we ever on the Hill? Absolutely! Every day that Congress is in session, one, if not more, are up there for one or more meetings. We pre-schedule meetings, for the most part, and most of the meetings that we have are with staff most of those with committee staff. That’s where we start because that’s where the action happens. At these committee staff meetings we find out which members of Congress need specific targeting and then we start working with their staff. Members of Congress have staff assigned to specific areas, be it health, civil service, social security, and so forth, and those are generally the people we are meeting with. You meet with the members of Congress only when you are ready to move something.
[...]

So don’t go before a Legislator and try to hype an issue or make it seem worse than it is. Just give the facts -- which you can get from us if you don’t know them--and certainly use your own personal situations to get the need for our legislation across.

You have to be ethical, never promise a contribution of any kind for a vote, and never threaten.
[...]

I just mentioned here that we should never talk about PAC when you’re talking about votes. I want to stress that. Don’t even say PAC in a member’s office. A member cannot talk about PAC in their office and we can’t either. You cannot present PAC checks to member of Congress in their office, or in any government building.
[...]

Don’t go into an office and talk about "we’ll see that you get PAC money, or we’ll see that you don’t get PAC money." It’s not to be discussed at the same time with legislation. You can say we’re glad to support you, tell us what we might do to support you. They understand this too.
[...]

You have to be very careful about how you’re using the PAC in this process. That’s why we handle PAC contributions in the National office where we know Federal Election Committee (FEC) rules. We have to get a request for PAC contributions in writing in our office.


It's just Free Speech, right? ... No Big Deal ... Lobbyists are people too!


People very well-paid to just best represent their clients' detailed and varied interests ...

No harm, no foul ...  right?



It's just the business of Government ... being conducted -- Next!



A Day in the life of a Lobbyist

First and foremost, lobbyists must be adept at the art of persuasion, which is the mainstay of their job. They must figure out how to sway politicians to vote on legislation in a way that favors the interest they represent.
[...]

The lobbyist imparts her information with the help of graphs, charts, polls, and reports that she has hunted up or created.
[...]

Sometimes, lobbyists will even sit down and help a politician draft legislation that is advantageous for their interest. Maintaining good relations with politicians who can be relied on to support the lobbyist’s interest is key.

While lobbyists and their employers cannot themselves make large campaign donations to politicians, they can, and do, raise money from other sources for reelection campaigns.

Well isn't that convenient, more ghost writers for sale, really cheap -- ALEC looks like you might have some competition in that regard ... from among the thousands of lobbying firms roaming the streets in Washington DC.


But don't Lobbyist have be registered or something?

Well yes, yes they do ...


Lobbying Disclosure

Office of the Clerk -- US House of Representatives

Lobbying Disclosure Act Guidance

Effective January 1, 2008

Reviewed/Last Revised December 15, 2011


Section 1 - Introduction

Section 6 of the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA), 2 U.S.C. § 1605, provides that:  The Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the House of Representatives shall

(1) provide guidance and assistance on the registration and reporting requirements of this Act and develop common standards, rules and procedures for compliance with this Act; [and]

(2) review, and, where necessary, verify and inquire to ensure the accuracy, completeness and timeliness of registrations and reports.

The LDA does not provide the Secretary or the Clerk with the authority to write substantive regulations or issue definitive opinions on the interpretation of the law. [...]

It goes on like that for far, far, further than I had patience for, today.


And so those Registered Lobbyists DO have to disclose their Lobbying Activities, right? -- So where are those reports?

Well there's a fill-in the form Search Page for those Quarterly Reports.   But good luck getting the complete story from those reports ... assuming you can find them from that rickety search engine anyways ...  

Here are 3 Lobbyist Disclosures Reports, I somewhat randomly selected from the scads of Quarterly Activity reports filed in the year 2011:

House ID    Registrant Name    Client Name   Filing Year    Filing Period   Lobbyist Full Name    Affiliated Name

309340000   
INTERNATIONAL SWAPS & DERIVATIVES ASSOCIATION INC.   
INTERNATIONAL SWAPS & DERIVATIVES ASSOCIATION INC.   
2011   
4th Quarter  
Johannes, Mary    
Bank of America Merrill Lynch  (pdf)       

Expense relating to lobbying activities for this reporting period

$377,000.00


House ID    Registrant Name    Client Name   Filing Year    Filing Period   Lobbyist Full Name    Affiliated Name

310650000   
HEALTHCARE DISTRIBUTION MANAGEMENT ASSOCIATION   
HEALTHCARE DISTRIBUTION MANAGEMENT ASSOCIATION   
2011   
2nd Quarter       
Kelly, Patrick    
AmerisourceBergen Drug Company  (pdf)

Expense relating to lobbying activities for this reporting period

$272,000.00


House ID    Registrant Name    Client Name   Filing Year    Filing Period   Lobbyist Full Name    Affiliated Name

304540000   
American Trucking Associations   
American Trucking Associations   
2011   
3rd Quarter   
Clark, Lesta Britteon  
YRC Worldwide, Inc.  (pdf)

Expense relating to lobbying activities for this reporting period

$495,949.00

====     ====     ====    


Lobbying Disclosure  

Office of the Clerk -- US House of Representatives

United States House of Representatives
U.S. Capitol, Room H-154
Washington D.C., 20515-6601
202-225-7000


Search Past Filings

Diarist's Search Notes:
the easiest search to use for getting started is search for the Year ...

Search Field = Filing Year    Criteria = 2011


Also putting an *  in any text field, as wildcard criteria works too,

but it takes quite a while for the results to show up.


I would really like to see more detail behind those "half-million dollar" quarterly expense reports, wouldn't you? ... Those are an awful lot of "two martini lunches" don't you think?

It's not possible those Lobbying reps know the name of a Congressperson's favorite PAC, is it?

Naaawh!  That's just crazy talk.   (Even though it's only 2 clicks away.)


Anyways, while I'm dreaming for more open government and more transparency in the legislative process ...

It would be really nice if they "unlock" those disclosure pdfs too, so that their sketchy Disclosure details could be copied out and better scrutinized by the general public, at large.

Of course, that might raise even more pesky questions from that polarized public ... and in that regard, and the Traditional Media has decided:

it's best to let the sleeping giants, catch up on some Zzzzz's ... and when they wake, gently guide them to direct their anger towards each other, instead.


No sense, fretting them about stuff they wouldn't understand -- and couldn't change, even it they did.

That's Congress' job.    To make the sausages that nobody wants.

And those Lobbyists are perfectly qualified suited to provide the various unsavory recipes, as the current business at hand requires.

All with No "Kleig Lights" in sight, they'll make damn sure of that ...



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Comment Preferences

  •  Well, I can answer that question (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jamess
    I would really like to see more detail behind those "half-million dollar" quarterly expense reports, wouldn't you? ... Those are an awful lot of "two martini lunches" don't you think?
    The reporting is of all lobbying-related expenses -- i.e., it includes the retainers paid from the clients to the lobbyists themselves.
    •  thanks for the info Adam B (0+ / 0-)

      "retainers paid from the clients to the lobbyists themselves"


      but wouldn't those go into the "income sections" of those reports?


      I guess I don't get the nuance of "expense" in this context.


      What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself.
      -- Maslow ...... my list.

      by jamess on Sat Mar 31, 2012 at 04:28:33 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  From the LDA Guide (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        jamess
        Preparing to File the Quarterly Report - Income or Expense Recording

        The LDA does not contain any special record keeping provisions, but requires, in the case of an outside lobbying firm (including self-employed individuals), a good faith estimate of all income received from the client, other than payments for matters unrelated to lobbying activities. In the case of an organization employing in-house lobbyists, the LDA requires a good faith estimate of the total expenses of its lobbying activities. As long as the registrant has a reasonable system in place and complies in good faith with that system, the requirement of reporting expenses or income would be met. Since Section 6(a)(5) requires the Secretary and Clerk to “retain registrations for a period of at least 6 years after they are terminated and reports for a period of at least 6 years after they are filed,” we recommend registrants retain copies of their filings and supporting documentation for the same length of time.

        Lobbying Firm Income
        Lobbying firms report income earned or accrued from lobbying activities during a quarterly period, even though the client may not be billed or make payment until a later time. For a lobbying firm, gross income from the client for lobbying activities is reportable, including reimbursable expenses costs or disbursements that are in addition to fees and separately invoiced. Line 12 of Form LD-2 provides boxes for a lobbying firm to report income of less than $5,000, or of $5,000 or more. If lobbying income is $5,000 or more, a lobbying firm must provide a good faith estimate of the actual dollar amount rounded to the nearest $10,000.

        •  from a bit further down in that same link (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Eric Nelson, lostinamerica
          [...]
          To ensure complete reporting, the Secretary and Clerk have consistently interpreted Section 5(b)(4) to require such organizations to report all of their expenses incurred in connection with lobbying activities, including all payments to retained lobby firms or outside entities, without considering whether any particular payee has a separate obligation to register and report under the LDA.

          [...]

          All employee time spent in lobbying activities must be included in determining the organization’s lobbying expenses, even if the employee does not meet the statutory definition of a “lobbyist.”

          Example: The CEO of a registrant, “Defense Contractor,” travels to Washington to meet with a covered DOD official regarding the renewal of a government contract. “Defense Contractor” has already determined that its CEO is not a "lobbyist," because he does not spend 20 percent of his time on "lobbying activities" during a quarterly period. Nonetheless, the expenses reasonably allocable to the CEO's lobbying activities (e.g., plane ticket to Washington, salary and benefit costs, etc.) will be reportable.

          it kind of sounds like a game of Tag,

          for buying and paying for influence expert recommendations ...


          What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself.
          -- Maslow ...... my list.

          by jamess on Sat Mar 31, 2012 at 04:53:30 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  But ... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            jamess

            ... regardless, it's not itemized in the way you might want.

            As someone who helps lobbyists and principals comply with laws like these, my attitude is that what's most relevant is gifts, hospitality, and political contributions provided by lobbyists and their clients to Members and their staffs.  Reporting of retainers and the like seems much less crucial.

            •  so in your opinion (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              lostinamerica

              it there enough "disclosure"

              to adequately serve the the Public's interests?


              What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself.
              -- Maslow ...... my list.

              by jamess on Sat Mar 31, 2012 at 05:00:10 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I don't know. (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                jamess

                And I'm too self-interested to answer.  But for instance, should lobbyists have to itemize each lobbying contact made -- to whom, when, on what bill, and what position was taken?  Would that chill important First Amendment activity?  Would it be such a regulatory burden as to create a massive compliance industry?  Would such transparency improve governance?

                I guess I'll answer your question with a question: what should the goal(s) of a lobbying disclosure regime be?

                •  the goal (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Eric Nelson, lostinamerica


                  to insure that  (ie. put a "check and balance" on)

                  Congress reps, who might trade away the Public's interest in the intent and of pending legislation,

                  for Lobbyist's client's contra-interests in that same legislation.

                  Assuming an exchange, for "unstated" campaign contributions, etc.


                  Just witness the Big Oil Lobbyists

                  for relevant on-going use cases, that serve the interests of Big Oil,

                  at the expense of the interests of average citizen.


                  What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself.
                  -- Maslow ...... my list.

                  by jamess on Sat Mar 31, 2012 at 05:12:36 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

  •  Well done diary (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jamess, Eric Nelson, lostinamerica

    This American Life did a show today concerning the money machine of politics. The primary business of Washington is money: who has it, who needs it, and the lobbyists that make it all happen.

    The program is available to stream tomorrow evening and the podcast can be had via iTunes probably tomorrow as well.

    Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell. --Edward Abbey

    by ricklewsive on Sat Mar 31, 2012 at 04:31:02 PM PDT

  •  PS. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    peptabysmal, Eric Nelson


    Why shouldn't their public offices

    be open to "camcorder review" ?


    Afterall

    "if they haven't done anything wrong

    -- then they haven't anything to worry about !"


    If that mantra is good enough for the American People

    -- it should be good enough for our elected Representatives, too.


    Don't you think?


    What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself.
    -- Maslow ...... my list.

    by jamess on Sat Mar 31, 2012 at 05:35:52 PM PDT

    •  Well, we try to get cameras into patrol cars to (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jamess

      know what the police are doing.

      And there's a hell of alot more cops than legislators.

      Also, if we can record Time Square, why can't we record Congress (intimately).

      There can be no protection locally if we're content to ignore the fact that there are no controls globally.

      by oldpotsmuggler on Sat Mar 31, 2012 at 06:28:14 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Big oil is right up there with NRA in their.. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jamess

    ..ability to lobby congress into getting to do as they want.
    This link has Rachel Maddow discussing tax subsidies with James Inhofe. A brick wall, who received $500,000 from oil and gas, and unsurprisingly Koch Industries is his No. 1. Think Progress Green

    The top five oil companies alone made $137 billion in profits, while spending $146 million lobbying Congress to maintain those same tax breaks.
    I forgot who's show, but think it was Chris Hayes who had a segment that went back into history with clips of every single president Republican & Democrats promising to fight to get rid of tax breaks for the oil industry.

    All failed. There is simply too much power in the dollars spent buying off legislators.
    How the oil industry saves $4.4 billion a year on taxes

    Thx jamess - this is really good because it's a message that #Occupy could really bring to the forefront this coming spring imo. - more 1%er special interests getting all the breaks

     Bribery is a word they'll never use in "polite" settings but it is exactly what it is - undemocratic - unAmerican
    ...........................................................................
    P.S. but this I wonder if lobbyists lobbied for this too:

    The LDA does not provide the Secretary or the Clerk with the authority to write substantive regulations or issue definitive opinions on the interpretation of the law. [...]
    LOL (not in a funny way)

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