lobbyists

Lobbyist Gift Spending In Georgia Down 35% As Bipartisan Reform Movement Rises

In Georgia, both progressive groups like Common Cause and conservative organizations like the Tea Party have joined hands to demand restrictions on the gifts that lobbyists can give to lawmakers.

Many in the legislature are considering a gift limit of $100 per gift, and others want to ban gifts outright. Polling shows that 72% of Georgians want to see gifts to lawmakers capped.

Under the watchful eyes of this new bipartisan reform movement, lobbyist gift spending has actually plummeted. While lobbyists spent a sizable sum on gifts in January 2013 — $240,000 — this is actually a 35% decline from January 2012.

This is evidence that an engaged public tackling the issue of corruption can make an impact even before it passes actual reform laws.

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Report: Corporations Get 22,000 Percent Return On Investment From Lobbying

It is commonly believed that corporations have too much influence in the government and use it to extract special loopholes and subsidies. A new report from a right-leaning government watchdog group shows that this influence may be even greater than most Americans realize.

The Government Accountability Institute found that for every dollar corporations spent lobbying in 2004, they received a $220 return on investment in the form of tax giveaways, subsidies, and other forms of government largess. That’s a 22,000 percent return on investment from lobbying dollars.

If you’re sick of money in politics, click here to join PCCC’s Take Back Democracy campaign.

UPDATE: Watch GAI’s Peter Schweitzer talk about his report on Fox News

Watch the latest video at video.foxnews.com

 

Craigslist Ad Offers To Pay People To Show Up To Anti-Wind Energy Protest In NYC

Late yesterday, a mysterious post showed up on New York City’s craigslist ads. A “firm” is offering $20 to protesters to show up at an anti-wind energy protest outside the British Consulate in Manhattan. Here’s a screen grab of it:

Astroturfing is not a new tactic for corporate interests. For example, Ralph Reed’s lobbying firm tried to create a fake tea party movement to stop regulation of Wall Street.

If you’re sick of money in politics, click here to join PCCC’s Take Back Democracy campaign.

Ex-Senator Ben Nelson Gets 445 Percent Pay Raise For Becoming A Lobbyist

Ex-Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE) was always a friend to the insurance industry while he was in office. He was rewarded for this friendship last week when it was announced that he would become the chief executive of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC).

Although Nelson claims he will not act as an official lobbyist, this is only because he is barred from registering as a lobbyist to lobby Congress for two years. Serving as the head of a major special interest organization that does have registered lobbyists will effectively grant him the same role.

In his new job, Nelson will earn $950,000 annually. That is a 445 percent increase over his former job as a U.S. Senator, where he earned $174,000.

If you want to shut the revolving door, click here to join PCCC’s Take Back Democracy campaign.

 

Retiring Blue Dog Democrat Who Opposed Health Reform Takes Job As Health Insurance Lobbyist

Rep. Jason Altmire (D-PA)

During the debate over health care reform, Blue Dog Democrat Rep. Jason Altmire (PA) pushed against progressives, voting against one version of the health care bill because it included a wealth tax and also lead opposition to a public option.

Unfortunately, in Washington, siding with big corporations pays. Late last night, Altmire announced that he will be taking a lobbying position with Blue Cross/Blue Shield in Florida. His title will be “Senior Vice President for Public Policy, Government and Community Affairs.”

“Serving the people of Western Pennsylvania in the United States Congress has been the highest honor of my life,” said Altmire in a statement that failed to explain how moving to Florida to lobby for a health insurance company in any way honors the people he was supposed to represent in Pennsylvania.

Montana Governor Schweitzer To Lawmakers: ‘Make Your Own Food,’ Stop Lunching With Lobbyists

Join PCCC’s Take Back Democracy campaign.

One of the ways that special interests get privileged access to lawmakers is buying them meals. In many state capitols, there are almost no restrictions on the kinds of fancy dinners lobbyists can treat legislators with.

Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D) has advice for these lawmakers: don’t do it. In an interview this week with a local paper, he told legislators, “Make your own food” and stop going to lunch with lobbyists:

SCHWEITZER: Don’t show up when they (lobbyists) have a free lunch for you. Don’t show up down at Jorgenson’s. Don’t show up down at the Montana Club. Don’t show up. Make your own food at home. Don’t take that drink. Don’t take that food. If you believe that aspersions have been cast upon you because you’re going to these things, then don’t go to them. Make your own meal. But until you do that, the assumption is going to be that your vote has been bought for an old whiskey and a big steak. And in some cases, it has.”

It’s going to take a movement to end the corrupting influence of money on our politics. Click here to join PCCC’s Take Back Democracy campaign.

Retiring Blue Dog Democrat Heath Shuler Breaks His Pledge To Not Become A Lobbyist

Rep. Heath Shuler (D-NC)

Earlier this year, journalist Lee Fang and I talked to Rep. Health Shuler (D-NC), a leading pro-corporate, Blue Dog Democrat, about his plans following his retirement from Congress this year.

We explicitly asked him if he would consider becoming a lobbyist or some other kind of influence peddler. He told us no. Then he insulted us by telling us he’d get a better job than we had:

FANG: [There are press reports that] you’re already negotiating for a lobby job…

SHULER: (laughs) No. I’m going home with my wife.

FANG: You’re not negotiating with the Majority Group or any of these other lobbying firms on K Street?

SHULER: No, you read it wrong buddy. [...]
FANG: Are you planning on becoming a lobbyist?

SHULER: No! [...]

JILANI: What do you plan to do after you retire?

SHULER: Have a better job than you have, that’s for sure.

 

Watch the video:

Today, North Carolina’s Duke Energy announced that it would be bringing Shuler on as its “senior vice president of federal affairs,” essentially one of its top officials that lobbies the federal government.

Note that it would be illegal for Shuler to actually register as a lobbyist, because federal law requires a cooling down period before members of the House can become registered lobbyists. But he will still be able to influence peddle without registration, much like Newt Gingrich and others have done.

As a leader in the conservative Blue Dog Democrats, Shuler has been positioning himself for months to push for a debt deal that includes cuts in Social Security and Medicare benefits and a lowering of the corporate tax rate that big corporations are seeking. Recall that Duke Energy paid a negative 3.8 percent tax rate between 2008 and 2010 — with Shuler already accepting this new position …

Congressman Who Compared Smoking Tobacco To Smoking Lettuce Becomes Cigarette Lobbyist

Rep. Steve Buyer (R-IN) served in Congress until 2011.

When you’re a congressman looking for your next job, selling out and becoming a lobbyist is an attractive option. You can even get a 1,452 percent raise. That’s why a lot of lawmakers start shilling for corporate interests while they’re still in office, so they can get generous payouts after they leave.

ProPublica’s Justin Elliot has an example of one such legislator. In 2009, Republican congressman Steve Buyer gave a speech defending smokeless tobacco, fighting back against lawmakers who wanted to regulate it. He argued that only the smoke kills people, not nicotine:

BUYER: You could have smoked…lettuce and you still end up with the same problems. You could cut the grass in your yard, dry it, and roll it up in a cigarette  and smoke it — and you’re still going to have a lot of problems. It is the smoke that kills, not the nicotine.

Watch it:

A new federal disclosure filing shows that Buyer and his former chief of staff, Mike Copher, recently registered as lobbyists for the “Reynolds American subsidiary called RAI Services as of the beginning of September.”

Reynolds American makes all sorts of tobacco and nicotine products.

So the next time you see a Member of Congress make some crazy defense of corporate wrongdoing, remember this: Maybe it’s just their version of a job interview.

Don’t let Big Money and lobbyists run our country. Join PCCC’s Take Back Democracy campaign.

Health Care Lobbyists That Killed Public Option Spending $200,000 To Protect Congressman Tom Reed

Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY)

Some new independent expenditure disclosures just came out, and they show that a special interest group has just dumped over $200,000 on ads to re-elect Republican congressman Tom Reed (NY). Here’s a copy of the disclosures:

Mentzer Media Services, Inc.

600 Fairmount Avenue
Suite 306
Towson, Maryland 21286

Purpose of Expenditure: Television Advertising
Name of Federal Candidate supported or opposed by expenditure: Rep. Tom Reed
Office Sought: House of Representatives
State is New York in District 23
Date Expended = 09/28/2012
Person Completing Form: Ms. Melinda Hatton
Date Signed = 09/28/2012

Amount Expended = $211960.00
Calendar YTD Per Election for Office Sought = $223928.78

McCarthy Hennings Media, Inc.

1850 M Street, NW
Suite 235
Washington, DC 20036

Purpose of Expenditure: Television Production
Name of Federal Candidate supported or opposed by expenditure: Rep. Tom Reed
Office Sought: House of Representatives
State is New York in District 23
Date Expended = 09/28/2012
Person Completing Form: Ms. Melinda Hatton
Date Signed = 09/28/2012

Amount Expended = $11968.78
Calendar YTD Per Election for Office Sought = $223928.78

This huge media buy comes on behalf of the American Hospital Association’s (AHA) political action committee. AHA is not just some friendly group of hospitals that advocates for healing the sick and aiding the poor. It’s a massive lobby that represents hospitals that gouge patients and fight real reforms of the system.

In 2010, former Senator Tom Daschle — who himself has worked for the health care industry as an informal lobbyist — revealed that AHA had demanded that the White House oppose the public option in its health care reform bill. As we know now, that demand unfortunately succeeded.

Reed doesn’t just oppose the public option, he wants to repeal the entire Affordable Care Act, including patient protections that hospitals have stridently opposed.

Voters should know that these ads are simply designed to pay back a congressman …

How Corporations Are Influencing The Democratic National Convention

Tony Podesta, one of Democratic Washington’s most powerful corporate lobbyists, is in Charlotte this week to cozy up to politicians.

Last week’s Republican National Convention was a no-holds-barred party for lobbyists for Big Business. From free espresso from fracking lobbyists to nightly parties with Coca Cola and weapons lobbyists, Big Money had a great time at the convention last week.

But these corporations aren’t exactly sitting on the sidelines at the Democratic convention this week.

It’s true that the host committee for the convention took an historic and important step of for the first time ever refusing to take any donations from lobbyists or corporations.

But that isn’t stopping Big Business. Here’s a few ways it has found to influence the convention, anyway:

Hosting Watch Events Outside The Convention: The America Petroleum Institute, American Gas Association, Credit Union National Association, Pfizer, and others will be hosting watch parties around a mile away from Bank of America stadium.
Sponsorships: The Washington Examiner’s Tim Carney shows off a swag bag that the host committee is giving to journalists. Inside the bag are all sorts of goodies that sponsors of the convention are giving away. These include a pedometer from United Health Group and water bottles from Piedmont Natural Gas. Carney notes that corporations like Wells Fargo and Florida Crystals Corporation (which is a major force of the sugar lobby) are on the sponsor list as well. Duke Energy, notorious for battling any effort to curb climate change, extended a $10 million line of credit for the party to hold the convention, and its CEO has given $100,000 to the host committee.
Parties, Parties, And More Parties: Elite lobbyists have been setting up all sorts of events for lawmakers to …

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