Kate Ackley

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.

Lobbyists Miffed at House Tax Bill Turn Attention to Senate
Some hope for different answers on mortgage interest deduction, SALT

The House Ways and Means Committee hasn’t yet approved its version of the tax overhaul, but already some lobbyists, miffed by how the legislation is shaping up, say they’re turning to the Senate. 

The Senate’s overhaul measure, which is expected to become public as soon as Thursday, may be wildly different from the House bill. It is likely to include more temporary tax breaks than the House product and may also delay corporate rate cuts

Sweeping Changes Proposed for Foreign Lobbying Law
Critics: Proposal overreacts to Mueller indictments

A bill introduced by Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley in response to indictments in the special counsel’s Russia probe would have far-reaching consequences for U.S. representatives of foreign governments, foreign companies and other international interests.

The Iowa Republican put forward the measure last week after Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III announced indictments in his investigation of possible Russian interference in the 2016 elections. Republican Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana introduced an identical bill in his chamber.

GOP Tax Bill Would Allow Politics from the Pulpit
Johnson Amendment is on the chopping block

Gucci Gulch Can’t Hold All Lobbyists Engaged in Tax Fight
Few echoes from the 1980s in current overhaul effort

Lobbyists are ready to prowl the hallways outside the tax-writing committees as Congress seeks to overhaul the tax code, but the scenes won’t be reminiscent of the 1980s-era Gucci Gulch.

The tools of influence and communication have exploded in the past three decades. Back then, for example, only the richest denizens of Gucci Gulch sported “those brick-like cell phones,” recalled Jeffrey Birnbaum, who co-wrote a 1988 book about the last major tax overhaul, “Showdown at Gucci Gulch: Lawmakers, Lobbyists and the Unlikely Triumph of Tax Reform.”

K Street Reels Amid Indictments in Russia Elections Probe
12 counts include conspiracy, tax evasion and money laundering

K Street can’t escape the fallout from Monday’s first indictments in the Justice Department probe into Russian interference in the 2016 elections.

Not only were charges revealed against Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, onetime lobbyists who worked on President Donald Trump’s campaign, but the expanding investigation by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III rocked one of K Street’s biggest and most prominent firms, the Podesta Group. This is likely just the beginning.   

Manafort Case Could Be Best-Known Consequence of Vague Statute
Foreign Agents Registration Act stemmed from concerns over Nazi propaganda in the run-up to World War II

The Foreign Agents Registration Act dates back to 1938 and stemmed from fears about covert Nazi propagandists who were active in the United States during the run-up to World War II.

The case of Paul Manafort, who is being indicted on 12 counts among them being an unregistered agent of a foreign principal and making false and misleading FARA statements, might eventually go down as one of the best-known consequences of FARA, a relatively vague statute that usually amounts to little more than an honor system despite its tough-sounding, spy-catching criminal penalties.

On K Street, Quiet Before Tax Brawl Begins
Lobbyists await the text of the GOP plan

The silence and apparent harmony on K Street won’t last much longer. Give it about 48 hours.

That’s when House Republicans say they will unveil the text of their tax overhaul, and the nation’s business community will assess what the details mean for their own bottom lines, spurring a boom among the lobbying class.

Women — and the Power of the Purse — Will Be Key in 2018
Female donors are skyrocketing and more women are considering runs

Democratic lobbyist Anne MacMillan recalls sitting at small political fundraising dinners not long ago, with men filling all the chairs around her.

“Generally, the conversation would circle around hunting or fishing or golf, or something I couldn’t even participate in,” said MacMillan, a former aide to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Lobbyists Get Boost From Fiscal, Defense, Immigration Fights
Third quarter disclosures show business is still booming

Stalemate in Congress over mega-ticket agenda items, such as a replacement for the Obama-era health care law, hasn’t upended K Street business this year.

The once-raging health care debate has yet to produce an enacted law as a replacement. But it has fueled business along the lobbying corridor, just as a tax overhaul is taking the spotlight in the final quarter of the year. Republicans in Congress may unveil their tax bill as early as next week.

Don’t Hike Deficits With Tax Package, Ads Warn GOP Senators
Collins, Corker among lawmakers targeted

Texas billionaires John and Laura Arnold are bankrolling a new lobbying effort aimed at leading lawmakers away from the temptation of a tax overhaul that would increase deficits. 

Citizens for Responsible Tax Reform launched print advertisements targeting Republicans in 20 states Thursday, including Kentucky, the home of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Rand Paul. The group plans additional television and online ad buys as Congress and the White House debate an overhaul of the nation’s tax code, spokesman Blake Gober said.