When Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis took office in 2019, his political team made a list of the state’s top 40 lobbyists and about 100 of their “Suggested Clients to target” for political contributions, according to a fundraising document reviewed by The Washington Post.
Next to the name of each lobbyist was a dollar figure, an “ask” that the DeSantis team hoped they would raise based on their book of clients, whose names were also listed in the document and included large corporations such as Disney and Motorola, as well as sports organizations, billionaires and interest groups with extensive business before the state.
The Florida governor’s fundraisers hoped that nine lobbyists would raise at least $1 million each for DeSantis’s political action committee, the state and the Republican Governors Association, according to the document, which was drafted by Heather Barker, a top DeSantis aide and his primary fundraiser, and shared with others.
o help them haul in large sums of money, the document suggested that lobbyists be allowed to offer their clients certain perks, such as meals and rounds of golf with DeSantis, who loves the sport. DeSantis’s fundraisers envisioned that some golf outings with the governor would net contributions of $75,000 or more, according to other emails among DeSantis’s political advisers.
“I could sell golf for $50k this morning,” Barker wrote to other DeSantis aides in a 2019 email obtained by The Post, noting that a prominent Tallahassee lobbyist and his wife wanted to play golf with the recently elected DeSantis and first lady Casey DeSantis at a course the governor favored. The lobbyist would “get money through a client” to contribute in exchange for golfing with DeSantis, she wrote. It is unclear if the meeting happened. Barker did not respond to a request for comment.
The 2019 document detailed other avenues for securing contributions. “METHODS FOR FIRMS TO DELIVER SUPPORT: Golf, lunch, meetings, dinner, tours, events, etc. — Each have a threshold (ex. Golf $25k per person, which is a deal),” reads the document, whose authenticity was confirmed by multiple people with knowledge of it. Like others interviewed for this story, the people spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation.
While it is common for politicians to seek donations from lobbyists, the efforts by DeSantis to effectively auction off his leisure time to those seeking to influence state policy created a special pathway of access for wealthy donors to the governor that is striking in the way that it was documented in writing, ethics experts said. The golf-related fundraising was part of a broader push by DeSantis to cultivate relationships with big contributors, some of whom have received state appointments or benefited from state policies, as The Post has previously reported.
Lindsey Stewart at Morningstar has this post at the HLS Forum on Corporate Governance, linking to this full report. Both have some intriguing data on the way that the different mega-asset managers have been voting recently on shareholder resolutions relating to disclosure of lobbying and political activity. (h/t Steven Sholk)
Harvard Law School’s Forum on Corporate Governance has this post, based on information from Institutional Shareholder Services, Inc., on shareholder resolutions regarding corporate political spending during the 2022 proxy season:
More shareholder resolutions were filed in the 2022 proxy season than in the previous year, with 586 environmental and social proposals submitted at U.S. companies so far, compared with 561 in 2021. Though many have since been withdrawn, many have been or will be voted on. According to data from ISS Corporate Solutions, 569 shareholder resolutions on ESG issues have either been voted on or are pending in annual meetings through November this year….
There were a number of different kinds of resolutions focused on political spending, all trying to get at slightly differing types of information:
– Report on Political Contributions
– Report on Congruency of Political Spending with Company Values and Priorities
– Report on Global Public Policy and Political Influence
– Report on Political Contributions and Expenditures
– Issue Transparency Report on Global Public Policy and Political Influence
Some 19 proposals were filed on political spending in this year’s proxy season, with 16 already coming to a vote. Two of those, (Dollar General Corporation and Twitter, Inc.) received majority support. Overall average support was 34.1%. While the highest level of support was over 50%, the lowest was 4.2% at DISH Network Corporation, a company that is majority owned by insiders.
President Trump rescinded an executive order early Wednesday morning that had limited federal administration officials from lobbying the government or working for foreign countries after they leave their posts, undoing one of the few measures he had instituted to fulfill his 2016 campaign promise to “drain the swamp.”
Trump had signed the now-reversed executive order with much fanfare in an Oval Office ceremony in January 2017.
“Most of the people standing behind me will not be able to go to work” after they leave government, Trump said at the time, flanked by senior aides.
The order required executive branch appointees to sign a pledge that they would never work as registered foreign lobbyists, and it banned them from lobbying the federal agencies where they worked for five years after leaving the government.
Ethics experts at the time noted the order had loopholes — but still offered cautious praise for Trump’s attempt at halting the revolving door that allows government employees to use their positions to land lucrative jobs in the private sector.
No explanation was given for why Trump chose to rescind the order. The White House released the directive at 1:08 a.m. on the day he will leave office. It had been signed Tuesday.
President-elect Joe Biden will ban his senior presidential appointees from accepting special bonuses akin to “golden parachutes” from former employers for joining the government, while putting in place other expanded revolving-door restrictions in his first days in office.
The new ethics rules, which were described by transition officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the draft executive order is not public, will in some ways go beyond the guidelines for senior appointees that were put in place by the Trump and Obama administrations.
The biggest shift is the new rule that will ban incoming officials from receiving compensation from their previous employer for taking a government job, a practice that has been a flash point for government reform advocates and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). Under the Biden program, appointees would still be able to accelerate vesting for compensation they have already earned.
For departing administration employees, the Biden rules create a prohibition on lobbying the administration for at least the length of Biden’s term and add a one-year restriction on assisting lobbying efforts.
That is an effort to crack down on lucrative “shadow lobbying” jobs, in which former officials go to work at law firms to help guide lobbyists without making contact with government officials themselves.
The details of the accusations against Mr. Broidy are especially striking: They include a promised $75 million success fee from Mr. Low and discussions about arranging for Malaysia’s prime minister to play golf with Mr. Trump. But they follow a pattern that has become familiar since Mr. Trump began seeking the White House.
People who had backgrounds or were pursuing business that was likely to have raised red flags in other campaigns and administrations marketed themselves as intermediaries to individuals, companies and countries wanting something from the Trump administration. They were able to do so because Mr. Trump ran for office and came to Washington without the established networks of gatekeepers, lobbyists and fund-raisers that typically surround a president.
number of Mr. Trump’s associates have been charged in the nearly four years since he was elected. Among those who have pleaded or were found guilty of charges related to their work for him are Michael T. Flynn, the former national security adviser whose case the Justice Department is now seeking to dismiss; George Papadopoulos, a former campaign adviser; and Roger J. Stone Jr., a longtime friend whose sentence the president commuted.
Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and his deputy, Rick Gates, were charged with lobbying and financial crimes that predated their work for the president’s campaign. The two pleaded guilty to lesser charges in exchange for agreeing to cooperate with prosecutors, as did Michael D. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s longtime personal lawyer.
But few figures seized on the Trump presidency more ambitiously than Mr. Broidy, who owns a defense contracting firm.
Jack Abramoff, the onetime Washington insider who went to prison in a lobbying scandal, was charged with a criminal conspiracy related to cryptocurrency and lobbying disclosure, a U.S. prosecutor said.
Abramoff has agreed to plead guilty and faces as long as five years in prison, San Francisco U.S. Attorney David Anderson said Thursday at a press conference in San Francisco.
Separately, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission sued Abramoff, alleging he was part of a fraudulent and unregistered offer and sale of digital asset securities by NAC Foundation LLV, a company that was in early-stage development of a blockchain-based digital token called AML BitCoin….
In the early 2000s, Abramoff was at the center of a scandal that led to 20 convictions or guilty pleas, including two officials in President George W. Bush’s administration, a member of Congress, congressional aides and nine other lobbyists. Abramoff served 43 months in prison before he was released in 2010.
Ot became such a central slogan of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 campaign that at rallies his supporters would chant the three words representing his pledge to take on big donors and special interests: “Drain the swamp.”
But as President Trump ramps up his 2020 re-election bid, it is clear that he has tolerated if not fostered a swamp of his own in Washington, granting up-close access to deep-pocketed supporters and interest groups willing to write six- and seven-figure checks to his political operation. Some have used the opportunity to plead their cases directly to him.
The latest evidence came over the weekend, with the release of a secret recording of an April 2018 dinner for major donors and prospective donors to a super PAC supporting Mr. Trump.
While news of the recording primarily focused on Mr. Trump’s call for the removal of Marie L. Yovanovitch as ambassador to Ukraine after a donor claimed she had disparaged the president, the recording revealed that Mr. Trump engaged in policy discussions with many other donors pushing their own agendas.
There was the New York real estate developer whose company’s project in South Korea was proposed to Mr. Trump as a possible site for his summit with Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea.
There was the Canadian steel magnate who pushed the president to further limit steel imports to the United States, and whose companies donated $1.75 million to the super PAC.
Other attendees discussed government policies that could benefit their businesses, including building a highway for self-driving trucks and regulations that would help make trucks powered by gas compressors to be more competitive with electric-powered vehicles.
The recording is a glimpse into a broader pattern in which the administration appointed industry lobbyists to key policymaking jobs, heeded the deregulatory wishes of big corporations and granted regular access to donors and influential political supporters. Some of the policies sought by the donors at the 2018 dinner have been subsequently introduced in Congress; it is unclear in those cases whether the president or the White House intervened.
A number of prominent former lawmakers associated with the Tea Party Caucus have joined the ranks of K Street in the last year, bringing their small government agendas to the lobbying world.
The door revolves. From Politico:
The California Democrat, who spent a decade in the House and 24 years in the Senate, doesn’t plan to register as a lobbyist. Instead, she’ll advise clients of Mercury Public Affairs, which represents corporate clients such as Airbnb and AT&T, as well as foreign governments, including those of Qatar and Turkey.
ProPublica on the draining of the swamp.