Van Hollen is a Democrat from Maryland. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Now that the IRS has drafted new rules to rein in politically active tax-exempt groups, Rep. Chris Van Hollen and three allied watchdog groups have withdrawn their lawsuit challenging the tax agency to take action.
“The major relief we asked for in the lawsuit was for the IRS to conduct a rulemaking,” said the Maryland Democrat, who filed the suit in August with Democracy 21, Public Citizen and the Campaign Legal Center. Last week, the Treasury Department and the IRS initiated that process, inviting public comment on proposed rules to define “candidate-related political activity” for 501(c)(4) social welfare groups. Full story
Michael A. Resnick, who has spent the past 44 years lobbying for the National School Boards Association, has retired. The NSBA’s associated executive director for federal advocacy and public policy turned in his attendance card for the last time at the end of November.
Resnick started at NSBA in 1969, after a stint with the Treasury Department’s Office of General Counsel. It’s a remarkable tenure for someone in the advocacy business, even one headquartered in the less partisan and high-pressure King Street association row over in Alexandria, Va., (as opposed to the K Street pirates who are responsible for so much of the popular culture’s perceptions of what makes a lobbyist a lobbyist.)
Regardless of whether you’re a K Streeter or a King Streeter, though, it involves working with Capitol Hill. It doesn’t sound like Resnick has the highest regard for the current Capitol environment. “We no longer see predictable, orderly policymaking on Capitol Hill. In the past the political parties had different views, but compromise and accommodations could be made,” he said in a statement announcing his retirement. Full story
Hide the silverware. Stow the dinner plates. And definitely keep that 100-year-old cognac corked.
This is how K Street gets ready for a holiday shindig in the age of the Capitol Hill party police.
Fancy finery and displays of luxury have been replaced by toothpicks and finger foods. Six years ago, changes to the rules tightened the restrictions on gifts that members and staff may accept from lobbying groups, including food and drinks at lavish soirees.
Some good news for those seeking holiday cheer: Many K Street-Capitol Hill holiday parties slip in through the reception exemption, which allows for menu items of nominal value. And while the scene may not be what it once was, the parties go on.
I’m going to miss Joe Grano’s pitches. The Washington activist was a bare-knuckle brawler for varied causes, from historic preservation to D.C. citizens’ representation, and he knew how to get his message across with panache.
Grano tended to the grave of Brumidi at Glenwood Cemetery in Washington. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)
“Joe was a relentless advocate and had a special place in his heart for Constantino Brumidi’s contributions to the beauty of the Capitol,” said John Bicknell, a former editor at CQ Roll Call who is now executive editor at 1105 Media, who also fielded Grano’s pitches.
Grano, a man passionate about many issues, was far from the slick characters depicted in “This Town,” the chummy, rubbing-shoulders citizens of the capital of glitz that Mark Leibovich chronicled for his book of the same name. Full story
Richard Nash, eBay’s head of government relations, has moved East from the online commerce platform’s San Jose, Calif., headquarters to Washington, D.C. It’s a move the online commerce platform says is “a mark of eBay Inc.’s commitment to the policy agenda in Washington, D.C.”
Nash runs eBay’s federal, state, Canada and Latin America groups. He worked on antitrust, intellectual property and consumer protection in the company’s Brussels office before heading to the firm’s Bay Area HQ. Sounds like folks in Washington can expect to see a little more from the eBay storefront.
Politically active tax-exempt groups, which spent tens of millions in the previous election without disclosing their donors, would face tighter restrictions under new guidelines proposed Tuesday by the Treasury Department and the IRS.
The initial guidance, outlined in a Tuesday release and slated to be published shortly in the Federal Register, spells out that “candidate-related political activity” may not be defined as promoting the social welfare. The guidance defines such activity to include messages that picture or name a candidate on the eve of an election, potentially restricting the widespread use of campaign-style ads that evade disclosure as so-called issue ads by 501(c)4 social welfare groups. Full story
I didn’t read or watch every observation of the anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination (who could?) but the ones I did gave short shrift to his signal accomplishment — saving the world from a nuclear holocaust.
(CQ Roll Call File Photo)
His cool restraint during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis — resisting many advisers who were calling for bombing Soviet missile sites in Cuba — ought to earn him the top-of-the-heap public approval ratings he enjoys (90 percent in a CNN poll).
I doubt the ratings are based on that, though. His celebrated grace, glamour, wit, eloquence, inspiration of a generation to public service, his (belated) support for civil rights, the Camelot myth created by his widow — and, above all, his martyrdom — most likely are the major factors. Full story
Lobbying. It’s become a dirty word, thanks to bipartisan spite directed at people who are paid to advocate for others. With this in mind, apparently, the American League of Lobbyists, or ALL, voted this week to change its name to the more anodyne Association of Government Relations Professionals, or AGRP.
Organizations change their names all the time, and nowhere more than ones that seem to reside in Washington, D.C. We’re looking at you, Washington Bullets-turned-Wizards and the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, or should we say the American Association of Justice. Washington’s National Football League franchise finds itself embroiled in the rename-it craze as well.
Too bad, there was a certain panache (and honesty) to ALL, as well as the trial lawyers’ moniker. The names that succeeded them are just kind of dull. But that’s the point. ALL is lost, apparently.
Fabrizio Gets New Gig at MPAA
Steven Fabrizio will join the Motion Picture Association of America as global general counsel and senior executive vice president early next month, the MPAA announced in a release. Full story
OK. So Education Secretary Arne Duncan could have said it better, but fundamentally he was right: Parents are getting awakened to how inferior even “good” American schools are, and they don’t like it.
Speaking to state school superintendents in Richmond last week, Duncan said that some opposition to adoption of the Common Core education standards is coming from “white suburban moms who — all of a sudden — [find] their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were …”
His comments lit a firestorm of criticism on Twitter and the blogosphere, with critics accusing him of sexism and racism, and he had to publicly admit “clumsy phrasing.”
If he was clumsy, it was in knocking the kids. On the rest of what he said, he was dead right. Full story
The chamber’s $200,000 expenditure to help GOP lawyer Bradley Byrne narrowly beat tea-party-backed businessman Dean Young in Alabama was hailed as nothing less than “a turning point in American politics” by Forbes magazine, a sweeping assessment typical of reports on the race.
But it remains to be seen whether business groups will prove sufficiently bold, aggressive and well-funded to match the tea party activists they’re taking on. It’s far less risky to endorse the business-friendly candidate in an open-seat contest than to challenge an incumbent, as tea-party-aligned groups such as the Club for Growth, FreedomWorks and the Senate Conservatives Fund routinely do. Full story
In my previous column, “Ideology Isn’t Source of All Partisanship” (Nov. 6), I used partisan votes on special rules in the House as an example of high partisanship unconnected to ideological issues — noting that 17 percent of all House party unity votes in the last Congress were on the previous question and final adoption of rules alone.
The procedural fights that the public perceives as petty partisan bickering are as much a part of a party’s purpose as advancing ideological policy choices. They are used to enhance party self-branding and team-building efforts. Full story
Former Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman was feted at Art and Soul on Wednesday night for his new gig at Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman, where he’ll work primarily from the firm’s New York office. According to one colleague, “lots of lawmakers and This Town types, etc.,” were on hand to wish their Connecticut colleague on his merry way to senior-counsel land.
And while New York isn’t exactly all the way home for the Stamford, Conn., native, Lieberman’s departure for another town marks somewhat of a break from the norm of retired lawmakers remaining primarily in D.C. for the next phases of their careers.
Going Back to Jersey
Another ex-lawmaker who headed away from This Town is former Sen. Jeff Chiesa, the Republican who was appointed to keep the seat of the late Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg warm until a special election could be held. Once Democrat Cory Booker was elected, Chiesa set back for the Garden State, where he had served as attorney general and chief counsel to the man who appointed him to the Senate, GOP Gov. Chris Christie.
Now Chiesa is back at his old law firm, Wolff & Samson, based in West Orange, N.J. “His return to the firm underscores Wolff & Samson’s commitment to ensure that we provide our clients with the most skilled counsel available,” founding firm member David Samson said in a statement.
Chiesa served as a senator from June 10 to Oct. 30, 2013. In baseball terms, he came up for a cup of coffee. In congressional terms, he’s a senator, now and forever. And now he’s back in the state that gave us Bon Jovi’s “Who Says You Can’t Go Home.”
Hill Hands Who Stuck Around
On the other hand, some folks feel right at home in Washington. Full story
Face it: Both the Republican and Democratic parties are in trouble. Neither can be sure which is in worse shape. So it behooves them both to do something right for a change.
What? Reach a budget deal that ends threats of government shutdowns and debt defaults, restores confidence among both foreign and domestic investors, and convinces the public that federal politicians can govern.
Will it be hard to get a deal — especially by the mandated deadline of Dec. 15? Of course. But both sides know what needs to be done — reform entitlements to get the country’s long-term debt under control, reform taxes to make the economy more productive, and lift the budget sequester’s stranglehold on domestic spending and defense. Full story
Q. I am a House staffer and have been offered a chance to participate in the initial public offering of a well-known company that is about to go public. My position as a House staffer had no role at all in the opportunity becoming available to me. In fact, the person who invited me to participate did not even know that I work for the House of Representatives. I presume this means that it is OK for me to participate. However, another staffer in our office told me I’m wrong. I really want to do it, so please don’t tell me the rules prevent it.
A. You know the adage that it’s better to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission? In this case, ignore it. Here’s why. Full story
The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs panel will discuss the FEC’s bitcoin plan at a hearing next week. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call)
The Federal Election Commission’s draft plan to approve the virtual currency known as bitcoins for campaign contributions may prove either a windfall or a losing gamble for politicians keen on testing new ways to raise money.
Bitcoin advocates cheered an FEC draft advisory opinion released last week that, if approved, would allow campaign committees to accept bitcoins as in-kind contributions. Bitcoins are a digital form of “electronic cash” created in 2008 that enable online peer-to-peer payments without the use of a bank or intermediary authority.
“It is a stamp of legitimization for Bitcoin,” said Jacob Farber, senior counsel at Perkins Coie, which submitted comments to the FEC on behalf of the Bitcoin Foundation. A trade group representing the Bitcoin industry, the foundation weighed in on an advisory opinion request originally submitted in September by a political action committee known as the Conservative Action Fund.
If the FEC approves its draft opinion — the agency will take public comments until Nov. 13 — virtual currency advocates will win notice from an influential audience, namely lawmakers with potential jurisdiction over Bitcoin regulations. Sen. Thomas R. Carper, D-Del., has already signaled that his Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will discuss the FEC action it its next hearing. Full story