Kate Ackley

Controversy Swirls as Lawmakers Eye Campaign Finance Changes
Possible Johnson amendment repeal is among most-watched developments

Lawmakers continue to debate major changes to political money regulations as part of a year-end spending package, despite opposition from numerous congressional Democrats and campaign finance watchdog groups.

Even with congressional primaries already underway, the proposals could play out in the November midterm elections if enacted, campaign finance experts on both sides of the debate say.

Conor Lamb Helps Democrats Raise Campaign Cash
Pennsylvania special election results spurs fundraising pitches

Democratic candidates and liberal organizations are seeking to capitalize on Conor Lamb’s apparent win in Pennsylvania, invoking his name in fundraising pitches nationwide.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other lawmakers from Michigan to Nevada, along with groups focused on everything from political money to Social Security, are trying to seize momentum from Lamb’s showing in Tuesday’s special election to help them woo donors and to validate their policy views.

Tariff Fallout Could Shape Midterm Battlegrounds
Political observers in both parties are taking stock of potential effects

The Trump administration’s controversial plan for new tariffs may seep into the debates of competitive House races — well beyond Pennsylvania steel country — that will determine in November which party controls the chamber.

Opponents of the tariffs on steel and aluminum also warn that if the administration carries through with the proposal and if other nations retaliate, the issue could spill into even more congressional districts, including in Republican-leaning farm country.

House Committee Leadership Is Becoming a Game of Musical Chairs
Term limits, fundraising pressure and reduced clout are taking a toll on GOP chairmen

No matter what happens in the November elections, the House of Representatives will be a body transformed.

At least eight of the chamber’s sitting committee chairmen are quitting Congress — and two additional chiefs have already given up their gavels. These exits come at a cost to the institution, as House Republicans will lose policy expertise, political savvy and procedural prowess.

Conservative Groups Warn Tariffs Could Cost Republicans
Trump proposal exposes rift between White House and usual allies

With primaries underway, conservative groups are stepping up their campaign against President Donald Trump’s controversial proposal to levy new steel and aluminum tariffs — warning that it could cause political peril for Republicans.

“We’re deeply concerned. We’ve made it clear to the administration that imposing tariffs is an enormous mistake,” said Tim Phillips, who runs Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group funded in part by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch. “It will undercut their political chances in what’s going to be a challenging election year.”

Companies, Nonprofits Put Brakes on Foreign Lobbying Bills
Despite momentum to revamp foreign lobbying disclosures, opposition remains

A bipartisan group of senators on Thursday introduced an overhaul to foreign lobbying rules, while a similar, once fast-moving measure appears temporarily stalled in the House amid pressure from outside interests.

The new bill from Texas Republican John Cornyn and California Democrat Dianne Feinstein indicates that momentum to revamp foreign lobbying disclosures persists as the Russia probe has kept concerns about international influences in the spotlight. But opposition remains.

GOP Lobbyist to Host Fundraiser for Rick Gates
Ex-Trump campaign aide pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators

The swamp looks out for its own.

A Republican lobbyist said Tuesday he was organizing a fundraiser next month to help pay the legal bills of Rick Gates, the former K Streeter who pleaded guilty last week in the expanding special counsel probe of Russian interference in the 2016 elections.

K Street Reinvents Itself in the Era of Trump
Presidency, GOP Congress and surge of grass-roots resistance mean uncertainty

Harriet Melvin, a Republican lobbyist whose clients include songwriters, the National Football League and eBay, has observed dramatic changes in the influence industry during more than two decades in the business.

Political upheaval, partisan stalemate on Capitol Hill and technological innovations have all disrupted and transformed the much-maligned, $4 billion-a-year federal lobbying business.

Kirsten Gillibrand Says Goodbye to Corporate PAC Money
Union money still OK for potential White House candidate

New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a potential contender in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, said Tuesday she would no longer accept donations from the political action committees of for-profit companies.

Her prohibition includes contributions from PACs connected to trade associations and law firms, her spokesman Glen Caplin told Roll Call in an email, saying the goal was to "get corporate money out of politics."

Trump Critic Praises Trump Pick for Ethics Office
Walter Shaub says pick offers stability amid chaos

Walter Shaub Jr. has blasted the Trump White House for creating an “ethics crisis,” but the previous head of the Office of Government Ethics now is offering praise for the administration’s choice for his successor.

The White House said Wednesday that President Donald Trump selected Emory A. Rounds III, an OGE lawyer since 2009, to run the office, which offers counsel to government officials about how to avoid potential conflicts of interest and violations of ethics statutes. Shaub said he was “excited” about the nomination.

Group Backed by Liberal George Soros Posts Uptick in Lobbying
Open Society Policy Center spent record $16.1 million in 2017

The Open Society Policy Center, the lobbying arm of liberal billionaire George Soros’ philanthropic network, reported spending a record sum to influence federal issues during the first year of the Trump administration.

The group disclosed spending a total of $16.1 million on federal lobbying in 2017, with the majority of that coming in the last three months of the year, according to a report filed with Congress. The Soros group disclosed spending $10.3 million in the fourth quarter.

House Judiciary Advances Foreign Lobby Overhaul
Panel Democrats say GOP is moving too quickly on the bill

House Republicans took a significant step Wednesday in an effort to overhaul the nation’s foreign lobbying disclosure regulations amid scandals in the influence sector.

The House Judiciary Committee advanced as amended, 15-6 along party lines, the measure that would give the Justice Department new subpoena-like investigative powers. That new authority sparked controversy among the panel’s Democrats.

House Panel to Consider Stronger Foreign Lobbying Rules
Some lobbyists caution against unintended consequences of bipartisan bill

The House Judiciary Committee plans to take up a bill on Wednesday that would overhaul the 1938 law governing foreign lobbying disclosures, but the measure’s fate in the Senate remains unclear.

The bipartisan bill could have broad implications not only for lobbyists and other U.S. representatives of foreign governments and political parties but also for those working on behalf of foreign corporations and nonprofit organizations.

U.S. Chamber Will ‘Double Down’ on 2018 Campaigns, Donohue Says
Infrastructure will be a top priority

U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas Donohue pledged to “double down” on the group’s multimillion-dollar political efforts this year while also pushing for overhauls in Congress of immigration, infrastructure and entitlement programs.

Donohue said the chamber would invest more money and time on primary elections ahead of the 2018 midterm elections with the goal of restoring more power to the political “middle” while still aiming to keep Republicans in control of the House and Senate. 

Analysis: 2017 Has Been Nutty for K Street, but 2018 Could Be Insane
Campaign season is soon to kick into high gear

Lobbyists have — almost — survived a genuinely bonkers year.

The Trump era ushered in a maelstrom of unpredictable policy fights along with scandals that have ripped into K Street. Think it can’t get any stranger? Just wait until campaign season kicks into high gear in 2018.

Politicking by Churches Fight Mixes With Tax, Spending Debates
Johnson Amendment repeal effort waged on many fronts

Lobbyists sparring over whether the final version of the Republican tax bill should roll back a rule that prevents churches and charities from endorsing political candidates could add another wrinkle to the year-end spending debate.

Although a House proposal to scale back what’s known as the Johnson Amendment may not survive the tax overhaul, supporters of the change could turn to a spending measure as Plan B. And groups wishing to preserve the Johnson Amendment, which has been a part of the tax code since 1954, say they will be on alert.

New Excise Tax Targets Big-Money Nonprofit Executives
But K Street isn’t pushing hard to remove proposal

Many of K Street’s highest-paid association lobbyists are pushing for the first major tax overhaul in 30 years, but a discrete provision in the sweeping measure may have an adverse consequence for their bottom lines.

Lawmakers have crafted a new 20 percent excise tax on seven-figure compensation packages at all tax-exempt organizations, including trade associations, foundations, universities and hospital systems. The new tax is in both the House-passed bill and the Senate draft, making it likely to remain if the overhaul becomes law.

Tax Fight Coming Over Politicking by Churches, Nonprofits
Endorsing or opposing candidates is prohibited — for now

How lawmakers resolve one contentious item between the House and Senate’s diverging tax overhauls may have broad implications for future politicking by churches and charities.

The House bill would repeal the longstanding Johnson Amendment, which prohibits churches and other 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations from endorsing — or opposing — candidates for elective office. But after a backlash from liberal organizations who said the change could open up a whole new avenue for undisclosed political money at taxpayer expense, senators decided not to roll back the Johnson Amendment in their overhaul plan.

Ex-Ethics Chief Outlines Tips to Fix Conflicts of Interest

Former Office of Government Ethics chief Walter Shaub, a high-profile critic of the Trump administration’s lax approach to conflicts of interest, offered 13 recommendations Thursday he said would shore up federal ethics.   

He wants to make it harder for presidents to fire and replace directors of OGE. He recommends giving the federal agency the authority to initiate contact with Congress. And he is urging lawmakers to amend ethics laws to give the ethics office, which currently plays an advisory role, more power to collect documents and records and to make public on its website the ethics actions it takes.

All the GOP’s Eggs Are Now in the Tax Basket
The pressure’s on as House Republicans try to move their tax bill

It’s hard enough to digest the policy details of the GOP tax overhaul plan — but add in a dose of distraction from the sprawling probe of Russian interference into last year’s elections and it’s easy to lose any budding “taxmentum.”

Selling a comprehensive tax code rewrite — even if it’s packaged as a tax cut for individuals and businesses — is so challenging that Congress hasn’t done it since 1986.