POLITICS

Why lobbyists dislike Citizens United

By |
Politics,Beltway Confidential,Timothy P. Carney

If businesses want to influence lawmakers, how can they do it? Here are two options:

1) The business could try to rally the public, exhorting voters to apply pressure to their representatives.

2) The business could hire a lobbyist, who uses persuasion, connection, and campaign contributions to privately try to woo lawmakers.

The 2001 McCain-Feingold campaign-finance regulations severely clamped down on the public route (1), which involved democracy-type stuff. It didn’t touch the behind-closed-door route (2). The 2009 Citizens United Supreme Court decision didn’t affect the ability of companies to petition Congress — it only liberalized laws on companies petitioning the public. And Democratic responses to Citizens United wouldn’t regulate the lobbying that goes on behind closed doors. The DISCLOSE Act and its ilk would, in fact, enhance the importance of K Street by curbing companies’ ability to work the “outside-in” game of speaking to the public.

It’s no wonder the chief advocates of the DISCLOSE Act were top Dem fundraisers Chris van Hollen and Chuck Schumer.

And guess who’s really worried about the SuperPACs unleashed by Citizens United? K Street lobbyist.

My colleague Paul Bedard reports:

In what could be the biggest threat to their livelihood, Washington’s lobbyists are about to be challenged by the very same Super PACs that flooded millions of dollars into the 2016 presidential and Senate campaigns.

“Your life is probably going to get worse,” warned Meredith McGehee, who lobbies for tougher ethics rules.

At issue: Rules-constrained lobbyists, limited on how much they can spend on entertainment and campaign contributions, will soon face competition from Super PACs that can spend freely to lobby. Several are eyeing big-dollar, media-heavy campaigns on issues like taxes and spending to move public opinion, threatening K Street’s traditional approach of dispatching lobbyists to woo individual lawmakers with persuasion and donations.

McGehee, speaking at the annual meeting of the American League of Lobbyists Tuesday, said that Super PAC spending is likely to get the attention of Capitol Hill more than lobbyists.

 

View article comments Leave a comment