Kate Ackley

Democrats try to meet people where they are: mired in cynicism
Next to Trump’s unfulfilled, empty pledge to drain the swamp, HR 1 looks pretty savvy

ANALYSIS — It’s tempting, and deliciously smug, to dismiss House Democrats’ everything-but-the-kitchen-sink campaign finance, lobbying, ethics and voting overhaul bill as an overtly partisan political messaging stunt that’s doomed in the Senate and too unpolished for enactment.

The measure is all of those. But ignoring this effort outright means waving off voters’ very real perception that their democracy has been sold out to the highest campaign donors.

In major shift, Chamber of Commerce to rate lawmakers on bipartisanship
Change reflects business community’s frustrations with crisis governing

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a frequent ally of Republicans in Congress, will revamp its criteria for rating and endorsing lawmakers, relying more on bipartisanship in an attempt to rebuild the governing-focused political center, the group announced Thursday.

It marks the first major change in 40 years in how the nation’s biggest business lobby tabulates lawmakers’ support for the business community, said Thomas Donohue, the chamber’s longtime president. The new method will offer 20 percent credit for bipartisan work and leadership on what the chamber considers “good legislation,” even if such bills never come to a vote. The remaining 80 percent will come from votes.

Shutdown ripples hit K Street; businesses and unions anxious
Even seemingly unrelated interests say the impasse is starting to upend their policy agenda in Washington

Lobbying groups and unions are stepping up their campaigns aimed at ending the partial government shutdown, making clear their mounting frustration as the financial pressures hit businesses and furloughed workers alike.

Some sectors, such as those in travel and tourism, are coping with direct disruptions to their businesses, with top destinations such as national parks shuttered. Even seemingly unrelated interests say the shutdown has begun to upend their policy agenda in Washington because the impasse is consuming the time of lawmakers and the administration.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce calls for end to shutdown
Largest lobbying group cites harm to economy, businesses and citizens

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nation’s biggest lobbying group, urged lawmakers and the administration Tuesday to end the partial government shutdown, saying it was harming the American people, the business community and the economy.

“The Chamber strongly urges Congress and the administration to resolve this impasse and reopen the government,” wrote Neil Bradley, the group’s executive vice president and chief policy officer, in a letter to lawmakers and the White House. “As we are hearing every day from businesses across the country, the adverse consequences of the shutdown are wide and growing.”

Former lawmakers, staff quickly set up on K Street
But many are finding a competitive job market downtown

The revolving door between Capitol Hill and K Street kicked into hyper-spin this week, just days into the new Congress, as recently departed lawmakers and aides announced new gigs.

In an unusually fast repeat move, former Sen. Jon Kyl, the Arizona Republican who rejoined the Senate last year to temporarily fill the late Sen. John McCain’s seat, returned to his previous job at the lobbying and law firm Covington. He reported earning $1.9 million from the firm during part of 2017 and 2018, according to a recently filed 2018 financial disclosure form, and he will be subject to a two-year ban on lobbying Congress, as are all senators in the first two years after leaving office.

Sen. Tester Targets Dark Money
Podcast, Episode 133

Democrats plan to make so-called "good government" laws to tighten campaign finance and lobbying rules a priority in the new Congress. Democrat Jon Tester, who is featured in a documentary about outside campaign money in his state of Montana, tells host Shawn Zeller and lobbying reporter Ka...
Did Tax Reform Scrooge the Holiday Party Spirit?
Political Theater, Episode 49

Whether it was a cramped schedule, the funeral of a president, changes to the tax code or overall crankiness, the holiday party scene this year seemed a little, um, meh. CQ Roll Call's Niels Lesniewski, Kate Ackley and Peter Cohn crash the party that is Political Theater to discuss the wine, song and tax deductions of the Washington holiday party circuit. 

Voting Rights Piece May Take More Time in Ethics Overhaul
“We’re not going to put any fixed deadline on that,” Sarbanes says

House Democrats who are preparing an overhaul of political and ethics laws, a top priority of the incoming majority, have acknowledged that a component aimed at restoring a key section of the Voting Rights Act may take longer than their speedy timeline for the bill.

Other pieces of the overhaul, which Democratic leaders have said they will designate as House bill 1 in the new Congress, could also run parallel to the main package as a way to garner bipartisan support in the Senate, said Rep. John Sarbanes, the Maryland Democrat who is crafting the bill.

Democrats Go Into 2019 With Ethics Blazing
Pelosi, Sarbanes tease dark money overhaul as the party’s grand opening salvo

A collection of House Democrats is working behind the scenes to tee up the party’s first order of business in the new Congress: a big overhaul of campaign finance, voting and ethics laws.

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and Maryland Rep. John Sarbanes offered a sneak peak Friday of what will likely be christened HR 1 in the 116th Congress. Instead of starting from scratch, the bill will draw from numerous existing proposals — including some that have languished for years during GOP control.

Speaker Races Are Usually Internal Affairs. Pelosi’s Is Anything But
Liberal groups pile on with endorsements

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, in her bumpy bid to reclaim the speaker’s gavel, has wooed endorsements from more than two dozen outside groups and labor unions, an atypical element of a debate usually held within the party’s inner sanctum.

The public show of support for the California Democrat makes clear the high stakes of the leadership slate for the incoming House majority and for the party’s off-the-Hill allies. MoveOn.org weighed in on Pelosi’s behalf on Thursday evening, as other progressive and liberal-leaning groups say privately their leaders are considering taking the unprecedented step of making an endorsement in a leadership contest.

These Democrats Swore Off PACs. But Corporate Lobbyists Have a Plan
K Street tries some workarounds to reach the 32 incoming lawmakers who said ‘no’ to corporate cash

The anti-PAC class cometh, but K Street has a backup plan.

Lobbyists for business interests say they’re implementing workarounds to get to know the 32 incoming freshman Democratic House members who have sworn off corporate political action committee dollars.

Election Day Loser? Will Lobby for a Paycheck? Then K Street May Beckon
But even who’s hot and who’s not in lobby world may be influenced by politics

Not only is control of the House and Senate on the line Tuesday, but so too are the future careers of lawmakers and their aides, who could find themselves out of a job.

The midterm election losers and their congressional staff members may look to K Street as a possible next step. But if Democrats flip the House, that would mean a slew of Republicans flooding the lobbying market at a time when K Street already takes an increasingly cautious approach to hiring big names.

America Is at a Midterm Crossroads. Let Us Count the Ways
November results will move us left — or much further right

Next week’s elections will not only determine the balance of power on Capitol Hill but also will seal the fate of the Trump administration’s legislative agenda for the next two years and set the landscape of the 2020 presidential campaigns.

The direction of the nation’s most contentious and consequential issues — health care, immigration, taxes, climate change, trade, gun control, ethics and campaign finance overhauls and oversight of the administration — hinges on what voters decide Nov. 6.

What Will Happen if Democrats Win
Podcast, Episode 126

CQ senior writer Kate Ackley says Democrats agree on a few policy bills, from a lobbying and campaign finance overhaul to an increase in the minimum wage, but will likely have internal disagreements about whether to pursue more far-reaching goals, like Medicare for all, or restrictions on gun ownership. ...
Google Still K Street’s Top Tech Spender
Big year for lobbying so far across the board, but lame-duck ‘Christmas tree’ probably ‘not going to happen’

The mayhem and political disruption of the Trump administration and the coming midterm elections haven’t killed business on K Street this year, as health care, technology and business interests now look to action during a lame-duck session.

Some of the nation’s biggest spenders on federal lobbying, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Realtors, are on pace to exceed their tabs from last year, according to recently filed lobbying disclosures. And among K Street top’s firms, some outfits reported an increase in lobbying revenue this year when compared with last year, with business fueled by passage of such measures as an opioids bill and consternation about trade policy and tariffs.

Saudi Lobbyists in D.C. Caught in Pompeo Pickle
Some bail, while others wait to see what comes of Mike Pompeo’s trip

Washington lobbyists still on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s payroll amid fallout from the presumed death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi are awaiting the outcome of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s trip to the region this week before making any further moves.

Pompeo met Tuesday in Riyadh with Saudi officials, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the brash young second-in-command of the royal government, and planned to head Wednesday to Turkey where Khashoggi was last seen.

Words and Deeds Can Come Back to Haunt Incumbents in Tight Races
Yoder, McCaskill and others face attacks on past votes, policy positions

Incumbency comes with benefits, but in a throw-the-bums-out kind of year, it also offers sitting lawmakers one potential major disadvantage on the campaign trail: a voting record on Capitol Hill.

Political opponents can, and do, weaponize one vote, one position on a hot-button policy such as health care, tax or immigration. They might target a pattern of partisanship or, more importantly this year, support for an unpopular president.

Outside Money Fuels Court Fight Amid Calls for Kyl Not to Vote
Kavanaugh denounced money spent against him, but lots is being spent on his behalf

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh denounced the “millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups” during his testimony Thursday about sexual assault allegations, but he didn’t mention the millions spent by groups backing him.

The Judicial Crisis Network, the leading conservative nonprofit that is running advertisements in support of Kavanaugh’s confirmation, has spent about $12 million on the effort, according to sources familiar with the group — already more than the $10 million it spent in last year’s confirmation of Justice Neil Gorsuch.

Senate E-Filing Launches New Era in Campaign Disclosures
Advocates for political money transparency praised the move away from snail-mail reports.

It’s been a good week for advocates of faster, and more, political money disclosure.

With President Donald Trump’s signature Friday, it’s official: Senate candidates now must file their campaign finance reports electronically with the Federal Election Commission, making it easier for reporters, voters and opponents alike to sift through donor and spending disclosures.   

High Court, High Political Drama — Probably for Years to Come
Political Theater, Episode 37

In the middle of a singularly rough Supreme Court nomination fight, the business of the high court goes on. The fate of Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump’s second nominee to the court, is still up in the air. But the  direction of the court, regardless of what happens with Kavanaugh, seems to be moving inexorably negative, at least politically, say CQ legal affairs writer Todd Ruger and senior writer Kate Ackley in the latest Political Theater podcast.