Lobbying regulation - chronology 2020-2029

From Powerbase
Jump to: navigation, search
Twenty-pound-notes.jpg This article is part of the Lobbying Portal, a sunlight project from Spinwatch.

This page lists the history of debates on Lobbying regulation, in Scotland, the UK, the EU and the US.

See also:

Contents

2020 - 2029

2020

8 January 2020 - Rod Rosenstein joins law and lobbying firm

US: From The Hill:

Former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was named a partner at law and lobbying firm King & Spalding. Rosenstein will work in the firm’s special matters and government investigations group, which represents corporate, institutional and individual clients in sensitive legal challenges, the firm announced on Wednesday. Rosenstein oversaw former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation and announced his resignation in April.[1]

22 January 2020 - Tech giants led by Amazon, Facebook and Google spent nearly half a billion on lobbying over the last decade, new data show

US: New data shows the tech giants spending record sums of money on lobbying efforts in Washington D.C. The Washington post reports:

Facebook, for example, spent almost $81 million in the nation’s capital between 2010 and 2019, according to new lobbying records as well as historical data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. That includes nearly $17 million last year, its highest amount ever, as it sought to assuage federal regulators who were furious at Facebook’s failures to protect users’ data, crack down on dangerous content and stop the spread of viral misinformation ahead of the 2020 presidential election. The company declined comment for this story.

Apple, Google, Microsoft, Twitter and Uber, which were included in the analysis, also declined comment.

Amazon said it is “focused on ensuring we are advocating on issues that are important to our customers, our employees and policymakers,” according to spokeswoman Jill Kerr. It also spent roughly $17 million on lobbying last year, setting a new record for the e-commerce giant.[2]

Full article here.

23 January 2020 - Trump weakened environmental laws after BP lobbying

US: The Guardian reports:

BP has successfully lobbied US policymakers to weaken a landmark environmental law, clearing the way for major infrastructure projects to bypass checks.

US government documents show BP America lobbied in favour of Donald Trump’s decision to dilute legislation, which could make it easier for new projects, such as oil pipelines and power plants, to move forward with far less federal review of their impact on the environment.

Many green groups fear the changes to the 50-year-old National Environmental Policy Act (Nepa) will increase greenhouse gas emissions and accelerate the climate crisis.

The changes, unveiled by Trump this month, would narrow the list of projects that require an environmental impact assessment and in some cases eliminate the need for federal agencies to consider the cumulative effects of projects, including the impact on the climate crisis.[3]

Full article here.

13 February 2020 - Mapped: Boris Johnson's Cabinet and the Tufton Street Lobbying Network

UK: DeSmog UK have mapped out in detail the links between Boris Johnson's Cabinet and the Tufton Street Lobbying Network. Tufton Street is a road in Westminster, London, that is known as a centre for Brexit-related eurosceptic and right-wing aligned think-tanks. These groups are primarily based in 55, but also in 57, Tufton Street.[4]

The full study by DeSmog Uk can be viewed here.

25 February 2020 - Watchdog ‘disappointed’ with review of State’s lobbying Act

Ireland: The Irish Times reports:

Ireland’s lobbying watchdog has criticised the Government for failing to give it extra powers to police the “revolving door” between the private and public sectors.

Sherry Perrault, who is in charge of ethics and lobbying at the Standards in Public Office commission (Sipo), said it was “disappointed none of its recommendations were adopted” during a review of the State’s lobbying Act.

She told The Irish Times that despite its requests the law be strengthened, “the commission doesn’t have all the tools it could have to ensure the effective operation of the legislation”.

Sipo made a total of 22 separate recommendations during the review of the lobbying laws, and asked for stronger legislative powers. Among these were concerns about how tightly existing obligations were being adhered to, and its own lack of powers to investigate or sanction some transgressions.

However, the Government’s review, published on Tuesday, limited its proposals for reform to “more education and guidance”. The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, which ran the review, found there was no convincing case for updating lobbying laws introduced in 2014.[5]

Full article here.

The Second Statutory Review of the Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015 can be viewed here.

25 February 2020 - Richard Grenell once touted his foreign clients. Now he's the top US intelligence official

US: CNN reports on Richard Grenell‘s consultancy work for foreign governments before joining the Trump administraion:

Years before becoming the nation's top intelligence official, Richard Grenell touted his consulting work for clients in Iran, China and other countries, which included projects that could violate foreign lobbying laws or jeopardize his security clearance.

Last week, President Donald Trump appointed Grenell as the acting director of national intelligence, elevating him to an influential position that oversees all US intelligence agencies, even though he has no experience working in the intelligence community.

An archived version of Grenell's personal website says, "Grenell has worked with clients based in the U.S. as well as Iran, Kazakhstan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, China, Australia, Timor-Leste, and throughout Europe." The site was apparently taken down in 2018.

Two years before Grenell joined the Trump administration in 2018 to become the US ambassador to Germany, his company earned more than $100,000 from a foundation tied to the far-right Hungarian government, according to federal tax records. And Grenell also once published a series of columns favorable toward a Moldovan oligarch who is now a blacklisted fugitive facing allegations of massive corruption.[6]

Full article here.

26 February 2020 - Top Senate Democrat asks Justice Department to investigate Richard Grenell's consulting work

US: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer contacted the assistant attorney general for national security, John Demers, asking his office to "immediately investigate" reports of Grenell's work in support of the Hungarian government and a Moldovan politician. Failure to disclose previous work as a foreign agent is a potential violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which requires those who lobby in the U.S. on behalf of foreign entities to disclose their efforts. According to CBS a search of FARA filings shows Grenell did not register.[7]

3 March 2020 - Exclusive: Tory MP Paul Bristow Quits Private Lobbying Firm And Hands Directorship To...His Own Wife

UK: Conservative MP Paul Bristow has been accused by transparency campaigners of a conflict of interest over his decision to hand his PR business over to his wife. Bristow set up PB Consulting in 2010 with the company specialising in helping private tech and healthcare companies influence law-makers. PB Consulting is currently engaged in lobbying three separate all party parliamentary groups (APPGs) of MPs, which are exploring issues around obesity, women’s health and vascular disease. Bristow was elected in December 2019 and decided to transfer the company to his wife Sara Petela on January 9 2020.

Tamasin Cave, of the transparency campaign group Spinwatch said: “Paul Bristow says he’s ditched his interest in his lobbying firm but [could] still benefit through his wife’s involvement, which seems like a sleight of hand. His case highlights the problem in this country: there is no public scrutiny of who is influencing whom and about what.”[8]

6 March 2020 - ExxonMobil 'tried to get European Green Deal watered down'

EU: The Guardian reports:

The US oil firm ExxonMobil met key European commission officials in an attempt to water down the European Green Deal in the weeks before it was agreed, according to a climate lobbying watchdog.

Documents unearthed by InfluenceMap revealed that Exxon lobbyists met Brussels officials in November to urge the EU to extend its carbon-pricing scheme to “stationary” sources, such as power plants, to include tailpipe emissions from vehicles using petrol or diesel.

Green groups believe this would be the least effective way to disincentive fossil fuel vehicles, and would rather allow countries to set their own emissions standards and targets for road emissions. Sign up to the Green Light email to get the planet's most important stories Read more

The move appears to be an attempt to stall the rollout of electric vehicles by keeping a lid on the cost of driving a traditional combustion engine vehicle running on fossil fuels. The European commission stopped short of proposals to phase out combustion engine vehicles and has plans to consult on whether to include vehicles in its carbon-pricing scheme.

Edward Collins, a director at InfluenceMap, said the document “represents yet another evidence piece” of ExxonMobil’s long-term strategy of delaying climate action by focusing on “long-term technical solutions” to try to avert “decisive regulatory action” that is urgently required to tackle the climate crisis.

A Guardian investigation last year found that Exxon has spent €37.2m (£32.4m) lobbying the EU since 2010, more than any other major oil company, according to the EU’s transparency register. It revealed that Shell spent €36.5m and BP spent €18.1m lobbying Brussels officials to shape EU climate policy.[9]

Full article here.

2 April 2020 - Tracking Corporate Climate Lobbying in Response to the COVID-19 Crisis

Global: The Ecologist reports:

InfluenceMap, which tracks and measures corporate influence over climate policy, focused on recent corporate lobbying for both financial interventions and relating to climate or energy regulations.

“The oil and gas sector appears to be the most active globally in the above two lobbying areas, demanding both financial support and deregulation in response to the COVID-19 crisis,” the report states.

In the U.S., the top oil and gas producer in the world, this activity has been particularly pronounced. While the oil and gas sector is struggling amid plummeting prices and demand, the struggle is due to factors far beyond the pandemic, and mostly of the industry’s own making.

Many shale companies had amassed large debts that allowed them to rapidly spend and expand production, for example. And the oil and gas giant ExxonMobil’s stock hit a 10-year low in late January, and a 15-year low by March 5, before the pandemic reached a crisis point in the U.S.

Nevertheless, the Trump administration and Republican lawmakers have looked to use the COVID-19 crisis as an excuse to shore up the petroleum producers.[10]

The full InfluenceMap briefing can be downloaded here.

7 April 2020 - Coronavirus pandemic breeds Washington lobbying boom

US: The Associated Press reports on the dramatic rise of the lobbying industry during the COVID-19 crisis:

An Associated Press analysis of federal lobbying filings shows the number of companies and organizations hiring lobbyists shot up dramatically across the months of February, March and early April. Of the more than 700 registrations filed since the beginning of the year, at least 70 specifically mention the new virus, COVID-19 or a global health crisis. Dozens of other lobbyists and firms who were previously retained list the virus or the stimulus legislation in recent quarterly lobbying reports.

And there has also been a stark increase in medical groups, drug makers and others connected to the medical industry who have hired lobbyists, even if the virus was not specifically given as a reason in the disclosures.

The surge in lobbying provided another potent example of the power and sway Washington’s permanent influence industry can hold during times of crisis.[11]

Full article here.

27 May 2020 - Former Tory donor's housing project 'unlawfully approved to avoid £40m hit'

UK: Robert Jenrick has accepted that his approval of one-time Conservative supporting billionaire Richard Desmond’s project at the Isle of Dogs was unlawful. Two weeks after Jenrick's intervention in the planning decision (in January 2020 Jenrick overruled the local council and the government’s planning inspectorate to approve the 1,500-apartment, 44-storey complex for Desmond), Desmond donated £12,000 to the Conservative Party.

The Guardian reports:

Documents related to the consent order for the development show that the minister was aware that a council-imposed community infrastructure levy (CIL) would have been introduced on 15 January this year.

Against the advice of his own planning inspector, the minister gave the go-ahead for the construction of more than 1,500 apartments in a 44-storey complex on 14 January. Jenrick’s decision was made just 24 hours before the Tower Hamlets CIL would have cost Desmond at least £40m.

CILs were to be used to tax large property developments at £280 per square metre with the cash raised channelled back into the council area for building schools and health clinics.[12]

The full Guardian article can be viewed here.

25 June 2020 - Robert Jenrick under pressure to resign after donor-row documents released

UK: Robert Jenrick has come under pressure to resign after newly released documents indicate that he insisted a planning decision for a £1bn property development should be rushed through so a Conservative donor’s company could reduce costs by £45m.

The Guardian reports:

In one document, a civil servant in the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government wrote that the secretary of state (SoS) wanted the Westferry development in east London to be signed off the following day so that Richard Desmond’s company would avoid the community infrastructure levy (CIL).

“On timing, my understanding is that SoS is/was insistent that decision issued this week ie tomorrow – as next week the viability of the scheme is impacted by a change in the London CIL regime,” the official wrote.

Text message exchanges reveal how Desmond, the former Express titles newspaper owner and pornographer, lobbied Jenrick to expedite the development to avoid the need to pay an extra £45m to Labour-run Tower Hamlets council, the poorest borough in London, saying: “We don’t want to give Marxists loads of doe [sic] for nothing!”

Jenrick subsequently overturned a decision by the council and the government’s planning inspectorate in order to approve a 1,500-apartment, 44-storey development at Westferry Printworks, a former printing plant in east London.[13]

The full Guardian article can be veiwed here

25 August 2020 - Facebook accused of poaching UK officials to influence policy

'UK:' Since the start of 2019 the social media giant Facebook has recruited 10 former Whitehall policymakers with knowledge of the regulatory process. The systematic hiring of former UK government officials comes as Facebook has faced increased pressure on a number of issues, from the amount of tax the company pays in the countries it operates to the platform being used to spread hate and misinformation.

Conservative Damian Collins, the former chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, told the Times: 'Facebook is clearly hiring people who have both direct personal knowledge of the latest thinking on how this could be developed, and extensive networks amongst the officials who will be advising ministers on these issues.

'They are doing this to try and change the direction of policy before it is even launched.'[14]

25 August 2020 - Government lobbying transparency tool revamped and updated

'UK:' Transparency International UK has launched a revamped version of its free-to-use Open Access tool, which makes it easier for the public to find out which ministers have been meeting lobbyists, when and for what purpose.

The update includes the latest data published by UK Government departments covering January to March 2020. The Government was more than a month late in publishing this data.[15]

The Open Access tool can be found here.

13 September 2020 - Revealed: ex-MPs use parliament access passes over 2,500 times in a year

UK: The Guardian reports on the scale of grace and favour access enjoyed by 324 former MPs:

A “strategic counsel” for the lobbying firm Crosby Textor is among 324 former MPs who together used grace and favour passes to access the Houses of Parliament more than 2,500 times in a single year.

Data released after a significant freedom of information victory by the Guardian reveals how frequently individual former MPs have been using their “category X” parliamentary pass, which grants the bearer continued access to the corridors of power after they step down, along with parliament’s subsidised restaurants and bars.

MPs who serve a single parliamentary term are automatically eligible to apply for a pass, but critics argue the system is open to abuse.

Commons authorities attempted to prevent the information being released, claiming it would infringe former members’ personal data rights. However, the information commissioner ruled in the Guardian’s favour, determining that the public interest in the material was of such strength that it should override data protection safeguards.

The data revealed that Stewart Jackson, the Conservative MP for Peterborough from 2005 to 2017, used his grace and favour pass 82 times in the year from July 2018 to June 2019 – almost one in every two days on which parliament sat in that period.

According to his LinkedIn profile, he has worked as a lobbyist since August 2018, first for Crosby Textor as a “strategic counsel” and latterly for his own outfit, Political Insight, as well as being a columnist for The Telegraph. Jackson did not respond to attempts to contact him.[16]

Full article here.

17 September 2020 - Tory MP breached Commons rules by lobbying for company which paid him £10k

UK:' Conservative MP David Morris has been found to have broken the paid advocacy rule when he asked a question in the Commons after accepting a £10,000 donation. Morris accepted a donation of £10,000 from Aquind Ltd, which was declared on his register of interests. Mr Morris's question sought for Ofgem - the energy watchdog - to "protect" companies such as Aquind Ltd through new regulations. The following day, Mr Morris also emailed a copy of his question and the minister's reply to the Secretary of State for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy. The commissioner found that the question and the email breached the rules on MPs conduct.[17]

8 October 2020 - Former Tory minister criticised for new job at firm she lobbied for

UK: The Guardian reports:

Former Tory shipping minister Nusrat Ghani is facing criticism for taking up a £60,000 role at a firm leading a maritime consortium which successfully bid for a £33m grant she had lobbied a fellow minister for while she was serving in government.

The Belfast Maritime Consortium, led by Artemis Technologies, won the multi-million pound UK government innovation grant in May to develop zero-emission ferries in Belfast, pledging to “revolutionise the future of maritime transport”.

Now the Guardian can reveal that while serving as a transport minister in September 2019, Ghani wrote a letter to then business minister, Chris Skidmore, in support of the consortium’s bid for the funding. Ghani also visited Artemis Technologies’ facility in January 2019 and met its CEO, double Olympic champion sailor Iain Percy.

The £33m comes via the UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) Strength in Places Fund, aimed at boosting local economic growth. UKRI is an executive non-departmental public body, sponsored by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

Ghani will serve as non-executive chairman of the Belfast Consortium Supervisory Board at Artemis Technologies Ltd for a year from 4 September 2020, receiving £60,000 for seven hours of work per month, according to the latest register of MPs’ financial interests. The board is responsible for the oversight of the newly established 13-partner consortium led by Artemis. It means she will earn the equivalent of more than £700 an hour for the job, on top of her MP’s salary of nearly £82,000.

Labour’s shadow maritime minister, Mike Kane, said: “This again shows the revolving door between ex-ministers and private firms. This can’t be right. The maritime industry like so many others is desperate for government action to protect jobs and livelihoods in the face of wholesale redundancies. The timing of this just won’t sit well for ordinary people when as recently as last week over 100 jobs at P&O alone were lost.”[18]

The full article can be viewed here

8 October 2020 - Ex-Trump fundraiser charged with foreign lobbying

US: A former fundraiser for Donald Trump and the Republican Party has been charged over his alleged part in a scheme aimed at influencing the US government on behalf of foreign actors. Elliot Broidy allegedly lobbied the Trump administraion in an effort to halt ongoing investigations into an embezzlement scandal at the 1MDB investment fund. The fund is state-run in Malaysia.

The Independent reports:

Mr Broidy is accused of accepting $6m from a Malaysian fugitive at the head of the scheme, Jho Low, to undermine the US Justice Department's investigation into the embezzlement scheme.

The former right wing donor was then promised an addition $75m if his lobbying attempt was successful. He has been charged with conspiring to lobby for a foreign national without registering.

In addition to Mr Broidy, his business associate, Nickie Mali Lum Davis, and a former Justice Department official, George Higginbotham, were involved in the scheme. Those two individuals have already pleaded guilty to their involvement. Ms Lum Davis not only lobbied against the 1MDB investigation, she also lobbied for the country to release the wealthy Chinese exile Guo Wengui to China.

Mr Guo recently burst into Americans' consciousnesses when Steve Bannon, a formerly invaluable part of Mr Trump's campaign team, was arrested on his yacht in connection with fraudulently fundraising to build the president's promised border wall.

Mr Broidy's connection to the Republican Party and to Mr Trump is not solely tied to his donations; from 2017 to early 2018, he worked as the deputy finance chairman for the Republican National Committee.[19]

The full article can be viewed here.

20 October 2020 - Elliott Broidy Pleads Guilty in Foreign Lobbying Case

US: Elliot Broidy pleads guilty to conspiring to violate foreign lobbying laws as part of a covert campaign to influence the administration on behalf of Chinese and Malaysian interests.

The New York Times reported:

Mr. Broidy, 63, agreed to forfeit $6.6 million to the federal government and to cooperate with prosecutors on a range of potential investigations related to his fellow conspirators and others.

The charge is a felony that could carry a prison sentence of up to five years, but his cooperation is likely to result in a lesser sentence. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for Feb. 12.

Mr. Broidy’s guilty plea relates to his arrangement with the fugitive Malaysian financier Jho Low, who was not identified by name in court filings or during the hearing on Tuesday.

Mr. Broidy admitted that he had accepted $9 million from Mr. Low, some of which was then paid to an associate, to push the Trump administration for the extradition of a Chinese dissident and to drop a case related to an embezzlement scheme from a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund that the United States has accused Mr. Low of engineering.

He also admitted to meeting with a Chinese government official who was seeking the extradition of the dissident, who was not identified in court, but who is known to be the billionaire Guo Wengui, an outspoken critic of China who has been charged by its government with corruption and is seeking asylum in the United States.

Mr. Broidy did not disclose the foreign lobbying work with the Justice Department under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, but he knew that he should have, he told Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in a virtual hearing.[20]

The full New York Times article can be viewed here.

2021

14 January 2021 - Revealed: business secretary accepted donations from fossil fuel investors

UK: The Guardian reports:

The UK’s new business secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, accepted substantial donations from fossil fuel investors and advisers as part of his 2019 general election campaign, despite the government’s commitment to net zero greenhouse gas emissions.

Kwarteng was energy minister until earlier this month, when he was promoted to secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy. He replaced Alok Sharma, who has now taken full-time responsibility for the UK’s hosting of this year’s UN climate talks, Cop26.

In the 2019 election campaign, Kwarteng received £16,000 from companies and individuals with a direct interest in fossil fuels, and a further £4,500 from companies that advise on or facilitate trading in fossil fuels.

The donations, according to the MPs’ register of interests, included £7,500 from IPGL, a holding company with a 40% stake in Cluff Energy Africa, a London-based company that prospects for oil in west Africa. IPGL is owned by the former Conservative party treasurer Michael Spencer, and donated £48,000 to Conservative MPs, of whom Kwarteng received the highest single amount.

He also received £4,000 from Majid Jafar, chief executive of Crescent Petroleum, a privately held company with oil and gas operations in the Middle East, and a board member of Dana Gas. A further £4,500 came from Helios Investment Partners, whose portfolio includes Eland Oil and Gas, Impact Oil and Gas, Vivo Energy and Africa Oil Corp.

In addition to these donations, Kwarteng accepted £2,500 from Capital Generation Partners, which advises on investments including fossil fuels, and £2,000 from CQS, an asset management firm that facilitates trades in fossil fuel interests among other commodities.

Labour has called on Kwarteng to give back the donations. Alan Whitehead, the shadow energy and green new deal minister, said: “Ministers should not accept money from donors where there is a clear conflict of interest, and I hope he will pay it back. Our democracy should never be up for sale to Tory donors.”[21]

The full article can be viewed here

18 January 2021 - Former SNP MSP's lobbying firm blasted for appointing sitting Tory peer as consultant

Scotland: Lobbying firm Charlotte Street Partners decision to appoint sitting peer Ian Duncan as a consulting partner has been criticised by the Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA). The PCRA argues that a lawmaker should not also be a lobbyist, and that the decision brings the House of Lords into disrepute. The Herald reports:

Liam Herbert MPRCA, PRCA Public Affairs Committee Chairman said: “It is simply wrong for lobbying firms to employ members of the House of Lords, and unthinkable that the Deputy Speaker of the Lords himself would think it appropriate to accept such a job.

“The PRCA Public Affairs Code is crystal clear - you cannot be a legislator and a lobbyist. You have to pick one or the other”.

Francis Ingham MPRCA, PRCA Director General added: “While I am aware that Charlotte Street Partners has chosen not to be covered by any Code of Conduct, I would nonetheless urge them to do the ethical thing, and to rethink this incredibly unwise appointment, which brings the House of Lords into disrepute.”

Charlotte Street Partners, which appears on the Government’s statutory Lobbying Register, was set up by economist and former SNP MSP Andrew Wilson, and Malcolm Robertson, son of Labour peer George Robertson.

It does not declare an adherence to the PRCA code of conduct.

The appointment of Lord Duncan comes after Ruth Davidson, current Scottish Conservatives Holyrood group leader, was forced to turn down a job at PR firm Tulchan Communications due to the public backlash about the appointment.[22]

The full article can be viewed here.

20 January 2021 - Trump revokes rule barring lobbying by former officials as he leaves office

US: In one of his last actions as US President, Donald Trump revoked a rule that he had introduced during his first week in office. The order, "Ethics Commitments by Executive Branch Appointees" imposed a five-year lobbying ban for adminsitration officials and a lifetime ban on lobbying for foreign governments and was part of Trump's campiagn promise to "drain the swamp". With Trump now scrapping the order it seems that he and his advisors are now free to begin lobbying once they leave government.[23]

20 January 2021 - Trump pardons former GOP fundraiser Elliott Broidy

US: Newsweek reports:

Former Donald Trump and Republican Party fundraiser Elliott Broidy has been pardoned in one of the outgoing president's final uses of his clemency powers. Pardons to 73 individuals were detailed overnight.

Among them was Broidy, who had pleaded guilty to charges that he illegally lobbied the U.S. government in attempt to have it drop an investigation into embezzlement in Malaysia.

He pleaded guilty to a felony charge of having conspired to violate the Foreign Agents Registration Act. This requires people who lobby the U.S. government on behalf of foreign entities to register with the Justice Department. Broidy admitted to not doing this, Reuters reported. Prosecutors alleged he received millions of dollars to try to end the investigation. He would have faced a maximum prison sentence of five years.[24]

The full Newsweek article can be viewed here.

21 January 2021 - Biden signs executive order invoking 2-year lobbying ban for appointees

US: President Biden signed an executive order requiring all political appointees to sign an ethics pledge. The pledge includes a ban on certain lobbying for two years after a person leaves the administration. In an attempt to stamp down on the so-called revolving door, appointees leaving government are banned for 2 years from lobbying any covered executive branch offical or lobby for any foreign government. The order also states that as a condition of employment, officials must commit themselves to not accept gifts from registered lobbyists.[25]

24 January 2021 - Facebook and Amazon were the top spenders in lobbying efforts in 2020

US: Facebook and Amazon were the biggest spenders on US lobbying in 2020, outspending companies such as AT&T and Boeing, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis. Facebook spent around $20 million in 2020, up 18% on the previous year, while Amazon spent around £18 million, up 11% from 2019.[26]

Read more about the Wall Street Journal analysis here (paywall).

19 March 2021 - Cameron lobbied UK government on behalf of Greensill Capital

UK: Former prime minister David Cameron stands accused of lobbying senior government officials on behalf of Greensill Capital. Cameron, an advisor and shareholder in Greensill, is reported to have approached former colleagues in the UK government in order to secure Greensill, a supply chain finance firm, access to 100% government-backed loads through the Covid corporate financing facility (CCFF). When Treasury officials rejected Greensill's request for access to CCFF loans, Cameron intervened, approaching both the Treasury and 10 Downing Street via his personal email and phone calls. Labour is now calling for an investigation into Cameron and Greensill’s alleged lobbying efforts.[27]

The Sunday Times reported that Cameron sent multiple texts to Rishi Sunak's private phone in April 2020, in hopes of gaining access to cheap, 100% government-backed loans through the Covid corporate financing facility (CCFF).[28]

30 March 2021 - Business card puts Greensill founder at the heart of Downing Street

UK: Labour continues to push for a full investigation into David Cameron's role in lobbying on behalf of doomed finance firm Greensill Capital. The latest revelation to come to light is the existence of a business card which appears to confirm that Lex Greensill, founder of Greensill, held a previous role at the heart of Downing Street. The business card described Lex Greensill as 'Senior Adviser, Prime Minister’s Office' and is thought to date from a period prior to 2014.[29]

12 April 2021 - Greensill: No 10 orders investigation into David Cameron’s lobbying of ministers

UK: The Independent reports:

Boris Johnson has ordered an independent investigation into David Cameron’s controversial lobbying of ministers for the collapsed financier Lex Greensill.

A leading lawyer will probe “how business representatives engaged with government” in discussions over supply chain finance and how contracts were awarded, No 10 said.

The move comes amid a storm of criticism of the former prime minister after he directly lobbied Rishi Sunak, including by text, to give Greensill a role in the government’s Covid-19 loan scheme.

At the weekend it emerged he had also organised a “private drink” with the health secretary Matt Hancock, with at least four ministers contacted.

Downing Street said Mr Johnson had launched the independent review because he recognised the “significant interest” in the controversy.[30]

Full article here.

It is understood that the inquiry will have licence to recommend changes to lobbying regulations.

The Guardian added:

Campaigners including Transparency International have said the saga “highlights deep flaws in the UK’s approach” and that an inquiry should cover the lack of transparency in lobbying, enforcing the ministerial code and the revolving door between government and the private sector.

The group said ministerial meetings that are meant to be reported are often left unpublished and unpoliced and have called for a change in the direction of the US, Canada, Ireland and Scotland, where attempts to influence ministers must be reported by lobbyists themselves.

The independent review will be led by Nigel Boardman, a corporate lawyer with experience of government inquiries and a non-executive board member of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).[31]

Full article here.

12 April 2021 - David Cameron breaks silence on Greensill lobbying row

UK: David Cameron issues a statement to the media regarding the row over his involvement in the Greensill lobbying scandal. In his statement Cameron says he should have acted differently and used only “the most formal channels”. The full text of Cameron's statement can be viewed here.

21 April 2021 - Boris Johnson told Sir James Dyson by text he would 'fix' tax issue

UK: From the BBC:

Boris Johnson assured Sir James Dyson his employees would not have to pay extra tax if they came to the UK to make ventilators during the pandemic.

Sir James, whose firm is now based in Singapore, wrote to the Treasury to ask for no change in tax status for staff.

But in text messages sent in March 2020 - seen by the BBC - Sir James then went directly to the PM, with Mr Johnson replying: "I will fix it."

The government said it did everything it could to get the right equipment.

And Sir James said it was "absurd to suggest that the urgent correspondence was anything other than seeking compliance with rules" and that his company did not receive "any benefit from the project".

Labour called the revelations "jaw-dropping", with shadow business minister Lucy Powell telling the BBC: "Frankly it stinks that a billionaire businessman can text the prime minister and get an immediate response and, apparently, an immediate change in policy."[32]

Full article here.

11 May 2021 - Greensill: the scale of David Cameron’s lobbying texts revealed

UK: David Cameron and his personal employees bombarded senior ministers and officials with at least 50 emails, texts and WhatsApp messages about Greensill between 5 March and 26 June 2020.[33]

15 May 2021 - Covid contracts: Priti Patel accused of lobbying for face mask firm

UK: Labour has accused the Home Secretary Priti Patel of a “flagrant breach” of the ministerial code by allegedly lobbying Michael Gove over a £20m deal. n a letter signed by the deputy Labour leader, Angela Rayner, and shadow home secretary, Nick Thomas-Symonds, the party urged the cabinet secretary Simon Case to investigate the home secretary over alleged efforts to sway the award of a contract.[34]

In May 2020, Ms Patel wrote a letter to Mr Gove, the Cabinet Office minister, about a company called Pharmaceuticals Direct Ltd that was in talks with the government about an order for face masks.

She said the government's "late stage" decision not to use the company had caused problems for the firm.

"I would be most grateful if you could review this matter urgently," she wrote in the letter to Mr Gove.

The contact at Pharmaceuticals Direct Ltd was a man called Samir Jassal, a Conservative activist who Ms Patel knew. According to his LinkedIn, he worked as an adviser to Ms Patel between 2014 and 2015 and on social media describes her as a "good friend".

Health Secretary Matt Hancock wrote back to Ms Patel to say the masks being offered by the firm were "not suitable for use in the NHS".

But the company was later awarded a contract in July 2020, worth just under £103m, to supply a different type of mask.[35]

Full article here.

9 June 2021 - European airlines have been lobbying against EU climate plans

EU: The New Scientist reports on European airlines efforts to counter EU climate policies:

Several European airlines have been engaged in wide-ranging lobbying to challenge European Union climate policies, including imminent plans to force them to use more green biofuels, a UK-based think tank has found.

InfluenceMap, a think tank that monitors corporate lobbying around climate change, used freedom of information requests and research to draw up its new report. It reveals that while the 10 European airlines looked at for this report have received around €30 billion in government bailouts during the pandemic – some of which came with conditions attached to encourage climate-friendly actions – most have simultaneously lobbied to delay new proposals to cut aviation emissions.

Air France-KLM, IAG (the parent company of British Airways), Lufthansa and Ryanair – Europe’s four biggest airlines by carbon dioxide emissions – were found in the report to be the most regressive with their stance towards climate policies. InfluenceMap rated their position roughly on a par with the airline trade bodies IATA and Airlines for Europe (A4E). The airline Easyjet was seen as taking a slightly more progressive stance.[36]

The InfluenceMap report 'The Aviation Industry and European Climate Policy' can be found here.

9 June 2021 - The Price of Zero - A Look at $450 Million in Political Spending by 55 corporations that Paid Zero Federal Corporate Income Tax

US: A new report by Public Citizen details lobbying expenditures of 55 corporations that paid no federal corporate income tax in 2020, according to an analysis from the liberal Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.[37]

The key findings from the report were:

  • The 55 corporations that paid no federal corporate income tax in 2020 spent nearly $450 million on lobbying and campaign contributions over the last three election cycles. This total includes $408 million in lobbying and $42 million in campaign contributions.
  • FedEx spent the most of any company ($71 million) followed by Charter Communications ($64 million), American Electric Power ($42 million), Duke Energy ($37 million) and Textron ($22 million).
  • On average each year, these companies together have sent 526 lobbyists to influence the federal government.
  • The companies contributed $4 million to the four national party committees and another $650,000 to the Senate Leadership Fund, a Republican super PAC.
  • Of the top 25 recipients of money from the corporations that paid zero in taxes in Congress, 20 are Republicans. Each of these recipients voted for the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, which lowered the corporate tax rate.
  • Many of the companies also received huge rebates from the federal government in 2020. Four of the top 10 political spenders in 2020 could use their leftover rebate money to cover political spending costs for at least the next half century.[38]

The full report can be viewed here.

14 June 2021 - Increase lobbying ban for ex-ministers, urges watchdog

UK: A report by the Committee on Standards in Public Life has said the current two-year ban on lobbying by former ministers and top officials "may be too short in some cases". Publishing its interim findings it said government departments should be able to issue longer lobbying bans "where they deem it appropriate" - although it should "not become the default".

The recommendations come in the wake of the Greensill Capital lobbying row where former Prime Minister David Cameron lobbied the government on behalf of the now-collapsed finance firm just two years after leaving office.[39]

Notes

  1. Alex Gangitano, 'Rod Rosenstein joins law and lobbying firm', The Hill, 8 January 2020.
  2. 'Tech giants led by Amazon, Facebook and Google spent nearly half a billion on lobbying over the last decade, new data show', Washington post, 22 January 2020.
  3. Jillian Ambrose,'Trump weakened environmental laws after BP lobbying', The Guardian, 23 January 2020.
  4. Adam Ramsay and Peter Geoghegan, 'Revealed: how the UK’s powerful right-wing think tanks and Conservative MPs work together', Open Democracy, 31 July 2018.
  5. Jack Horgan-Jones, 'Watchdog ‘disappointed’ with review of State’s lobbying Act', The Irish Times, 25 February 2020.
  6. Marshall Cohen, 'Richard Grenell once touted his foreign clients. Now he's the top US intelligence official', CNN, 25 February 2020.
  7. Nancy Cordes, 'Top Senate Democrat asks Justice Department to investigate Richard Grenell's consulting work', CBS, 26 February 2020.
  8. Rachel Wearmouth, 'Exclusive: Tory MP Paul Bristow Quits Private Lobbying Firm And Hands Directorship To...His Own Wife', Huffington post, 3 March 2020.
  9. Jillian Ambrose, ExxonMobil 'tried to get European Green Deal watered down', The Guardian, 6 March 2020.
  10. Dana Drugmand, Fossil fuel interests unleash lobbying frenzy, The Ecologist, 16 April 2020.
  11. Richard Lardner and Brian Slodysko, Coronavirus pandemic breeds Washington lobbying boom, Associated Press, 7 April 2020.
  12. Henry McDonald, Former Tory donor's housing project 'unlawfully approved to avoid £40m hit', The Guardian, 27 May 2020.
  13. Rajeev Syal and Heather Stewart, Robert Jenrick under pressure to resign after donor-row documents released, The Guardian, 25 June 2020.
  14. Eleni Courea and George Greenwood, Facebook accused of poaching UK officials to influence policy, The Times, 25 August 2020.
  15. Government lobbying transparency tool revamped and updated, Ekklesia, 25 August 2020.
  16. David Pegg and Pamela Duncan, Revealed: ex-MPs use parliament access passes over 2,500 times in a year, The Guardian, 13 September 2020.
  17. Tory MP David Morris told to apologise for breaching donation rules, BBC, 17 September 2020.
  18. Simon Murphy, Former Tory minister criticised for new job at firm she lobbied for, The Guardian, 8 October 2020.
  19. Graig Graziosi, Ex-Trump fundraiser charged with foreign lobbying, The Independent, 8 October 2020.
  20. Kenneth P. Vogel, Elliott Broidy Pleads Guilty in Foreign Lobbying Case, New York Times, 20 October 2020.
  21. Fiona Harvey, Revealed: business secretary accepted donations from fossil fuel investors, The Guardian, 14 January 2021.
  22. Hannah Rodger, Former SNP MSP's lobbying firm blasted for appointing sitting Tory peer as consultant, The Herald, 18 January 2021
  23. Veronica Stracqualursi and Kevin Liptak, Trump revokes rule barring lobbying by former officials as he leaves office, CNN, 20 January 2021.
  24. Jacob Jarvis, Who Is Elliott Broidy? Donald Trump Pardons GOP Fundraiser, Newsweek, 20 January 2021.
  25. Alex Gangitano, Biden signs executive order invoking 2-year lobbying ban for appointees, 21 January 2021.
  26. Fatma Khaled, Facebook and Amazon were the top spenders in lobbying efforts in 2020, Business Insider, 24 January 2021.
  27. Kalyeena Makortoff, Cameron lobbied UK government on behalf of Greensill Capital – report, The Guardian, 19 March 2021.
  28. Kalyeena Makortoff, David Cameron texted Rishi Sunak to get Covid loans for Greensill, says report, The Guardian, 21 March 2021.
  29. Heather Stewart and Kalyeena Makortoff, Business card puts Greensill founder at the heart of Downing Street, The Guardian, 30 March 2021.
  30. Rob Merrick & Kate Devlin, Greensill: No 10 orders investigation into David Cameron’s lobbying of ministers, The Independent, 12 April 2021.
  31. Jessica Elgot, David Cameron faces unprecedented formal inquiry into Greensill scandal, The Guardian, 12 April 2021.
  32. Boris Johnson told Sir James Dyson by text he would 'fix' tax issue, BBC, 21. April 2021.
  33. Rupert Neate, Greensill: the scale of David Cameron’s lobbying texts revealed, The Guardian, 11 May 2021.
  34. Nicola Slawson and agency, Priti Patel accused of lobbying for ‘get-rich-quick’ £20m PPE deal, The Guardian, 15 May 2021.
  35. Francesca GillettCovid contracts: Priti Patel accused of lobbying for face mask firm, BBC, 18 May 2021.
  36. Adam Vaughan, European airlines have been lobbying against EU climate plans, New Scientist, 9 June 2021.
  37. Caitlin Oprysko, How much companies that paid no corporate income tax spent on lobbying, Politico, 9 June 2021.
  38. Mike Tanglis, Taylor Lincoln and Susan Harley (ed), The Price of Zero, Public Citizen, June 2021.
  39. Increase lobbying ban for ex-ministers, urges watchdog, BBC, 14 June 2021