Kate Ackley

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.

 

Court Bucks Chief Justice, Sheds Light on Dark Money Donors
Justices denied stay of lower court ruling requiring donor disclosure

Some political groups may no longer be able to hide the identities of their donors after the full Supreme Court on Tuesday reversed a decision by Chief Justice John G. Roberts that had stopped a lower court ruling requiring the disclosures.

The full court, which has eight members at the moment, denied an application for a stay — or delay — of the lower court ruling in a case involving the conservative group Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, which has been fighting since 2012 a lawsuit demanding that it disclose its donors.

Democrats Weighing Earmark Revival if They Take Back House
Elimination of earmarks led to an “abdication of Congress’ power of the purse,” Hoyer says

At the end of a speech Wednesday outlining what he billed as congressional Democrats’ vision to renew the county’s faith in government, House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer called for lawmakers to bring back earmarks.

It was a noteworthy mention from the Democrats’ No. 2 in House leadership during a talk that focused on his party’s plans — should it win control of the chamber in the midterms — to overhaul campaign finance and government ethics laws and to weed out the perception of corruption on Capitol Hill and in the executive branch.

Railing Against Corruption Could Backfire on Democrats
Will a blast from the past help the party win seats — or just bum everyone out?

ANALYSIS — Democrats are running like it’s 2006 again. That strategy may help them win races in November, but it isn’t risk-free.

The revival of the minority party’s anti-lobbying, anti-big-donor messaging, known as the “culture of corruption” mantra from a dozen years ago, speaks to disheartened voters. It also allows Democrats to highlight the persistent ethical and legal troubles, including indictments and guilty verdicts, among those in the Trump orbit.

Republicans Have Questions for Twitter, and They’re Not About Election Meddling
When tech execs head to the Hill on Wednesday, Walden wants to talk about censorship

The world’s largest social media companies are due Wednesday on Capitol Hill as lawmakers grapple with how to protect American voters from foreign influence operations and deal with charges that conservative views are being censored online.

First some top brass — Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey — will face questions from the Senate Intelligence panel, which is investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election. While the panel had also invited Google co-founder and Alphabet CEO Larry Page, the search engine giant decided to send its chief legal officer instead. 

Candidates Say ‘I Approve This Message’ Because of John McCain
It took a political odd couple to overhaul campaign finance in the early 2000s

Sen. John McCain ribbed then-Rep. Chris Shays about a nickname for the landmark campaign finance overhaul they were skippering through Congress in the early 2000s.

If the Supreme Court upheld the measure banning “soft money” corporate contributions to the political parties, then they would christen it McCain-Feingold after its chief Senate sponsors. And if the justices ruled against them, Shays recalled, McCain wanted no part.

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.