Thought of the Week:
Aides to Sens. Grassley (R-IA) and Schumer (D-NY) Land Downtown on K St; Lobbying Firm Adds Former Staffer to Rep. Scalise (R-LA); Former Aide to Rep. Hoyer (D-MD) Becomes Law Firm Partner…all headlines over just the last two days. As the 2024 presidential election approaches, Washington’s revolving door is in full swing. The term “revolving door” refers to the flow of high-level employees from public-sector jobs to private-sector jobs and vice versa. The idea being that there is a revolving door between the two sectors as many legislators, congressional staffers, and regulators become lobbyists and consultants for the industries they once oversaw and regulated and private industry executives, lobbyists, and consultants receive government appointments that relate to their former private positions. Although it may be inevitable that jobseekers flow back-and-forth between the public and private sectors, the growing size of government has shined a spotlight on the revolving door practice. Consider that between 1998 and 2022, the amount of cash spent on lobbying in the United States has more than doubled to $4.1 billion annually, as corporations and special interest groups leverage their cash to gain access to key government figures and shape important decisions. The argument for having a revolving door is that having specialists within private industry and/or lobby groups and in running public departments ensures a higher quality of information when making legislative and regulatory decisions. The argument against, of course, runs the gamut from conflicts of interest to crony capitalism to “regulatory capture,” a phenomenon where a regulatory body tasked with protecting the public interest ultimately becomes “captured” to serve the interests of the regulated industry. Regardless of which side you come down on, the revolving door is an undeniable feature of Washington business circles. Knowing when/where officials from the executive branch, Congress, and senior congressional staff ranks land can provide companies advantages when competing for government contracts and funding from such legislation as the Inflation Reduction Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. To discover which public relations, lobby, and law firms have signed up former White House and congressional employees and which lobbyists have brought their interests with them to the halls of Congress and executive branch regulatory bodies, Open Secrets has developed a Revolving Door web page. The site can be accessed here: Revolving Door | OpenSecrets. In addition, as a corporate member, our office has access to the National Journal’s Network Science Initiative and Stakeholder Mapping tools. The NSI is a custom research division within National Journal specializing in stakeholder mapping. NSI identifies the people and organizations with the most influence on policy, maps the connections among them, and helps users develop winning influence strategies.
Thought Leadership from our Consultants, Think Tanks, and Trade Associations
CapstoneDC Sees Global Infrastructure as the Most Consequential Aspect of Biden’s China Policy. Few in Washington noticed Brett McGurk and Amos Hochstein’s trip to Riyadh for discussions on China, Yemen, 5G, and energy. The diplomatic mission was significant because it reflects the White House’s increasingly realpolitik approach to addressing Chinese economic aggression and advancing the energy transition. The administration’s basic theory: safeguarding the supply chains that will power the green transition requires not just securing critical minerals, but also protecting the infrastructure to access those supply chains, including hard infrastructure such as railroads and 5G network technology. In the eyes of the White House, the Saudis are critical to this effort and must be kept within the U.S. orbit amid Chinese inroads. Such a full embrace of “economic realism” will require difficult tradeoffs for Democrats, particularly on human rights. The White House is making the case that if China constitutes the threat that many Democrats agree it is, engaging with leaders such as Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) is worth the risk, especially if Saudi capital can shore up struggling economies globally and incentivize investment by Western companies on continents most vulnerable to Chinese economic influence. A pillar of 20th-century defense policy was protecting Saudi Arabia to safeguard oil access; the green transition has inverted this approach. China controls critical mineral supply chains and technologies powering the energy transition. Unless the U.S. wrestles control of African mines from China, the railroads to transport minerals from those mines, and the telecommunications infrastructure underlying green energy systems, America will simply replace dependence on foreign oil with reliance on Chinese components. The Biden team’s goal is to create an integrated, allied partnership in infrastructure, touching every aspect of the green transition. Diluting Chinese inroads in Saudi Arabia is key to President Biden’s approach, and the need for a working relationship was what forced President Biden to turn the other cheek after the Saudis twice announced production cuts in the last six months. The Biden approach on Saudi Arabia makes sense only if the Saudis provide sufficient capital for infrastructure projects and help develop a Western-based 5G network in developing countries. If China is as threatening to the U.S. as many Democrats and Republicans contend, then securing Saudi cooperation, or even neutrality, could have rippling geopolitical effects. The Saudi rapprochement affirmed President Biden’s willingness to eschew purist policies, and reflects the administration’s willingness to rethink its own positions and pursue flexible, more centrist positions that could positively impact U.S. energy and security interests for decades to come.
Eurasia Group: Supreme Court to Consider Reducing Agency Power, Even as its Own Ethics Come Under Scrutiny. The Supreme Court will hear a case (Looper Bright Enterprises v Raimondo) that could reconsider the longstanding precedent of deferring to Federal agencies’ interpretations of statutes if the interpretation is reasonable. The precedent, known as the Chevron deference, underpins much of Federal regulatory authority and has become a focus of conservative criticism in that it oversteps executive branch authority. If the court reverses its Chevron deference decision, then federal rulemaking would be seriously curtailed, and the White House’s aggressive plan for new climate rules would be at immediate risk of legal challenge—red states were likely to sue to block new rules regardless but would have a much stronger case if Chevron is reversed. The Court will likely hear Looper this fall, with a decision expected in 2024, setting the stage for a potential legal showdown very near the 2024 election. The Supreme Court will be a significant political factor in the 2024 campaign narrative, due to high profile cases overturning Roe v. Wade, blocking EPA rulemaking, and now potentially constraining future regulatory activity; the court is also under increasing scrutiny from Senate Democrats over reports that some conservative justices accepted gifts and engaged in business transactions with influential figures in the business and legal worlds.
National Journal: Contours of the Presidential Election Cycle have Never been More Clear 17 Months Before Election Day. Until recently, incumbent presidents didn’t make their intentions known until the election was less than a year away. LBJ waited until March of 1968 to tell the nation he wouldn’t run again; Nixon didn’t make his reelection official until he sent a letter in January of 1972; Ford announced 16 months ahead of the election, but had only been in office less than a year and had to prove he intended to stay; Carter and Reagan made their announcement speeches 11 months and nine months out, respectively; and George H.W. Bush filed papers to run in October of 1991, but didn’t publicly announce until early 1992. Announcement dates started trending earlier under Bill Clinton, who declared in April 1995, and George W. Bush and Barack Obama followed suit, declaring in spring of the year prior, which is exactly what President Biden did last week. On the other side of the ledger, it’s been more than 60 years since we had a former challenger on the ballot. One would have to go back to 1892 to find a former president on the ballot (1912 if you count former presidents running on a third-party ticket), which gives former President Trump and his 100% name ID a quasi-incumbent status, something that even prohibitive frontrunners like Bob Dole in 1996 and Mitt Romney in 2012 could not claim. No surprise that political-betting markets already favor a Biden-Trump II matchup. According to Oddschecker.com, you need to risk $130 on Trump getting the nomination to win $100; you’d have to risk $238 to make $100 on Biden winning his nomination.
“Off the Record”
As the Republican field grows, presidential hopefuls are honing one piece of their message: that they are the best candidate equipped to take on President Biden. Among the emerging distinctions between the candidates: Former South Carolina Governor Haley emphasizes generational differences; South Carolina Sen. Scott plays up concerns with the left’s ideology on race and bias; Florida Gov. DeSantis talks about pandemic policies; and former President Trump and former Vice President Pence prefer to call out Biden’s weakness on foreign policy and the economy.
In Other Words
“After all, I believe in the First Amendment—not just because my good friend Jimmy Madison wrote it,” President Biden joking at the White House Correspondents Association Dinner
“Real quick, Mr. President, I think you left some of your classified documents up here…I’ll put them in a safe place…He don’t know where to keep them,” Headline Comedian Roy Wood, Jr., taking the podium at the White House Correspondents Dinner right after President Biden.
Did You Know
First quarter federal lobbying spending topped $1 billion for the second year in a row. The federal budget and appropriations was the most lobbied issue as Congress dealt with the debt ceiling crisis and players in the health sector, which spent more money on federal lobbying than any other sector, fought to keep cuts to Medicaid off the bargaining table.
Graph of the Week
Rising Odds of a Short-Term Debt Limit Fix. Between now and June 1, Treasury Secretary Yellen’s potential X-date, President Biden and members of the House and Senate are scheduled to be in town at the same time for the sum total of one week. While lawmakers could cancel Memorial Day recesses and the White House could cancel a trip to Japan for the G-7 summit, time is short to strike a grand bargain or even a punt of the debt limit to later this year. In fact, there’s already a proposal on the table for a short-term extension: the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus has proposed suspending the debt ceiling through Dec. 31.