Kate Ackley

Never mind impeachment, this bipartisan committee is going forward
House modernization panel prepares for its second year

Amid the partisan polarization of impeachment, the House Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress began examining possible changes Thursday to the chamber’s rules and procedures, seeking out ideas to make the legislative branch function better. 

The panel, a temporary and bipartisan project to revamp Congress for the modern era, is tasked with offering recommendations about how to update technological savvy on Capitol Hill and how to improve the quality of work for lawmakers and staff. It began earlier this year as a one-year effort but will now carry on through next year with a fresh infusion of funds and through the divisive 2020 elections.  

Amid impeachment, groups press for limits on foreign influence
Liberal groups urge overhaul of foreign lobbying rules

As foreign influence takes center stage in House impeachment proceedings, lawmakers, candidates, and outside groups are tossing around proposals to curb, or shed new light on, efforts from abroad to sway U.S. policy and elections.

Liberal-leaning groups, including Public Citizen, are prodding House Democrats to sign on to forthcoming legislation that would overhaul foreign lobbying regulations. The Center for American Progress on Thursday will unveil a set of proposals calling for new limits on the political contributions of companies that have significant foreign ownership.

Uncertain times could bring new lobbying strategies
Workarounds include deeper outreach to think tanks, academia and other institutions

ANALYSIS — It’s hard to imagine a more bonkers, unpredictable and politically toxic backdrop for K Street operators than the current one. But just wait until 2020 actually arrives. 

The presidential election year will hit lobbyists with potential risks all around. Candidates up and down the ballot will press proposals to remake the influence industry and to overhaul the nation’s campaign finance system. More candidates will reject K Street and business donations. The approaching elections, along with an expected impeachment trial early on, will turn Capitol Hill into an even bigger political mess.

House leaders give modernization panel more time
A second year of work ahead for committee that seeks to make Congress more efficient

Like most any fixer-upper endeavor, renovating Congress for the modern era will take at least a year longer than originally planned.

The House’s temporary Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress is on track to get more time to finish its effort to update the legislative branch amid the increasing political polarization of the 2020 elections. The House Rules Committee approved a rule Wednesday extending the modernization panel through next year. The full chamber voted Thursday, making the extension official.

Some Democrats see political system overhaul as winning 2020 issue
Bill to revamp campaign finance and voting passed House early, then stalled in Senate

If Rep. Max Rose’s voters expected the freshman lawmaker from Staten Island, New York, to quiet down this election cycle about a major overhaul of the nation’s political system, they were mistaken.

It was a centerpiece of the Democrat’s campaign-trail mantra in 2018. And now, as one of the most vulnerable incumbents in Congress, he’s not stopping. Neither are many of his similarly situated colleagues.

Senate budget writers offer up a revamped budget process
CQ Budget, Ep. 133

The Senate Budget Committee drafted legislation for an overhaul of the broken budget process that includes a move toward biennial budgets. But any change is still an uphill fight, as Paul M. Krawzak and Kate Ackley explain.

More companies publicly disclosing what they spend on politics, study finds
CPA-Zicklin Index measured the largest increase in companies with transparent policies

A rise in shareholder and consumer activism has prompted more companies to publicly disclose what they spend on politics.

Bruce Freed, president and co-founder of the Center for Political Accountability, said companies are doing it to insulate themselves from criticism at a time when politics has become more heated.

Amid troubles, Trump has huge cash advantage for 2020
But Democrats have already raised $700 million from small-dollar donors giving $200 or less

For all the drama surrounding President Donald Trump — an unfolding House impeachment probe, former aides in prison and his personal consigliere reportedly under federal investigation — there’s one worry he doesn’t face: money for his 2020 campaign.

The White House incumbent, who took the unprecedented step of opening his reelection coffers the same day he took the oath of office in 2017, recently reported holding more than $83 million for his next race. Trump has raised a total of $165 million so far. Plus, he’s helped haul in millions more for the Republican National Committee, which will help all GOP candidates get the vote out, while outside organizations allied with the president have amassed their own big bundles of political money.

Giuliani: I never lobbied or represented foreigners
Trump lawyer says scrutiny of his work represents a smear campaign against him

Rudy Giuliani has become a regular feature in President Donald Trump’s capital city, attracting scandal — and scrutiny from law enforcement — for his far-flung international endeavors. But unlike his most prominent White House client, Giuliani, who spent more than a dozen years with two well-known K Street firms, has deep ties to the influence industry.

The former New York mayor and onetime Republican presidential candidate logged a decade with the law and lobbying firm then known as Bracewell & Giuliani and a two-year stint after that with Greenberg Traurig, the professional home of notorious ex-lobbyist Jack Abramoff before he went to prison.

Paul Ryan PAC provides seed money for new nonprofit group

Former House Speaker Paul D. Ryan unveiled new details Monday about his fledgling organization, the American Idea Foundation. Though the nonprofit organization won’t need to publicly disclose most of its donors, one is already known: Ryan’s own political coffers.

Prosperity Action, the Wisconsin Republican’s leadership PAC, transferred $1.6 million to the new group in installments in March, April and June of this year, federal election disclosures show. After those payments, Prosperity Action reported about $334,000 cash on hand. Leadership PACs offer lawmakers an additional way to raise money and support candidates.

Huawei lobbying cash lands on Trump donor with Ukraine clients
Chinese tech giant increased lobbying expenditures 2,000 percent in the third quarter

Huawei Technologies USA Inc. upped its lobbying expenditures by more than 2,000 percent between this year’s second and third quarters, with most of the increase going to pay a Trump donor with recent Ukrainian clients.

The U.S. operation of the giant Chinese technology company disclosed nearly $1.8 million in federal lobbying expenses between July 1 and Sept. 30, recent lobbying disclosures show.

Facebook posts biggest quarterly lobby tab, as business, health interests dominate K Street
Impeachment is not slowing down lobbying efforts

Facebook is on pace to spend more on federal lobbying this year than ever before, according to public disclosures out this week, as the social media giant’s CEO prepares to testify Wednesday on Capitol Hill.

The company — at the center of debates over the spread of false information, data privacy and others — spent $12.3 million to lobby the federal government in the first nine months of the year. In 2018, Facebook shelled out $12.6 million for 12 months of lobbying.

Record lobbying tab racked up by FreedomWorks on health care
Conservative group spent more in third quarter alone than all of last year combined

The conservative lobbying and grassroots group FreedomWorks disclosed spending more than $2.7 million, the most it ever has reported shelling out, for federal lobbying campaigns in just three months this year.

Opposition to health care proposals such as “Medicare for All” and a Democrat-backed bill that would rein in prescription drug prices drove much of the work, said Jason Pye, FreedomWorks’ vice president of legislative affairs.

Educating K Street: Colleges and universities seek influence in Congress, executive branch
Schools are in the midst of heated immigration, health care and technology debates

Lobbyist Stu Van Scoyoc began working for the University of Alabama system three decades ago, helping the school smooth over a problem the 1986 tax overhaul created for its pension program. It’s still a client.

Lobbying on behalf of colleges and universities has been a mainstay of K Street work for years for firms like Van Scoyoc Associates. And many of the biggest spending university systems maintain their own lobbying outposts in Washington with in-house employees who monitor Capitol Hill and executive branch debates and look for federal funding opportunities, relying often on home-state and alumni connections.

Modernization panel mulls overhaul of congressional calendar
Members weigh time in districts vs. in the District

Members of a panel to modernize Congress are floating proposals to overhaul the legislative calendar, including an option of being in session for two full work weeks and then recessing for a fortnight of district work time.

Reps. William R. Timmons IV, a South Carolina Republican, and Mark Pocan, a Wisconsin Democrat, both suggested such an option Wednesday during a hearing of the House Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress, a temporary panel tasked with offering recommendations to update Capitol Hill technology and to improve working conditions for lawmakers and staff.  

Owner of Capitol Hill ‘fundraising’ townhouse abandons zoning fight
Neighbors complain the residence serves as a D.C. outpost for Virginia-based firm

The owner of a Capitol Hill townhouse that has sparked controversy about the commercialization of residential zones near Congress has withdrawn his application for a project that prompted opposition from neighbors.

But that may not be the end of the matter. 

Elizabeth Warren’s lobby tax may not hold up to legal scrutiny
Massachusetts Democrat’s proposals take aim at what she dubs “excessive” lobbying

If Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s long-shot tax on big K Street lobbying tabs were to make it into law, the measure would face legal challenges and is widely seen more as a political platform than an actual policy.

The Massachusetts Democrat’s presidential campaign has unveiled broad proposals to curb what she has dubbed “excessive” lobbying, including a hefty tax on companies, trade associations and other groups that spend more than $500,000 per year on federal lobbying.

There goes the neighborhood … to lobbyists and fundraisers
Residents say they fear their neighborhoods are morphing into a commercial district

Jamie Hogan and Amy Paul, partners in a Republican fundraising agency called HSP Direct, purchased a $1.5 million federal-style townhouse half a block from the Hart Senate Office Building back in January 2017. Now the residential property has become a subject of controversy.

Neighbors allege Hogan and Paul bought the home to serve as their Ashburn, Virginia, business’s Capitol Hill outpost — using the C Street Northeast pad to host fundraisers and other political or policy events.

Democrats press Senate to take up overhaul of campaigns and ethics
Before two-week recess starts, Pelosi touts bill House passed 200 days ago

As House Democrats pursue an impeachment inquiry based largely on possible campaign finance violations against President Donald Trump, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other House Democrats sought a fresh spotlight for their stalled political money, ethics and elections overhaul measure.  

The House passed the bill by a vote of 234-193 along party lines on March 8, 200 days ago, the California Democrat noted. 

With impeachment churning, Modernization panel urges civility
Ex-Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood suggests leaders plan bipartisan retreat and weekly dinners

As impeachment and partisan politics rage on Capitol Hill, one congressional panel spent Thursday morning brainstorming ways to promote civility and collaboration among lawmakers.

The Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress almost seemed like it inhabited an alternate Congress from the one where, at the same time, Speaker Nancy Pelosi outlined plans for an impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump and the House Intelligence Committee probed a whistleblower complaint central to that effort.