June 27, 2012

Wal-Mart Previously Fired Mercury Public Affairs For Racist Ad In 2006

On Monday, Wal-Mart announced that it will be dropping Mercury Public Affairs, a leading PR and lobbying firm, after one of its associate spied on some warehouse workers in Los Angeles. “We take this matter seriously and have taken the appropriate steps to ensure this type of activity is not repeated,” said Wal-Mart spokesman Steven Restivo. But there’s one problem with Wal-Mart’s excuse. It had already fired Mercury in 2006 after one of its staffers, Terry Nelson, produced a racist ad against Democratic Senate candidate Harold Ford. The question now is simple. Will Wal-Mart be firing Mercury …

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June 27, 2012

Money in Politics Lunchtime Links, June 27

New York Times: Inquiry Looks Into a Shield for Donors in Elections
Important story on secret money funneled to influence elections by outside groups: “Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman of New York has begun investigating contributions to tax-exempt groups that are heavily involved in political campaigns, focusing on a case involving the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has been one of the largest outside groups seeking to influence recent elections but is not required to disclose its donors.”

National Journal: How Congressional Veep Possibilities and K Street …

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June 27, 2012

Orrin Hatch Uses Corporate Cash To Fend Off Tea Party Challenge

Last night, incumbent Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) easily bested a tea party-backed primary challenge from Dan Liljenquist, getting 66% of the vote to his 33%.

Hatch’s win came on the heels of a huge fundraising advantage. He raised $9,709,238 and spent $10,151,378 during the campaign cycle, while Liljenquist raised $778,362 and spent only $614,638.

Interestingly, 40 percent of the incumbent senator’s funds came from Political Action Committees (PACs), while Liljenquist raised virtually no PAC cash. The only strong outside interest group backing the challenger was FreedomWorks, but that group spent only roughly $900,000 on his behalf.

Corporations and K Street in particular lined up …

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June 27, 2012

D.C. Newspaper Writes Fawning Profile Of Kennedy-Aide-Turned-Lobbyist

One of the best ways for special interests to influence our lawmakers is to hire former government staffers to get the insider access needed to win legislation and regulation. By passing through the “revolving door,” these staffers are generously rewarded for winning over government favors for private clients, often clients who seek to distort public policy to favor wealthy interests.

This revolving door should be a scandal. But in Washington, it’s simply become normal. The local press there even glamorizes it.

Take this profile of Holly Fechner, the former policy director to the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA), in The Hill, …

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June 26, 2012
Corinthian Colleges fared the worst in new data from the US Dept. of Education. Its CEO, Jack Massimino, was paid $3.4 million in 2011.

Romney’s Full Sail, WashPost’s Kaplan Among Colleges Flunking Federal Test By Leaving Students In Debt

On Tuesday, the federal government released information about which career training programs and for-profit colleges are passing — and which are flunking — its new “gainful employment” rule.  The Obama Administration watered down this regulation last year after a massive lobbying campaign by the for-profit college industry, and the rule imposes only the most minimal standards.  In order to lose eligibility for federal student financial aid, a program must flunk three different tests, so that, for three years in a row:

66 percent of the program’s former students are not repaying their loans.
The estimated annual loan payment of a …Continue Reading »

June 26, 2012
Crop insurer cash played a part in sustaining cuts to food stamps.

How The Crop Insurance Industry Helped Buy A Multi-Billion Dollar Cut To Food Stamps

Late last week we reported how the U.S. Senate voted to sustain cuts worth billions of dollars from the food stamp program in the name of fiscal austerity while maintaining billions of dollars of subsidies and other price supports for the Sugar Lobby.

Let’s look even deeper into the original 33-66 failed vote to restore $4.5 billion in food stamp funding. The amendment offered by Senator Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY) to the farm bill that was offered to do this funded the food stamps by cutting “guaranteed profit for crop insurance companies from 14 to 12 percent and by lowering payments for …

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June 26, 2012

Northrop Grumman Lobbyist On Staff With Armed Services Committee Also Owns Stock In His Former Firm

Republic Report has broken a series of stories this month showing that a surprising number of high level congressional staffers either maintain a financial relationship with a lobbying firm, or were paid six-figure bonuses by lobbying firms shortly before becoming staffers last year. We’ve reported on Senator Marco Rubio’s chief of staff, Speaker John Boehner’s policy director, and Thomas MacKenzie, a former Northrop Grumman lobbyist who was paid nearly $500,000 in bonus pay just before being tapped by the House Armed Services Committee as a senior staff member.

As other media outlets take interest in the story, it …

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June 26, 2012

Drone Lobby Group Brands Itself As “Academic” Organization; But Funds Come Primarily From Weapons Makers

In February, we broke an exclusive story on how the drone industry had worked to shape a new law that will allow thousands of unmanned aircraft to fly over America in coming years. A powerpoint we recovered from the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVS), a drone trade group, boasted that drone company lobbyists’ suggestions for the law were “taken word-for-word” by lawmakers. Indeed, drone lobbying has doubled in recent years.

As drone lobbyists are facing increasing criticism from both right and left, AUVS, the leading pro-drone group, is attempting to rebrand as an academic and …

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