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Outlook: The State of K Street

Loose federal disclosure laws have given rise to the newest influence-peddling subculture — advocates who do just what lobbyists do, but without the paper trail.

From the Editor: The Secret Juice

Outlook is well into its second year now (this is the ninth issue) and already it seems abundantly clear that “The State of K Street” can and should stake its claim to being an annual feature of this joint venture between the CQ and Roll Call halves of our newsroom.

The State of K Street: Work in the Shadows

If Tom Daschle, Newt Gingrich and Howard Marlowe sat around a table in a downtown Washington, D.C., conference room strategizing policy for a client, only one of the three would exist. At least according to the public record. That might sound like the lead-up to a punch line. But it’s no joke.

Campaign Finance: The Nonprofit World’s New Weapon

On the surface, the public furor over the Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling to deregulate political money looks far removed from K Street’s lobbying and advocacy world. After all, much of the controversy triggered by Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission has centered on unrestricted super PACs, which engage in campaigns and politics, not lobbying. And for the most part, lobbyists register and report their activities under the Lobbying Disclosure Act, not campaign finance laws.

Education: Traveling on Whose Dime?

When Congress recessed last August, many lawmakers seized on the opportunity to return to their home states for a much-needed break. Dozens of others, however, accepted invitations to take “educational” trips to destinations all around the world — South Africa, Mongolia, Israel, Colombia, Cameroon and Japan, among other destinations — often on the dime of nonprofit organizations that are so closely affiliated with advocacy groups that the differences are all but indistinguishable.

Health Care: The Unlobbyist’s Clinical Trial

Last July, former presidential contender and one-time Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean visited the West Wing. At the time, he was a senior strategic adviser and independent consultant at the McKenna, Long & Aldridge lobbying and law firm, a position he still holds. Dean and five other people visited Nancy-Ann DeParle, then the director of the White House Office for Health Care Reform and one of the driving forces in the administration behind the health care overhaul enacted the year before. With him was a registered lobbyist from his firm along with industry executives from Colorado, New York and Massachusetts. They were there to discuss Medicaid.

Defense: A Powerful Team of Spokesmen

Among the foreign countries and overseas organizations that hire people to advocate for them in Washington, D.C., one doesn’t expect to find a group that’s listed on the U.S. government’s roster of foreign terrorists. But the Mujahedin e-Khalq — a cult-like Iranian group whose killing of U.S. officials landed it on the terrorist list in 1997 — has been paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to a high-profile team of former Members of Congress, political notables and ex-administration officials as part of its push to get itself removed from that very list.

Transportation: The Struggle Without Earmarks

When Congress last passed a full-scale reauthorization of surface transportation programs, seven years ago, lawmakers and lobbyists took a decidedly traditional approach to greasing the legislative wheels sufficiently to get the bill on President George W. Bush’s desk. With more than 6,300 earmarks, billions were up for grabs — including the often-cited $200 million set aside for the now-infamous Gravina Island “Bridge to Nowhere” in Alaska, secured in part by Rep. Don Young, the Last Frontier Republican who was then chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Technology: New Power for the People

Holly McCall, a stay-at-home mom in the D.C. suburb of Vienna, Va., was shocked when she discovered that a 2-year-old federal regulation barred her from signing up for a credit card without her husband’s approval. She launched an online petition, quickly gathered 33,000 signatures and within weeks found herself sitting face-to-face with one of the country’s top financial regulators.

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