At the halfway mark of President Donald Trump’s first term, his administration has hired a lobbyist for every 14 political appointments made, welcoming a total of 281 lobbyists on board, a ProPublica and Columbia Journalism Investigations analysis shows. With a combination of weakened rules and loose enforcement easing the transition to government and back to K Street, Trump’s swamp is anything but drained. The number of lobbyists who have served in government jobs is four times more than the Obama administration had six years into office. And former lobbyists serving Trump are often involved in regulating the industries they worked for…..
Source: Jared Bennett, Center for Public Integrity, September 4, 2019
This story was published in partnership with Vox.
A conservative think tank is pushing policies limiting food aid and other anti-poverty measures. After being wined and dined, Republican lawmakers are coming on board.
In December, the Foundation for Government Accountability hosted public officials from across the country in Orlando. The scene: Walt Disney World’s Swan and Dolphin Resort, an ocean-themed oasis with palatial fountains next to a lake lined with palm trees.
The FGA, a right-leaning think tank based in Naples, Florida, paid travel and lodging expenses for many of the conservative leaders in attendance, including Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin and three White House aides.
Guests heard presentations such as “Stop the Scam: The Reality of Food Stamp Fraud.” Between sessions, the foundation treated attendees to catered desserts and a fireworks display from a terrace featuring a faux Eiffel Tower overlooking the Epcot World Showcase Lagoon, according to invitations obtained by the Center for Public Integrity through open-records requests.
The FGA aimed to send decision-makers back to their respective states, or the nation’s capital, with fresh zeal to restrict access to public assistance programs designed for low-income people, including Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program. The association even provided road maps for achieving this goal in the form of model legislation — suggested wording for laws and regulations that could serve as a template for like-minded policymakers…..
….The FGA and its 501(c)(4) nonprofit lobbying wing, the Opportunity Solutions Project, advocate for a variety of policy proposals, from reforming licensing requirements for workers set by state and local governments, to installing work requirements for Medicaid and blocking that program’s expansion under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare…..
From the abstract:
Why do firms lobby? This paper exploits the unanticipated sequestration of federal budget accounts in March 2013 that reduced the availability of government funds disbursed through procurement contracts to shed light on this question. Following this event, firms with little or no prior exposure to the federal accounts that experienced cuts reduced their lobbying spending. In contrast, firms with a high degree of exposure to the cuts maintained and even increased their lobbying spending. This suggests that, when the same number of contractors competed for a piece of a reduced pie, the more affected firms likely intensified their lobbying efforts to distinguish themselves from the others and improve their chances of procuring a larger share of the smaller overall. These findings are stronger in government-dependent sectors and when there is intense competition. The evidence is more consistent with a rent-seeking explanation for lobbying.
Source: Steven Gordon, Public Finance Review, OnlineFirst, Published July 22, 2019
From the abstract:
I measure the returns to lobbying for US local governments in terms of federal earmarks. Because a local government’s decision to lobby may be endogenous to receiving an earmark, I instrument for lobbying with local housing prices. Since the time period of my analysis covers the Housing Crisis, I argue that the variation in housing prices over this time was largely exogenous to federal earmark distributions. The strong correlation that I find between housing price growth rates and lobbying provides evidence that local governments lobbied to buffer against impending property tax losses. I find no evidence that lobbying is associated with increased earmark awards overall. However, conditional on selection into receiving an earmark, I do find evidence that lobbying served to increase the size of earmark awards.
Source: Amy Melissa McKay, Political Research Quarterly, Online First, April 24, 2018
From the abstract:
Do legislators and lobbyists trade favors? This study uses uncommon data sources and plagiarism software to detect a rarely observed relationship between interest group lobbyists and sitting Members of Congress. Comparison of letters to a Senate committee written by lobby groups to legislative amendments introduced by committee members reveals similar and even identical language, providing compelling evidence that groups persuaded legislators to introduce amendments valued by the group. Moreover, the analysis suggests that these language matches are more likely when the requesting lobby group hosts a fundraising event for the senator. The results hold while controlling for ideological agreement between the senator and the group, the group’s campaign contributions to the senator, and the group’s lobbying expenditures, annual revenue, and home-state connections.
A POGO investigation found that from 2008 to the present over 380 high-ranking Department of Defense officials and military officers became lobbyists, board members, executives, or consultants for defense contractors within two years of leaving the Department.
– There were 645 instances of the top 20 defense contractors in fiscal year 2016 hiring former senior government officials, military officers, Members of Congress, and senior legislative staff as lobbyists, board members, or senior executives in 2018 (see chart below). Since some lobbyists work for multiple defense contractors, there are more instances than officials.
– Of those instances, nearly 90 percent became registered lobbyists, where the operational skill is influence-peddling.
– At least 380 high-ranking Department of Defense officials and military officers shifted into the private sector to become lobbyists, board members, executives, or consultants for defense contractors.
– Of the Department of Defense officials POGO tracked through the revolving door, a quarter of them (95) went to work at the Department of Defense’s top 5 contractors (Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, General Dynamics, and Northrop Grumman).
– Military officers going through the revolving door included 25 Generals, 9 Admirals, 43 Lieutenant Generals, and 23 Vice Admirals.
Pentagon Revolving Door Database
More than one-third of lobbyists who have registered as foreign agents with the Justice Department since President Donald Trump took office are representing countries with Trump-related business interests, according to a MapLight review.
More than 400 lobbyists have registered to represent foreign interests in the 16 months since Trump took office. Records show 142 new foreign agents are working for 20 countries where Trump has business interests, including Saudi Arabia, China, Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Qatar. By contrast, former President Barack Obama’s Justice Department recorded 238 new foreign lobbyists during his first 16 months in office. There were 223 registrations reported during the same period under former President George W. Bush….
Source: Trevor Tompson, Jennifer Benz, David Sterrett, Dan Malato, Emily Swanson, Bo MacInnis, Jon Krosnick, Sarah Anderson, Stanford University and the University of California – Santa Barbara in collaboration with The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, 2018
With Americans’ disapproval of Congress reaching record levels in recent years, the strength of the country’s legislative system and America’s faith in its outcomes have come into question. This study reveals a new explanation for Americans’ dissatisfaction with their elected representatives by showing that people’s approval of Congress is tied to their beliefs about how lawmakers are making decisions.
The study—conducted by researchers from Stanford University and the University of California, Santa Barbara, in collaboration with The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research—shows that negative attitudes toward Congress relate to the gap between who people think members of Congress should pay attention to when voting on a law and who people think they do pay attention to when voting. The phenomenon cuts across partisan lines, and these perceptions of the decision-making process affect both Democrats’ and Republicans’ approval of Congress.
Survey: Americans think lawmakers ignore public opinion
Source: Melissa De Witte, Futurity, February 28, 2018
Does citizen activism really affect the actions of elected officials?
In the month of December 2017 alone, an organization called The Crowd Counting Consortium “tallied 796 protests, demonstrations, strikes, marches, sit-ins and rallies,” some of them featuring thousands of people, across the country. Over the past year, the offices of many members of Congress and other elected officials have been jammed with constituents voicing their opinions on the Affordable Care Act, the immigration program called DACA, abortion and sexual harassment, among others.
But does all of this sign waving and sitting in actually influence elected officials?
As social scientists, we have long been interested in political participation and online activism. We used this knowledge to design a study that looks at whether activism changes the votes of elected officials – and whether the effect is strong enough to mitigate the power of donated money.
What we found is that citizens can make their voices heard – at least some of the time….
Illinois Policy Institute has called for government reform while channeling money to firms owned by insiders. ….
…. Through an often-dizzying series of transactions, Tillman and his associates have moved millions of dollars around five interconnected nonprofits they run, steering money to for-profit ventures in which they have a stake.
For example, in addition to his role as chief executive officer at the institute, Tillman is the board chairman and former president of Think Freely Media, another small-government nonprofit that once shared office space with the institute and received hundreds of thousands of dollars from it in grant money. ….
…..Tax records show that a handful of conservative, wealthy benefactors were key to the growth of the Illinois Policy Institute and its partner organizations.
• The Rauner Family Foundation, created and led by Bruce Rauner, then the leader of a private equity firm. The Rauner foundation donated $625,000 to the Illinois Policy Institute between 2009 and 2013.
• A family foundation headed by Richard Uihlein, the leader of a packaging company who lives in Lake Forest. The Uihlein foundation has given $8.6 million to the institute since 2009 and another $2.4 million to the Liberty Justice Center and Think Freely Media.
• The Mercer Family Foundation, which has contributed $1.1 million since 2009. The family has been a major financial backer of President Donald Trump and, until a recent falling out, the far-right Breitbart website.
• Donors Trust, which distributes money to conservative groups around the country, including those led and funded by the industrialist Koch brothers. Donors Trust gave the institute and Think Freely Media $1.4 million from 2009 to 2015……