My Latest

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Teachers unions say 'jump,' Congress says 'how high?'

Congress has passed a measure that could pull the plug on school vouchers in DC. My Examiner column pokes around to see who's behind this:

The top two teachers unions—AFT and the National Education Association—spent more combined, $5.27 million, than the top two defense contractors.

The top five lobbying firms, combined, didn’t equal the AFT and the NEA in federal contributions in the 2008 cycle. Both of the teachers unions gave more than any oil company, and the NEA and AFT combined gave more than the top four oil companies combined.

These contributions give the unions clout, and federal lobbying records show they use this clout. Again, on closer inspection, the teachers unions look an awful lot like those corporate special interests Democrats supposedly oppose.

Read the whole piece here.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Biotech Lobby Beefs up on Democrats

[from the Examiner K Street page and Beltway Confidential]

The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), under the leadership of former Republican congressman Jim Greenwood of Pennsylvania, has beefed up on Democratic lobbyists this year. BIO has retained lobbying firm Johnson, Madigan, Peck, Boland & Stewart, including the services of Jeff Peck -- formerly the Senate Democrats' general counsel on the Judiciary Committee -- and Peck's colleagues Sheila Murphy and Jonathon Jones, former top staffers to senators Amy Klobuchar, D.-Minn., and Tom Carper, D-Del. BIO has also hired the lobbying firm Bryan Cave LLP, including former Clinton White House lawyer Broderick Johnson.

Insurers, drug makers poised to profit from Obama health plan

Obama's big push to reform health care involves more government control over the industry. Naturally, the industry loves this. My Examiner column explains:

You can guess who’s most enthusiastic about the individual mandate: the insurance companies. Sure enough, The New York Times reported last week that America’s Health Insurance Plans, the trade association representing health maintenance organizations, has been working with Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., to help draft a plan that includes a mandate.

Another player in Kennedy’s backroom meetings is the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, usually a bete noire for liberals because it represents the drug companies. PhRMA’s primary stake in this fight is also obvious. It wants mandates and subsidies, and it wants to limit cost-control measures that would favor cheaper generic drugs.

Read the whole thing here.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Concrete bandits are stimulus package profiteers

Many industries will pocket billions from Obama's stimulus bill, but my Examiner column today focuses on the cement industry:

With so much new business at stake, it’s no wonder the cement lobby ramped up its efforts. As of last year, the PCA was already spending $1.4 million per year on lobbying with a team that includes former assistant secretary of Energy John Shaw, and Chad Bradley, the former chief of staff for Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-OK, the top Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW).

This year, the day after the new Congress was sworn in, the PCA hired lobbyist Edmund Graber, specifically to lobby on the stimulus bill. Graber is a prolific political donor, in this last cycle lining the pockets of 23 lawmakers, including all the crucial infrastructure lawmakers. Of course, PCA also has its own political action committee.

Between PCA’s lobbyists, employees, and PAC, politicians brought in $128,600 in the last election alone. Recipients among EPW members include Inhofe and chairwoman Barbara Boxer, D-CA, and a top Senate appropriator, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-IL. And this is just the trade association. PCA’s members—the cement companies themselves—have their own lobbyists, PACs, and employees who fund politicians’ campaigns.

Read the whole thing here.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Obama’s stimulus: The Lobbyist Enrichment Act

One of the many industries stimulated by Obama's stimulus is the K Street Lobbyist industry. My Examiner column looks at the facts:

For example, the National Association of Home Builders hired Baker & Hostetler a week after Barack Obama’s inauguration to lobby explicitly on the stimulus bill, which, in the end, included an $8,000 credit for home purchases.

Better Place Inc. is an electric car company that hired its first lobbyist — Steve McBee, a former staffer for House appropriator Norm Dicks, D-Wash. — to push for electric car incentives in the stimulus. The resulting cornucopia included an expanded tax credit for plug-in cars, $2 billion in funding for electric car batteries and $400 million to build an electric car infrastructure, complete with recharging stations.

Media giant Time Warner added to its lobbying army, hiring the firm Parven Pomper Strategies to lobby for broadband subsidies in the bill. These subsidies included $2.5 billion to underwrite loans to get broadband out to rural areas and an additional $4.7 billion in spending on other broadband projects. Similarly, network giant Cisco Systems lobbied for the broadband subsidies in H.R. 1.

Read the whole thing here.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Obama, Durbin, Blagojevich, and K Street get biggest earmark in history

President Obama's stimulus bill is supposedly earmark-free. My Examiner column digs through the details reveals a different story.
What do you get when you combine impeached former Illinois Democratic governor Rod Blagojevich, legendary K Street lobbying firm Cassidy & Associates, Senate appropriator Dick Durbin, D-IL, President Barack Obama, former Democratic House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt of Missouri, and the largest spending bill in the history of the planet?

You get the costliest earmark Washington has ever seen.
Read the whole thing here.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Government growth making lobbying obsolete as CEOs directly craft policies

Could bailouts actually reduce federal lobbying. My Examiner column explores the changing landscape.

In this brave new world in which government is buying stakes in banks, nationalizing some companies, bailing out others and proposing what must be the largest spending bill in the history of the planet, government and business have become partners. With a government like this, who needs lobbyists?

Goldman Sachs, for instance, cut its lobbying expenditures in half in last year’s fourth quarter — at the very moment that Congress and the administration were drawing on $700 billion in bailout money and talking about buying banks. But whatever influence was sacrificed by cutting its lobbying budget from $1 million in the third quarter to $500,000 in the fourth was made up for when Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein sat in on a top-level meeting with Bush’s Treasury Department on crafting the details of the bailout.

Read the whole thing here.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Judd Gregg’s wisdom: Abolish Commerce Department

Judd Gregg was right about Commerce, I argue in my Examiner column:

New Hampshire Republican Sen. Judd Gregg’s nomination as Commerce Secretary has drawn headlines, in part for the political fallout, but also because Gregg, back in 1995, voted to abolish the very agency he is now slated to head.

The arguments Republicans made back then, in the heady days of the Contract for America, still apply today. The Department of Commerce represents wasteful spending, and it functions primarily as a welfare agency for well-connected corporations.

Read the whole thing here.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Evans-Novak Political Report: Final Issue

I sadly present the final Evans-Novak Political Report.

Politics has a tendency to cast down the mighty and lift up the lowly. Politics makes a fool of any commentator or participant who, explaining the significance of a recent political development, uses the words "never" or "from now on."

Everything about politics--the heroes, the goats, the dynamics, the rules of thumb, the alliances, the enmities--comes and goes. With sadness, so does the Evans-Novak Political Report.