Kate Ackley

Foreign Lobbying Overhauls Stall as Manafort Goes to Trial
Critics say no measure gets to the root of 1938 law’s problems

This Congress has a crush on the idea of overhauling the nation’s foreign lobbying regulations, but lawmakers apparently can’t seem to find the one bill they want to commit to.

The Power of Little Money Will Be Tested This Fall
Upstart groups look to oust incumbent Democrats they say are too tied to big donors

Democratic incumbents in Congress may face a future with a political money problem.

No, it’s not that they won’t have enough campaign cash — quite the opposite.

Appropriations, Trade Policy Keep K Street Swamped
Facebook among companies posting record tabs on federal lobbying

Work on appropriations bills and consternation over new tariffs helped keep K Street in business this year, as the midterm elections begin to cast a shadow over the Capitol.

Some of the biggest spenders on federal lobbying reported a slight dip in what they shelled out during the year’s second quarter versus what they posted during the first quarter. And some multi-client lobbying firms posted flat, or fewer, fees.

GEO Group Helps Boost Lobbying Revenue of Ballard Partners
Private prison group provides detention services for apprehended immigrants

The private prison company GEO Group paid a Trump-connected lobbying firm $150,000 for seeking to influence the federal government during the second quarter of this year, according to a recent disclosure report to Congress.

The disclosure from Ballard Partners also says that the GEO Group doesn’t take a position “on immigration enforcement policies or detention policies,” as such issues have generated widespread controversy in recent months.

IRS Ruling on Political Donation Reporting Sets Off Campaign Finance Fight
McConnell cheers, but Democrats blast decision, arguing it reduces transparency

Monday’s announcement by the Treasury Department that it will no longer collect information about donors to some political nonprofits was met with applause from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, perhaps the leading advocate for unrestricted campaign donations. At the same time, it ignited a campaign finance fight with the midterm elections less than four months away.

“It’s bad enough to wield government power to chill political speech and invite harassment of citizens — based on what an angry mob might assume their opinions are, based on their private financial records,” the Kentucky Republican said on the Senate floor Monday. “It’s even more egregious to pursue that nakedly political goal while calling it ‘good government.’ In this country, good government means protecting citizens’ First Amendment rights to participate in the competition of ideas — not trying to shut down that competition.”

Podcast: When Political ‘Dark Money’ Rode to Town
Political Theater, Episode 27

Filmmaker Kimberly Reed grew up in Montana with little anticipation her home state would be ground zero for a massive fight over money in politics. But her new documentary, “Dark Money,” tells a tale worthy of any Western, as lawmakers on both sides of the aisle fight for their own prerogatives in the face of out-of-state interests gunning for them.

With the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, the high court’s role as the ultimate referee over money’s role in politics is back in focus. Reed and Campaign Legal Center founder Trevor Potter and CQ Roll Call campaign finance reporter Kate Ackley discussed the film, money in politics and the campaign landscape on this week’s Political Theater Podcast. 

Kavanaugh Confirmation Fight Promises to Be Intense — and Expensive
Outside advocacy groups on both sides are already coming out swinging

Outside advocacy groups began making hefty down payments overnight in the multimillion-dollar fight over President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, but the cash is unlikely to determine the fate of Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

The fierce fundraising appeals and grass-roots mobilization from both sides, including advertising buys in pivotal states, show the high stakes as senators prepare to weigh the potential successor to retiring Justice Anthony M. Kennedy.

Atypical Lobbying Shop Targets Lawmakers From Poorest Districts
Their idea is to push together the fringes by aligning members from the Freedom Caucus, CBC

An unlikely cast of lobbyists, odd bedfellows even by K Street’s typically bipartisan approach, has spent the past year nurturing a fledgling firm aimed at building coalitions between dyed-in-the-wool conservatives and lefty progressives on Capitol Hill.

The firm, recently christened United By Interest, is so far a commercial flop, if judged solely by the number of clients it has attracted: zero. But in an unusual twist, the lobbyists behind the effort, all of whom have their own separate K Street businesses, have managed to prod along a unique infrastructure bill with support of lawmakers from the conservative Freedom Caucus and the liberal Congressional Black Caucus.

Public Sector Union Clout May Suffer After Janus Case
As fee requirement falls, unions’ political influence could follow

Public sector unions, a backbone of organized labor’s political and policy influence, likely will face serious belt-tightening that could ultimately diminish their staffing and clout after one of the most consequential decisions of the Supreme Court’s term held that unions can no longer impose fees on nonmembers.

Representatives for unions and their conservative foes alike say they plan to take up new publicity campaigns in the aftermath of the court’s decision in Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Unions will promote the benefits of union membership while their opponents will highlight to workers that they need not pay the collective-bargaining fees any longer.

Kicking and Screaming Toward Senate 2.0
Chamber’s campaign finance report filing could finally move online

The Senate, a legislative body grappling with tricky technology issues such as online privacy and digital security, remains in the dark age of analog when it comes to its own political disclosure.

That could change this year. Or not.

Ethics Office Nominee Easily Advances to Senate Floor
Tone from the top critical to fostering strong ethics culture, Rounds says

Emory Rounds III is one crucial step closer to taking over the top spot at the Office of Government Ethics, an increasingly high-profile job in the Trump era.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved his nomination by voice vote Wednesday, paving the way for the full chamber to vote on Rounds’ nomination.

Senators: Convicted Lobbyists Need to Disclose Their Record
JACK is back, a measure aimed to increase transparency

Curtailed Recess Puts Summer Fundraising, Lobbying in Flux
Senators may seek new campaign events in D.C. if they will be here anyway

The official Senate calendar isn’t the only agenda in flux after Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced he would cancel much of the chamber’s cherished summer recess.

The change may also disrupt plans for fundraising events outside Washington — as well as the dockets of lobbyists, who typically take their annual respite along with the congressional recess.

Trade Groups in Turmoil in the Trump Era
Industry associations change dramatically with the times

When Pamela Bailey, who heads the Grocery Manufacturers Association, announced in February that she will leave her $3 million-a-year gig, it came as no shock. After all, the lobbying group had in the past year lost some of its biggest members, including candy-maker Mars Inc. and Tyson Foods, the world’s second-largest producer of chicken, beef and pork.

The organization is undergoing a “reinvention,” in the words of its spokesman Roger Lowe, and this week tapped Geoff Freeman, who runs the American Gaming Association, as its next CEO. The group will move from its downtown Washington headquarters into a smaller space across the river in the Rosslyn section of Arlington.

Heritage Action’s Dan Holler to Join Rubio Staff
Revolving door spins from conservative group to Congress, Trump administration

Dan Holler, a founding staffer of Heritage Action for America, the conservative Heritage Foundation’s lobbying arm, will follow his former boss to the Capitol Hill office of Sen. Marco Rubio.

Holler will serve as deputy chief of staff for the Florida Republican, focusing on communications and outreach, he told Roll Call. The new gig will reunite him with his recent Heritage Action boss Michael Needham, who left in April to become Rubio’s chief of staff.

Rep. Massie Seeks K Street Campaign Cash After Blasting Lobbyist
Kentucky GOP lawmaker plans cigar and bourbon bash with downtown denizens this week.

Rep. Thomas Massie created a fuss on K Street last week in chastising an unnamed lobbyist whom he said offered to help him raise money to secure a seat on the Ways and Means Committee. But apparently, the Kentucky Republican still wants political donations from K Street — in a smoke-filled room, no less, according to an invitation obtained by Roll Call.

Massie, in a documentary series called “The Swamp,” said a medical device industry lobbyist proposed helping him raise campaign money and assisting him in getting on the tax-writing and health-focused Ways and Means panel, according to a report in Politico.

Unions Brace for Pivotal Court Decision Amid Politicking
Janus ruling could change the course of public-sector unions as midterms approach

In preparation for a Supreme Court decision that may deal a significant setback to public-sector unions, organized labor groups are launching new recruiting efforts as they mobilize for the midterm elections.

The case — brought by Illinois state worker Mark Janus against the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees — challenges existing law that allows government-employee unions to collect fees from nonmembers. The court could announce a decision as soon as Monday.

Shaub: Trump’s ‘Wall of Secrecy’ Could Extend to Ethics Report
Financial disclosure forms could offer clues about Stormy Daniels, ex-Ethics head says

Updated 8:56 p.m. | President Donald Trump filed his annual financial disclosure to a government ethics watchdog on Tuesday, but it’s not yet clear whether he reported reimbursing his attorney for payments made to Stormy Daniels or when the public will see the document. 

Walter Shaub Jr., a frequent Trump critic who ran the Office of Government Ethics until last summer, said the disclosure may well document loans to Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen, who has said he made a $130,000 payment to Daniels, an adult film actress who alleges she had an affair with the president years ago.

Women Reaching New Levels in Political Donations
Rise parallels similar surge in female candidates for public office

An unprecedented rise in female donors to political campaigns, fueled largely by opposition to President Donald Trump, continues to grow in the run-up to the 2018 elections.

The number of women donating to federal candidates has surged by 182 percent when compared with this time in the 2016 cycle, according to new data from the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. Much of the activity has been among Democratic donors, a trend that first began to appear after the Women’s March on Washington the day after Trump’s inauguration.