Category Archives: Lobbying

Missing Members of Congress Action Plan

Source: Indivisible, February 2017

From the summary:
Former congressional staff explain how to make your Members of Congress more accessible

Where on earth has your Member of Congress gone? Something strange has been happening in the last month or so: Members of Congress (MoCs) from all over the country are going missing. They’re still turning up for votes on Capitol Hill, and they’re still meeting with lobbyists and friendly audiences back home—but their public event schedules are mysteriously blank. Odd.

This is happening for a very simple reason: MoCs do not want to look weak or unpopular—and they know that Trump’s agenda is very, very unpopular. Remember: Every MoC wakes up every morning thinking, “How can I convince my constituents that they should reelect me?” That means MoCs are enormously sensitive to their local image, and they will work very hard to avoid signs of public disapproval from constituents. Some MoCs have clearly made the calculation that they can lay low, avoid their constituents, and hope the current storm blows over. It’s your job to change that calculus.

This toolkit describes how local groups can make missing MoCs more accessible. MoCs are gambling that out of sight means out of mind. It will take some work, but their constituents have power win at this game. It means getting active, standing together indivisible, and getting local press attention on your MoC’s cowardly behavior. This works–and this brief describes the nuts and bolts of getting it done…..

Related:
How to Have a Successful Town Hall
The week of February 17-26 is the first district work period (“recess”) of the new Congress. Members of Congress (MoCs) will be back home holding public events and meeting with constituents. These meetings are a great opportunity for your group to remind your MoCs that they need to stand up for you—and that means standing up against the Trump agenda.

“I Object!”—Withholding Consent and Filibustering
Democrats may be in the minority, but that doesn’t mean that your Democratic senator is powerless to resist Trump’s agenda. The Senate is a peculiar legislative body, with lots of arcane rules designed to protect the minority from being trampled by an irresponsible majority.

Congressional Cheat Sheet
We want to make sure you’re well armed to combat the Trump agenda where the fight is happening—at the grassroots level. Even though Capitol Hill might seem like a strange, esoteric, and ego-driven little bubble (and it is!), there are easy ways to stay on top of what’s happening in Washington, DC. Here are some resources Capitol Hill staff use all the time to help them keep abreast of what’s going on.

Emergency Call: Stand Against the Muslim and Refugee Ban
To explain how you can resist, the Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAAJ), American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Indivisible, International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP), and National Immigration Law Center (NILC-IJF) hosted a planning call that explains WHAT the Executive Orders are, WHY they’re unconstitutional and illegal, HOW you can push your Senators to restore justice, and answer your questions.

Restrictions on Lobbying the Government: Current Policy and Proposed Changes

Source: Jacob R. Straus, Congressional Research Service, CRS Insight, IN10625, December 15, 2016

During the 2016 presidential campaign, President-elect Donald Trump proposed a series of ethics measures, including several lobbying-related provisions. They are:
• extending “cooling off” periods on lobbying the government for five years after government service; “instituting a five-year ban on lobbying by former Members of Congress and their staffs”;
• expanding the definition of a lobbyist to cover former government officials who engage in strategic consulting; and
• issuing a “lifetime ban against senior executive branch officials lobbying on behalf of a foreign government.”

President-elect Trump’s ethics plan shares some features with past efforts to restrict Administration officials’ future lobbying activities (the “revolving door”) by adjusting “cooling off” periods—a period of time a former government official is restricted from contacting their former employer on particular matters they might have worked on in government. These previous efforts include a 1993 executive order issued by President Bill Clinton (E.O. 12834) and a 2009 executive order issued by President Barack Obama (E.O. 13490), and the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act (HLOGA) of 2007. The executive orders supplemented existing statutory revolving door and “cooling off” period requirements…

Indivisible: A practical guide For resisting the Trump agenda

Source: Angel Padilla, Billy Fleming, Caroline Kavit, Ezra Levin, Indivar Dutta-Gupta, Jennay Ghowrwal, Jeremy Haile, Leah Greenberg, Matt Traldi, Sara Clough, and Sarah Dohl, Indivisible, 2016

PDF

Word document

Google Doc

Former congressional staffers reveal best practices for making Congress listen.

WHO IS THIS DOCUMENT BY AND FOR?
We: Are former progressive congressional staffers who saw the Tea Party beat back President Obama’s agenda.

We: See the enthusiasm to fight the Trump agenda and want to share insider info on how best to influence Congress to do that.

You: Want to do your part to beat back the Trump agenda and understand that will require more than calls and petitions.

You: Should use this guide, share it, amend it, make it your own, and get to work.

Donald Trump is the biggest popular vote loser in history to ever call himself President-Elect. In spite of the fact that he has no mandate, he will attempt to use his congressional majority to reshape America in his own racist, authoritarian, and corrupt image. If progressives are going to stop this, we must stand indivisibly opposed to Trump and the members of Congress (MoCs) who would do his bidding.

Together, we have the power to resist — and we have the power to win. We know this because we’ve seen it before. The authors of this guide are former congressional staffers who witnessed the rise of the Tea Party. We saw these activists take on a popular president with a mandate for change and a supermajority in Congress. We saw them organize locally and convince their own MoCs to reject President Obama’s agenda. Their ideas were wrong, cruel, and tinged with racism — and they won.

We believe that protecting our values, our neighbors, and ourselves will require mounting a similar resistance to the Trump agenda — but a resistance built on the values of inclusion, tolerance, and fairness.

Trump is not popular. He does not have a mandate. He does not have large congressional majorities. If a small minority in the Tea Party can stop President Obama, then we the majority can stop a petty tyrant named Trump.

To this end, the following chapters offer a step-by-step guide for individuals, groups, and organizations looking to replicate the Tea Party’s success in getting Congress to listen to a small, vocal, dedicated group of constituents. The guide is intended to be equally useful for stiffening Democratic spines and weakening pro-Trump Republican resolve.

We believe that the next four years depend on citizens across the country standing indivisible against the Trump agenda. We believe that buying into false promises or accepting partial concessions will only further empower Trump to victimize our fellow citizens. We hope that this guide will provide those who share that belief useful tools to make Congress listen. ….

Lobbying Across Venues: An Issue-Tracing Approach

Source: Charlotte Jourdain, Simon Hug, Frédéric Varone, State Politics & Policy Quarterly, Published online before print October 21, 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This study examines lobbying activity during four California policymaking processes and through the four institutional venues available in that state: the legislative, executive, and judicial branches, and the ballot initiative. It shows that past advocacy activity explains future mobilization on the same policy issue. Groups that fail to reach their policy goals will be more likely to mobilize later if the policy process changes venue, compared with those that have achieved their policy preference. Thus, the availability of multiple venues provides a counterweight to the possible advantages received by certain group types in each venue. Furthermore, public interest groups are more likely to mobilize across venues and repeatedly within a venue, while business groups are less likely to do so.

How business lobby networks shaped the U.S. Freedom of Information Act: An examination of 60 years of congressional testimony

Source: Jeannine E. Relly, Carol B. Schwalbe, Government Information Quarterly, In Press, Available online 6 July 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
The news media and public interest groups pushed hard for the passage of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in 1966. Since then, however, a majority of FOIA requests have been filed by business representatives or their lawyers, a phenomenon also observed in other countries that have adopted similar legislation. Although myriad policy networks helped shape the present-day U.S. law, this article focuses on the congressional testimony of business interests in the years leading up to the adoption of the FOIA and the following 50 years, as the legislation reaches its half-century anniversary. The authors undertook this research because business interests are the largest requester group under the FOIA. Their influence has been noted in a small strand of literature, largely related to the courts, in steering the degree to which the public has access to information. This study found that business interests, particularly from the 1980s on, played a key role in shaping the FOIA by decreasing access to government-held information. This is a critical finding, given that the FOIA was adopted to promote the democratic norm of governmental accountability.

Highlights:
• Business and corporate representatives are the majority of U.S. FOIA requesters.
• Business networks, from the 1980s on, played a key role in shaping the FOIA.
• Industry networks lobbying for FOIA amendments represented interests of the time.
• Critical junctures provided policy openings for business shaping the FOIA.

Related:
Businesses have worked to cut ‘public’s right to know’
Source: Mike Chesnick, Futurity, July 8, 2016

….Relly’s and Schwalbe’s study began with a review of paper records of congressional testimony from the 1950s and ’60s at the State Library of Arizona, then progressed to digital records of testimony from that period to this past year.

For 40 of the FOIA’s 50 years, Relly says, “We found clearly that corporations and business organizations—sometimes representing thousands of companies—pressed lawmakers in testimony and behind the scenes to advance legislation that would advantage industries and disadvantage the public.”….

The Kochs Spend Tons of Cheddar Badgering America’s Dairyland

Source: Bridge Project, April 2016

From the press release:
Bridge Project Releases “The Kochs Spend Tons of Cheddar Badgering America’s Dairyland” about the Koch Brothers’ Corporate Lobbying and Political Front Groups in Their Effort to Maximize Profits
Milwaukee, WI—For the 2016 election cycle, Charles and David Koch have announced they are on track to spend nearly $900 million to elect politicians that would push their self-serving agenda. In Wisconsin, the Koch brothers have spent more than $44 million since 2010, helping to foster the rise of Gov. Scott Walker, Speaker Paul Ryan, Sen. Ron Johnson, and to fund political astroturf groups to carry their water…..The Koch network has invested heavily in lobbying to directly assert their influence on the state’s policy agenda. Since 2010, the Kochs have spent $2.6 million lobbying on dozens of pieces of legislation to further their corporate agenda at the expense of Wisconsin’s workers, environment, students, and families. In addition, the Koch astroturf network has been on the frontlines fighting for some of the most regressive political efforts in Wisconsin in recent years. They pushed for devastating anti-labor efforts including the silencing of workers, eliminating the prevailing wage, and preventing a raise of the minimum wage. The Koch-backed ALEC created dozens of pieces of boilerplate legislation, many of which have been incorporated into Walker’s radical education agenda. They fought tooth and nail to turn the state against healthcare reform and block the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. And finally, to protect the full profit-generating capacity of their Wisconsin operations, the Kochs have railed against the EPA and renewable energy development while simultaneously praising the Keystone pipeline and open pit iron mining. Absolutely nothing in Wisconsin could deter the Kochs from their selfish objectives. Their agenda proves that they are willing to compromise the lives and livelihoods of Wisconsin families, and their record shows that they would even stoop so low as to malign Native Americans and target minority and student voters in fraudulent schemes to achieve their full objectives…..

Conservative groups helped gut Wisconsin election laws

Source: Cady Zuvichemail, Center for Public Integrity, December 16, 2015

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed into law on Wednesday measures that transform campaign finance rules and a government accountability board — two bills pushed by the very same conservative political groups implicated in an investigation into his campaign.

The new laws arrive five months after Wisconsin’s state Supreme Court closed a three-year investigation into whether Walker and moneyed conservative nonprofits illegally coordinated campaign strategy during the Republican’s 2012 recall campaign for governor. The court cleared Walker and conservative allies of any wrongdoing on the basis that Wisconsin’s campaign finance laws were “unconstitutionally vague and broad,” opening the doors for legislative rewrite.

Then the same groups named in the investigation, Wisconsin’s Manufacturers and Commerce and Wisconsin Club for Growth, pushed for the bills through lobbying and robocalls…..

The Invisible Hand of Law: Private Regulation and the Rule of Law

Source: Joel Bakan, Cornell International Law Journal, Vol. 48 no. 2, Spring 2015

…Until the 1980s, and over the previous half century, law had served (albeit unevenly and incompletely) as the main institutional vehicle for policing corporations in aid of public interests, thereby protecting people, communities, and the environment from corporate excess and malfeasance. Over the course of the 1980s and thereafter, however, law’s protective role began to diminish, and privately promulgated voluntary regimes (hereinafter “private regulation”) emerged in its place.

Importantly, no such diminishment occurred in relation to law’s parallel and prominent role in protecting corporations and their interests. Here, state legal regimes continued to operate as robustly as ever; incorporate companies; establish their mandates; protect their rights as “persons”; shield their managers, directors, and shareholders from legal liability; compel their officers to prioritize their “best interests” (typically construed as increasing shareholder value); articulate and enforce their contract and property rights; and repress dissidents and protesters who opposed their growing power.

Corporations— indeed, corporate capitalism— could not exist without these legal foundations and supports, which taken together represent a massive infusion of state legal power into society. Despite that massive infusion, many private regulation advocates and commentators presume that globalization eviscerates state legal power, and prescribe, on that basis, that private regimes should take law’s place. This Article challenges that presumption and prescription. Following examination of the rise of private regulation in Part I, Part II reveals how private regulation advocacy and commentary often obscure, and effectively render invisible, law’s robust role in constituting and protecting corporations, thereby exaggerating globalization’s alleged diminishment of state legal power. Part III claims that private regulation weakens the rule of law and its democratic potential, with the effect, Part IV explains, of exacerbating corporate threats to public interests…..

Legislative Influence Detector (LID)

Source: University of Chicago, Eric & Wendy Schmidt Data Science for Social Good Summer Fellowship, 2015

Journalists, researchers, and concerned citizens would like to know who’s actually writing legislative bills. But trying to read those bills, let alone trace their source, is tedious and time consuming. This is especially true at the state level, where important policy decisions are made every day. State legislatures consider roughly 70,000 bills each year, covering taxes, education, healthcare, crime, transportation, and more. To solve this problem, we have created a tool we call the “Legislative Influence Detector” (LID, for short). LID helps watchdogs turn a mountain of text into digestible insights about the origin and diffusion of policy ideas and the real influence of various lobbying organizations. LID draws on more than 500,000 state bills (collected by the Sunlight Foundation) and 2,400 pieces of model legislation written by lobbyists (collected by us, ALEC Exposed, and other groups), searches for similarities, and flags them for review. LID users can then investigate the matches to look for possible lobbyist and special interest influence.
Related:
When Lobbyists Write Legislation, This Data Mining Tool Traces The Paper Trail
Source: Jessica Leber, Fast Company, Co.Exist, October 26, 2015

Big data is helping to bring transparency to the darker corners of politics. …. But even for expert researchers, journalists, and government transparency groups, tracing a bill’s lineage isn’t easy—especially at the state level. Last year alone, there were 70,000 state bills introduced in 50 states. It would take one person five weeks to even read them all. Groups that do track state legislation usually focus narrowly on a single topic, such as abortion, or perhaps a single lobby groups. Computers can do much better. A prototype tool, presented in September at Bloomberg’s Data for Good Exchange 2015 conference, mines the Sunlight Foundation’s database of more than 500,000 bills and 200,000 resolutions for the 50 states from 2007 to 2015. It also compares them to 1,500 pieces of “model legislation” written by a few lobbying groups that made their work available, such as the conservative group ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) and the liberal group the State Innovation Exchange (formerly called ALICE). …. Like a plagiarism detector, the prototype can detect similar language in different bills. ….