Lobbying for Nonprofits

capitol-in-yellow

Can your nonprofit engage in lobbying for favorable public policy or legislation? Many business associations, charities, and civic organizations are uncertain about how and when to lobby on their own behalf. If you’ve considered hiring a lobbyist for your nonprofit, but hesitate to make the move, you need to know how to stay on the right side of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Here is an overview to help guide your decision-making.

The nature and purpose of many nonprofits involves working for a cause, striving to change and improve the world around us. In fact, it has been argued that the most valuable public policies come from nonprofits lobbying on behalf of their causes.3

IRS Rules

Nonprofit organizations rely on obtaining 501 (c)(3) tax status which qualifies them as tax exempt according to the IRS. In order to retain its status, a nonprofit is allowed to engage in activities that attempt to influence legislation (a definition of lobbying), as long as they are deemed “insubstantial,” or not a “substantial part of its activities.” In other words, your organization would be at risk of losing tax-exempt status if it engaged in too much lobbying.1 All income then becomes subject to tax. The question is, how much is too much, and what is considered a substantial vs. an insubstantial portion of a nonprofit’s activities? The IRS makes a judgment call on each case-by-case situation. The agency will examine:

  • How much time staff and volunteers spend on lobbying activities.
  • How much money is spent on these activities.

The IRS Expenditure Test

The agency has a specific way of assessing each nonprofit’s activities to decide if they exceed the rule of substantiality. It will measure both the amount of time spent on lobbying, and the amount of expenditures (note: this is not an option for churches or private foundations).

pillarsThe limits the IRS sets look at the percentage of lobbying nontaxable dollars spent as a percentage of the organization’s total exempt purpose expenditures. For example, if your total exempt-purpose expenditures are $500,000 or less, you may spend up to 20% on lobbying.2

You can better anticipate how the IRS will view your activities if you file a special form, Form 5768, which allows you to Elect to make expenditures to influence legislation. This step is also known as “taking the 501(h) election, referring to the relevant section of the US tax code.” It only needs to be filed once, as long as your organization continues to be active in lobbying. It will stay in effect unless you file a new Form 5768 as a Revocation.3

The Big No-No

A nonprofit is not allowed to campaign for or against political candidates.

What Constitutes Lobbying?

Nonprofit organizations usually exist to effect change, but they should be informed about the ways the IRS defines lobbying. Generally, activities can be classed as directly lobbying, grassroots lobbying, or advocacy. Visit the IRS website to find detailed examples of each type, and be prepared to avoid potential conflict. Be confident you are doing all you can on behalf of your cause while remaining well within the law, by consulting with one of the top lobbying firms for nonprofits, like Lobbyit. Contact us for details at 202.587.2736.

Sources:

The 2016 Congressional Calendar

The 2016 Congressional Calendar

The Congressional Calendar for 2016 may not be at the top of your mind, but anyone with an issue or legislation before the Congress should be laser-focused on it. Washington DC lobbyists and members of the many interests they represent pay special attention to the Calendar. Why? Consider the deeper implications of its scheduling ins and outs, and you’ll understand what they could mean for your cause in 2016.

It’s an Election Year

 

It’s no surprise that the Congressional schedule is decided by the leaders of the majority party, the Republicans, in this case, and the looming reality of a contentious presidential election year is the most significant influence of all, no matter which party is in power. Pundits and lobbyists have been busy analyzing the 2016 Calendar like rabid baseball fans with a book of team stats, and they observe some predictable and some mysterious signs in the document.

For example, the House has scheduled itself to be in session for 111 days, fewer than the total days it will be gone, which total 149. This does sound like inside baseball, and it reveals that the Congress is following a similar pattern to the pre-campaign year of 2006, which had even fewer active days.1

Members of Congress will be busy supporting—or avoiding—one or another of their party’s presidential candidates this year, and, at the same time, many will be campaigning to retain their own seats. The big blank spaces on the Calendar tell this tale, with the hallowed halls of Congress completely dark for strategic chunks of time, including the usual summer recess (half of July and all of August) plus all of October, on through to the election in early November.

Issues Likely to Dominate in 2016

 

Besides its essential role as legislative branch, Congress takes seriously its role in government oversight, monitoring activities of government agencies and, especially, the executive branch. Legislators hold a powerful center spot on the media stage, influencing public opinion through events like hearings on hot issues that could sway voters one way or another.

Here are some examples that are likely to occupy Congressional leaders, dominate the media, and possibly swing the election. Keep in mind, the party in power holds major sway over the ultimate choice of issues brought front and center, as they have the chairmanships of Senate and House committees.

lobbyists-at-a-meetingNational security and international relations will dominate in 2016, providing the most bang for the buck in terms of media impact, and offering a wealth of issues that will be debated in election campaigns across the spectrum, including:

  • ISIS and counter-terrorism. In light of recent shocking attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California, our intelligence community and the executive branch are both pursuing information on the effectiveness of advance warning systems. Congress, in turn, is interested in the competence and good intentions of the intelligence community and the President.2
  • Security and hacking, in which vital government agencies, including the IRS and the CIA director, have been hacked for highly sensitive information. Investigations will look into weaknesses and accountability in their cyber security systems.2
  • The Benghazi Attack, and the related controversy of Hillary Clinton’s use of her private email account, will continue to fuel investigations. Overheated prior hearings in 2015 had cooled in light of one committee member’s admission that they were partly motivated by their potential to damage the Clinton campaign, but there are signs it will heat up again through 2016 to illustrate Clinton’s weaknesses.2

If your association, company, or community wants to keep key legislative issues from being swept away in this election year, make the most of Lobbyit’s tiered pricing to gain professional representation in Washington. Their innovative approach makes hiring a lobbyist less intimidating, less costly, and more predictable, with a detailed package of deliverables and regularly reported results—both practices which were previously unheard of among top lobbying firms. Contact Lobbyit at 202-587-2736 for more details on the range of options and customized services.

Sources:

  1. http://wset.com/news/nation-world/congressional-calendar-house-in-session-111-days-next-year
  2. https://www.justsecurity.org/28528/ten-national-security-oversight-issues-watch-2016/

How State and Federal Lobbying Differ

How State and Federal Lobbying Differ

What Is State Lobbying?

The average citizen thinks of lobbying as something that takes place only in Washington DC, if they think of it at all. As professional lobbyists know, lobbying at the state level is just as important. Advancing the cause of a trade association, a local community, or a non-profit group requires knowing the laws and practices for lobbying in your state.

There are 50 states in the Union, and no fewer than 50 sets of state laws that govern lobbying, so it’s easiest to start by identifying key similarities among the states. All of them generally define lobbying as an effort to influence the actions of government. They define a lobbyist as someone who is paid to perform lobbying efforts. Only a few states limit the definition to those who meet a minimum level of time and money spent to lobby (including Hawaii, Minnesota, and New York). Three states, namely Delaware, Kansas, and Texas, consider as lobbying any amount of entertainment, food and beverages, recreational events, or gifts to legislators. All other states require disclosure of these activities and define allowable amounts.1

Origins of State Lobbying

Following Independence in 1776, eight of the original 12 U.S. states included what was known as “the right to petition” in their state constitutions. The wording reflected the language of the Bill of Rights’ First Amendment, which acknowledges the “right to petition Government for redress of grievances.” In fact, lobbying was almost entirely targeted toward the state level until the 20th century,2 when the emphasis gradually shifted toward the federal government.

Professional lobbying that emphasized federal policy grew in power and influence, while the awareness and prominence of grassroots lobbying lost ground. Grassroots lobbying refers to “ground-up” campaigns, usually organized by locally based groups, and relying on intensive letter-writing campaigns that attract the participation of large numbers of constituents—also known as voters. By the late 20th century, the extraordinary power of the Internet as a communication tool began to impact lobbying at every level, and reconnect state, local, and federal interests. In 2004, Congress logged in receipt of 200 million direct communications, including through Internet contact, equaling a fourfold increase since 1995.3

This super-powered communication tool has helped to inspire one innovative group of Washington DC lobbyists to develop a multi-tiered program that leverages state and local interests to influence policy at all levels. LobbyIt.com offers a grassroots component that includes a customized online Advocacy Hub, linking local stakeholders with supporters around the world. The site provides templates of targeted membership letters and call scripts that members and employees can use to build nationwide support. It harnesses the sophistication of DC lobbying firms to drill down and connect with local and state legislators, both online and through in-person site visits. Clients also have access to legislative tracking and reporting in all 50 states.

Effective public policy lobbying is no longer limited to the realm of big money and closed-door meetings. It has been brought out into the light, with LobbyIt.com’s reasonably priced package options, clearly defined deliverables, and transparent reporting of results. Contact them at 202-587-2736 for more information about services and pricing.

 

Sources:

  1. http://www.ncsl.org/research/ethics/50-state-chart-lobby-definitions.aspx
  2. https://books.google.com/books?id=_8BuewFmfZEC&printsec=frontcover&dq=%22lobbying%22&hl=en&sa=X&ei=o40PT-reG8fv0gGUlbmOAw&ved=0CGIQ6AEwCQ#v=onepage&q=state&f=false ,p.3
  3. http://pac.org/ethics/Response-to-Abramoff-Scandal

How Lobbying Has Evolved

lobbying for congress

In any discussion of Washington DC lobbyists, you’re likely to hear about their overarching influence in today’s politics and in the halls of the Federal government. Isn’t it striking, then, that there are fewer actively registered lobbyists in DC now than at any time in the past two decades? Not surprisingly, this contradiction is all in the numbers, or rather, it’s all about what’s not in the numbers.1

In order to understand how these conflicting realities can both be true, it’s worth taking a brief overview of lobbying from the era of the Founders to the present day.

  • First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution includes language that bars congress from limiting individual freedoms, including the “right of the people to petition their government.” This language has been interpreted from the beginning to extend to protection of the right to lobby.
  • President Ulysses S. Grant is reputed to have coined the term “lobbyist,” referring to the men who populated the lobby of the famed Willard Hotel, approaching him for influence. However, some sources date the origin of the term “to lobby” as early as 1837, so the U.S. Grant story is in dispute.2
  • By 1876, lobbyists were required to register with Congress.
  • In 1995, Congress passed the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA), to toughen up requirements for disclosure. It is widely known that many lobbyists under-report activities or fail to comply entirely.1
  • In 2007, the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007 was passed to increase the level of reporting and transparency in government.1
  • In 2015, The Carmen Group (lobbying firm) was charged with a $125,000 fine for failing to disclose lobbying activity, marking the first charge of its kind since the 1995 legislation was passed.
  • Currently, lobbyists are defined as those who spend more than 20% of their time lobbying.

As this timeline developed, lobbyists noticed that Department of Justice enforcement of disclosure rules was limited or non-existent. Many firms chose to ignore reporting requirements. At the same time, lobbying evolved to rely more on activities that fall outside of the rules, like strategic planning, grass-roots campaigns, and more. The result is that there are fewer registered lobbyists in Washington now than at any time in the past twenty years.1

Lobbying in the Age of Social Media

The Internet age has changed the nature of lobbying in the nation’s capital, thanks to social media, which provides a fast, direct way to communicate with reporters and legislative staff. It also offers powerful opportunities to raise awareness and influence public opinion on behalf of non-profits, trade groups, grassroots organizations, and corporations.

Until recently, only the largest of these interest groups had the budget to get in the game and influence legislation through lobbying. Fees were high and often undisclosed, as were the kinds of activities and results obtained. In an effort to offer lobbying services for smaller, underserved organizations and interests, and counter the prevailing trend of big money influence by and for the elite, LobbyIt.com was launched several years ago to provide basic lobbying services. Their novel approach offers tiered levels of service, with packages that specify deliverables, and regular reporting on activities and results.

Starting with the unheard-of basic monthly fee of just $995, they have racked up a solid record of accomplishments in Washington DC, helping those previously under-represented to have a voice in protecting their interests within their government. Contact LobbyIt.com at 202-587-2736, to learn how they can help your organization.

Sources:

  1. http://www.latimes.com/nation/politics/la-na-lobbying-enforcement-20151130-story.html
  2. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/lobby

Lobbying for Education

Whenever the balance of power in the nation’s Congress changes dramatically, institutions of higher education move to rework their government relations practices. In recent years, more and more of them have chosen to hire professional Washington DC lobbyists to maintain a strong presence in the nation’s Capitol. Whatever a college or university’s status—that is, non-profit or for-profit—all compete for government attention on three basic fronts:

  • attaining at least a fair share of Federal dollars available for research and other programs and initiatives
  • influencing legislation favorable to corporations and non-governmental organizations that may offer funding in a variety of areas
  • influencing legislation favorable to the educational mission

Lobbying to Build Awareness

Universities and colleges face intense competition when aiming to attract funding for important research initiatives. Enhanced visibility is just a first step in the lobbying effort, but it is a vital one. Lobbying at the top levels of government is an effective way for universities and colleges to raise their visibility on the national stage. They will be positioned to keep tabs on student grant and loan issues, and keep key legislators informed of the financial challenges students face.

lobbying-for-educationSome Key Results

Many complex factors influence the decision to grant funds, and a structured lobbying effort helps create awareness and visibility, part of the requisite relationship-building among legislators and their staff members. The results for many schools are evidence of how effective this approach can be, for example:

  • Following lobbying expenditures of $261,000 in 2012 and $241,000 in 2013, the University of Kentucky was awarded a grant of $3.75 million by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The funding established a program to promote colorectal screenings in the Central Appalachia region.2
  • In 2012 and 2013, the University of Illinois spent $930,000 on lobbying, and eventually obtained $19.5 million through the Affordable Care Act for medical teams to focus on children’s health needs in various Chicago neighborhoods.2
  • In 2012-2013, Purdue University spent $985,000 in lobbying, and later announced federal grants, including $1.5 million from the NSF for “nanomaterial” research, and $5 million from the USAID for research into reducing food waste to curb poverty and hunger in sub-Saharan countries.2

Beyond research funding, colleges and universities share vital interests in Federal legislative action that affect key areas, like:

  • Pell Grants, awarded based on financial need, primarily for undergraduate degree programs
  • Policies that support preparing students to succeed in the globalized workforce3

 

Open-Door Lobbying

In the not-so-distant past, only a budget-based kind of “Big 12” of institutions could consider paying professional lobbyists to represent their interests. Now, access to effective lobbying is affordable for even the smallest college with a limited budget for advocacy, through Lobbyit’s tiered structure of services. They’ve opened the doors to the once mysterious lobbying world, with reasonable monthly rates and a choice of clearly outlined deliverables. Call for detailed information at 202.587.2736, or email your questions to info@lobbyit.com.

Sources:

  1. http://lobbyit.com/tcu-360-tcu-partners-with-lobbying-firm-to-raise-profile/
  2. http://nonprofitquarterly.org/2014/07/16/universities-pay-plenty-for-influence-and-access-through-lobbying/
  3. http://www.nea.org/home/43102.htm

Why You Should Lobby for a Good Cause

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Families of Alzheimer’s disease patients needed more resources for research to find a cure, while food banks needed additional donations to serve their communities. Dedicated volunteers and community organizers could have lost hope in the struggle to change public policy on such issues, but they didn’t. In both these cases, and many others, lobbyists and involved citizens played pivotal roles in turning the tide on Capitol Hill. As a result, increased funding was obtained for more Alzheimer’s disease research, and new laws allowed caterers and restaurants to donate excess food to feed hungry Americans, rather than throw it away. 1 There are many more similar success stories.

If lobbying the grand halls of Congress to improve the laws that govern your life seems an overwhelming challenge, there are three important things you should know:

  • 1 – Change can and does happen, even for “little people.”
  • 2 – Working together with others, you can be the one who makes a difference.
  • 3 – You can enlist the help of professional Washington lobbyists even if you are a small enterprise with a limited budget.

We Are Responsible

“We the people …” It’s a familiar phrase that bumps up against our comfort zone a bit. The ability to influence policymakers is our right as citizens, and our responsibility if we believe in a good cause. Lobbying was built into the framework of our society as the means by which we can affect changes in laws to protect our needs and interests.

Non-Profits Know the Grass Roots Needs

Policymakers don’t have the same expertise and connection to groups affected by their votes as do you and your constituents. Legislators and their staffs rely on sources like community groups to bring them first-hand knowledge. You can tell powerful, personal stories that illuminate the challenges and injustices people face every day.

If not for the intensive efforts of grass-roots lobbyists and others, we would not have seen the end of Jim Crow laws (enforcing racial segregation until 1965),2 or the arrival of women’s suffrage in 1920, with the ratification of the 19th Amendment.3

American Capital BuildingRealities of Lobbying Today

Washington DC lobbyists conjure up a negative image for many average Americans who assume all lobbying involves Super Pacs4 paying millions in campaign contributions on behalf of mega-corporations. Until recently, non-profits and small businesses had to either go it alone or hope for the best. The need to build relationships and get a place on the schedule of the right influencers has been too great a hurdle for many to overcome.

Fortunately, selected DC lobbying firms, led by the innovative people at Lobbyit, have devised a better option for non-profits and small businesses. Their strategic approach allows small clients to hire professional lobbying services for reasonable monthly rates, with concrete deliverables spelled out in advance, contrary to traditional lobbying practices. They facilitate contacts with lawmakers and their staffs, targeting the key decision-makers for the legislation in question.

As an example, Lobbyit co-founder Paul Kanitra cites the fact that many younger representatives are likely to be turned off by big money lobbying tactics. They know that campaign contributions are important, but the ultimate power is in the voting booth. If they do not serve the interests of their public, they will be voted out of office. When small businesses and non-profits get their stories across, they help legislators keep tabs on the public welfare and better serve their constituents’ needs. Contact Lobbyit for more information on lobbying program options.

Sources:

  1. http://www.nln.org/docs/default-source/advocacy-public-policy/ten-reasons-to-lobby-for-your-cause-pdf.pdf?sfvrsn=0
  2. http://www.ferris.edu/jimcrow/what.htm
  3. http://www.history.com/topics/womens-history/19th-amendment
  4. http://www.opensecrets.org/pacs/superpacs.php
  5. http://www.mprnews.org/story/2011/08/30/midmorning2

Can a Small Business Afford a Lobbying Firm?

Can a Small Business Afford a Lobbying Firm

As a small business owner, you perform a delicate balancing act each day, weighing the costs of growing the business against the potential return on investment (ROI). When it comes to the cost of hiring a lobbyist, that return may seem harder to quantify than, say, investing in online advertising; plus, you couldn’t possibly afford to compete with the huge dollars spent in Washington by big businesses—or could you? The answer is yes, thanks to a new breed of DC lobbying firms that offer flexible, reasonable pricing geared to small businesses, non-profits, associations, and municipalities.

While individuals have the right to “petition the government” (see the First Amendment), there are endless advantages to hiring professionals to do the job on your behalf. The most effective lobbyists are often past government officials or legislative staff members, and others who have direct experience inside government. They have a network of relationships that give them access to decision-makers at every level, and the knowledge of when and where there’s a chance to influence those decisions in a client’s favor.

Old School vs. New School Lobbying

Big businesses and other big-budget entities pay as much as $50,000 per month for the services of top lobbying firms, and often without a clear-cut set of goals or regular reports on results. Still, the fact that over $3 billion per year is spent on lobbying in the U.S. indicates that these businesses are getting results. Their investments have helped shape the number and kinds of laws that regulate their industries.

Now, small businesses and organizations have a chance to make their voices heard and advance their concerns on key issues. Rather than asking if you can afford to hire a lobbyist, a better question might be, can you afford not to hire one? LobbyIt.com has helped to break the old-school mold by coming up with a tiered pricing structure designed to put the services of an innovative Washington D.C. lobbying firm within reach of just about everyone.

New Tiered Pricing

LobbyIt.com has attracted new clients with a carefully tiered pricing structure, starting with a basic package of services for just under $1,000 per month. Even at this affordable level, clients gain a presence in Congress, including help with clarifying specific issues, tailoring messages, and opening a flow of communication. They receive monthly reports and legislative alerts, and hear about activity in Congress.

Popular as an introductory approach for those new to the federal government scene, Tier 1 services form the foundation for more packages with additional services. Tier 2 at under $2,000 adds detailed tracking and analysis of bills through Congress, with action recommendations, attendance at committee hearings, and more. It is suggested for businesses in highly regulated industries, or those who feel they have been harmed by past legislation.

Tier 3 offers a more intense, traditional style of advocacy, including to Congress and the Executive Branch as needed. It is suggested for clients concerned about harmful legislative activity, and may include involvement in regulatory drafting and other ways to influence public policy.

The newest package, Tier 4, is unique in the field of government relations. It prices out at less than $5,000 per month, while providing the most complete, intensive level of services. Clients seeking a broad national presence gain access to tools for building a grassroots network with local support.  Specifically, a customized online Advocacy Hub website enables communication among supporters and stakeholders, locally and around the globe. There are site visits by lawmakers and staffs, as well as annual Congressional visits on “the Hill,” and 50-state legislative tracking.

Back to ROI

Investment at any level has proven worthwhile for businesses, associations, non-profits, and municipalities, as illustrated in LobbyIt.com’s client testimonials. They report significant improvement in their Washington profile, achieving more refined strategies for targeted advocacy, and, ultimately, favorable legislative wins. For more information or a complimentary quote on specialized services, call 202-587-2736 or email info@lobbyit.com.

Civil Law

Should You Hire a Lobbyist?

Should You Hire a Lobbyist

The decision to hire Washington lobbyists is momentous for small to medium businesses, non-profits, and associations. If you fall into one of these categories, chances are you feel caught between the choice of spending outsized amounts on professional representation, or trying to go it alone when striving for a voice on Capitol Hill. You must take extra care in analyzing the cost vs. benefit of hiring a lobbyist, compared with big industries like oil and pharmaceuticals whose budgets seem limitless.

Fortunately, there are new opportunities emerging for small businesses and others. Innovative lobbying firms, like Lobbyit, are opening doors in the otherwise closed environment that limits access to legislators and their staff members. These are the people who ultimately determine which laws govern our ways of doing business and living daily lives. It is your right to make your case to them as they draft and approve—or oppose—legislation.

Know Your Rights

If you have doubts about your right to lobby legislators at the federal level, know that under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, you are guaranteed the right to “petition the government for a redress of grievance.” Looking for a historical precedent for lobbying? The practice has been a vital part of governing ever since the birth of our nation—even before. In Massachussetts Bay Colony, the Rev. Increase Mather lobbied the Court of King James II for a new Charter of Massachusetts. Later, Benjamin Franklin was appointed the lobbyist, aka “colonial agent,” for Pennsylvania and other colonies.

Why Should You Hire a Lobbyist?

Legislators and government officials consider, draft, and pass legislation every day that could directly affect your business or organization. The decision-makers will be hearing from big business concerns and other deep-pocket stakeholders about your same issues, from taxes to regulations, trade rules, and more. You need to ensure that your voice is heard, and that your point of view rises to the top of the pile.

As an individual or single entity, it is unlikely you will have access to the people who influence change in the halls of power, or that you will know when the time is right to make your concerns known. Professional DC lobbyists know the inner workings of the government, often having served in Congress or as staffers. They have built a network of relationships that serve to open doors and channels of communication so that they can participate when preliminary conversations behind closed doors determine the fate of a proposed bill, or threaten to undo legislation you consider vital.

Lobbying is a more refined and complex process than simply throwing large campaign donations a certain way. It may be much more effective to demonstrate that your issue will generate positive media and appeal to a significant voting bloc. It is the lobbyist’s job to know which approach might influence a specific legislator’s viewpoint.

A skilled lobbyist knows relevant fields of legislation in depth, including technical background and past voting records. Lobbyists will be up on recent changes in the field, and can even help draft proposed new language, serving as a valued resource to legislative staff. Ultimately, the most effective way to move a piece of legislation forward or back is by showing how it leads to or prevents the fulfillment of an overall policy.

How Can You Really Make an Impact?

Competing with global corporations and massive industries for dollars, time, and attention on Capitol Hill can be frustrating and costly. Hiring a lobbyist means finding the right match. Look for one with a strong record in helping small organizations, like trade associations, non-profit interest groups such as nurses, teachers, or bricklayers, municipalities, and educational institutions.

  • Check the firm’s success in getting legislation passed on behalf of their clients.
  • Join or form a new association of fellow businesses in your industry. Put aside competitive concerns in order to pool resources and find common interests that will elevate the group’s power in addressing key concerns.
  • Find ways to be an active participant in the lobbying process, along with the professional firm you hire.

Finally, with innovative approaches to lobbying pioneered by Lobbyit, small businesses and groups can now afford a professional lobbyist. They offer tiered pricing packages with pre-set fees and known deliverables, contrary to traditional lobbying which typically requires a year-long, open-ended contract at much higher rates. Contact Lobbyit today to learn more about their breakthrough approach, and discuss how they can help move your issues to the top of the legislative pile. Email to info@lobbyit.com or call 1-202-587-2736.

Election 2016: Understanding Lobbying Influence in 2016

2016-election

Given the changes in campaign finance laws this election, it is more useful to look at top contributing companies, many of whom are multi-national, crossing over multiple industries, rather than at total contributions from specific industries. Gradually, a picture of campaign influence starts to emerge. No doubt it will change as the campaign progresses through next year, and individual candidates’ fortunes rise and fall—along with those of Washington lobbyists.

Here are examples of some of the largest corporations making big donations to favored candidates:

  • Resorts and casinos, such as the Las Vegas Sands, owned by Sheldon Adelson, known to support conservative Republican causes.
  • AT&T contributes heavily to both sides of the political scene, though they lean toward Republicans.
  • Goldman Sachs, an equal opportunity donor to both parties, representing Wall Street and finance.
  • Microsoft, for the internet/tech sector. Heavy donors to Obama in 2012.
  • Google, giving slightly more to Democrats than Republicans.
  • Koch Industries, a multi-national corporation in energy production, chemical manufacturing, ranching, and more. Owned by the Koch Brothers, together they donated $400 million to conservative Republicans in the 2012 election.
  • Pfizer, representing pharmaceuticals, heavily supports Republican conservative issues, giving over $2 million in 2014.
  • Lockheed Martin and defense industry contractors rank high, with a near equal split between the two main parties.
  • Big oil is represented by Chevron, which contributes as much as 82% of its funds to conservative Republican issues.1

Lobbying for Republican Candidates

The relatively new role of “lobbyist bundler” has gained greater importance in the 2016 presidential election, as these top lobbyists had raised around $228,000 for Jeb Bush by July 2015. This strong showing represents a key portion of the Bush campaign’s fundraising success to date, and illustrates the ways top lobbying firms influence politics in Washington DC.1

Bundlers are required to disclose their identities only if they register with the federal government as lobbyists, and they raise more than the benchmark $17,600—bundling smaller contributions into larger amounts. This requirement of disclosure allows us to examine the major sources of lobbying support in this election, and to anticipate what kind of industries or businesses may have access to the next president.

Bundlers for Jeb Bush include officials of the Mortgage Banking Association, the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors, and DLA Piper, a major DC law firm, among others.2 Individual lobbyists may contribute up to the limit of $2,700, as many have done. Professional lobbyists working on behalf of large corporations who have contributed to the Bush effort, include those on staff for Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, United Technologies, Goldman Sachs, and Verizon Communications.2

Lobbying for the Democrats

The level of financial gain a professional lobbying group might expect from the 2016 election is a good indicator of how important their role is in the election. As an example, the head of UK-based lobbying firm WPP Group, Sir Martin Sorrell, commented in a discussion on the subject that “…2016 should be a bumper year…”3

WPP Group perfectly illustrates the complex relationships among Washington lobbyists, candidates, and Super PACs (political action committees). A WPP-owned PR firm is advising the Ready for Hillary Super PAC, while executives of WPP-owned Dewey Square Group, a political affairs and lobbying group, are supervising what is referred to as Hillary’s “shadow campaign.” And there’s more—managing director of the Washington lobbying firm Glover Park Group, also WPP-owned, has organized fundraising for the Clinton Super PAC.3

Super PACs

The 2016 campaign is unfolding in a post-Citizens United environment, with more channels open for larger contributions from mega-donors. The 2010 decision following the Citizens United case created Super PACs, establishing that freedom of speech included the right of corporations and unions to engage in political spending without legislative limits. In contrast to the rules for lobbyists, Super PAC donors need not be identified, as long as they are not donating directly to a campaign.4

Sources:

  1. http://www.cheatsheet.com/business/10-companies-likely-to-bankroll-2016-presidential-campaigns.html/?a=viewall
  2. http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/wp/2015/07/15/lobbyists-bundle-nearly-a-quarter-million-dollars-for-jeb-bush/
  3. https://theintercept.com/2015/03/04/lobbyists-2016-clinton-republican-campaigns/
  4. https://www.boundless.com/political-science/textbooks/boundless-political-science-textbook/congress-11/how-congressmen-decide-82/interest-groups-lobbyists-and-pacs-451-10965/

How Lobbyists Will Impact the 2016 Presidential Election

lobbying will effect election

 

It’s safe to say, lobbyists will play a greater role than ever in the 2016 presidential election. As the process evolves, following changes to fundraising laws, top lobbying firms are able to participate at higher levels of involvement and, therefore, advance their issues and causes more effectively. Inevitably, dollar signs are mounting up behind candidates on both sides, a partial contrast to the 2012 election when President Obama refused contributions from lobbyists in a bid to limit special interest influence (similar to his stance in the 2008 campaign).1 Hillary Clinton has made no such commitment in 2016, and is actively raising funds at a comparable pace with her early presumed chief Republican rival, Jeb Bush.2

What Do Super PACs Have to Do With It?

Understanding the role of lobbyists in the 2016 race requires a look at Super PACs, the larger political action committees set up to pool donations that are then redistributed to parties or candidates. They often represent a single issue on behalf of businesses and corporations, or trade and labor organizations.3 The “Super” designation indicates that they can raise unlimited amounts from groups or individuals. They can, in turn, spend unlimited amounts in support of any issue or candidate. What are the limits on these fundraising organizations? They are barred from donating to a specific campaign, but they can contribute to a candidate or issue directly.3

The result has been exponential growth in the influence of money on the election process. Let’s do the math: before the close of the 2012 campaigns, Super PACs exceeded spending by the top ten old-school PACs of 2008 by 10 times. Notably, 80% of all Super PAC dollars were donated by fewer than 4% of donors.3

Have You Been to K Street?

Following a parallel, though slightly different path, are influential lobbying firms, many of them housed on “K Street” in Washington, DC.

Lobbyists may become directly involved in campaigns as managers and advisors, and they lead some Super PACs. Unlike Super PACs, however, lobbying firms must disclose the source and amount of contributions they receive directly (with some exceptions). Smaller lobbyists play an important role as well, representing their clients and issues to government officials with whom they have built relationships over the long-term.

Keeping score is not easy when it comes to tracking political campaign contributions, their sources, recipients, or bundlers. Bundlers? These are typically lobbyists, CEOs of large corporations, or other influential people who can pool contributions from individuals and PACs.1 They tend to be close to the candidates for whom they raise funds, and are well-positioned to step into high-level administration appointments when their candidate is ultimately elected.

Bundlers are busy on behalf of Jeb Bush, with two leading business groups involved. The top bundlers for Bush are a president of the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors and a Senior VP of legislative and political affairs for the Mortgage Bankers Association.3

The Bush campaign had raised a total $312,000 from eight of the largest investment banks, including Goldman Sachs (as of mid-July 2015). Clinton comes in at a total of $300,000 as of mid-July.3 It appears that both sides are doing well with Wall Street, though Bush has amassed the most so far. Meanwhile, Clinton leads in lobbying funds, estimated at $2.1 million raised from registered lobbyists.

We’re still in the early days of the election season as the 2016 campaign heats up, the crowded field of Republican candidates starts to sort itself out, and the Democrats ponder alternative candidates. Keep that score card handy and watch the progress of lobbyists and their candidates toward November 2016. For more information about Washington, DC lobbying services, call Lobbyit at 1-202-587-2736.

 

Sources:

  1.  http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/lobbyists-playing-key-role-in-2012-fundraising/2011/10/24/gIQAUg0GMM_story.html
  2. https://www.boundless.com/political-science/textbooks/boundless-political-science-textbook/congress-11/how-congressmen-decide-82/interest-groups-lobbyists-and-pacs-451-10965/
  3. http://www.bizjournals.com/bizjournals/washingtonbureau/2015/07/3-early-takeaways-about-businesses-role-in-the.html