Skip to main content

tv   Washington Journal Karl Evers- Hillstrom  CSPAN  March 16, 2021 1:58am-2:33am EDT

1:58 am
on c-span3 at 10:00 a.m., a house appropriations subcommittee with the role of fema in the federal covid response. at 3:00 p.m., a house armed services hears from the independent review committee about the report on the army's criminal investigation division. on our website at 11:00 a.m., a house armed services subcommittee holds oversight on u.s. military special operations. >> wednesday morning, homeland security secretary testifies to
1:59 am
a house committee for the first time since being confirmed. he will discuss the agency's missions and operations. watch live at 9:30 a.m. or listen free on the c-span radio app. >> you are watching c-span, your unfiltered view of government. c-span was created by america's cable television companies in 1970 nine. today we are brought to you by these television companies who provide c-span to viewers as a public service. >> each monday in this hour of "washington journal," we are taking time to focus on some aspect of the pandemic. this week, we are taking time to look into the lobbying behind the massive coronavirus relief bills.
2:00 am
to do that, we are joined by carl eversole's from from the center of responsive politics. first, explain what open secrets is and what you do there. guest: we are a nonpartisan nonprofit that focuses on tracking all things money and politics. we have data for campaign contributions, packs, super pac's, dark money, personal finances as well as lobbying and foreign influence. i run our small new steam to report on some of the important aspects in the money politics world that are happening. host: that section of your work is what we are digging into today. having this conversation on the monday after the passage of the american rescue plan, a 1.9
2:01 am
trillion dollar rescue plan. when will we know the extent of the lobbying behind that bill? guest: we will not get any data on who the biggest lobbyists were and what the biggest lobbying activity was until mid april when first quarter 2021 filings are released. we do know that the american rescue plan was a smaller offshoot of democrat's heroes act they passed in may of last year. we can draw some conclusions on how much lobbying activity there was over that bill. host: they heroes act, one of the bills that has fallen into the categories of the most lobbied legislation of all time, tracked by a number of clients that paid for lobbying when it comes to bills. two of the rescue bills among the top five most lobbied
2:02 am
legislation of all time. the american recovery and reinvestment act is the most lobbied of all time. do we know anything anecdotally about who had their fingerprints on the final package of the american rescue plan? guest: there were not as many private-sector winners in the american rescue plan as we saw with the cares act. we do know some lobbying groups that benefited. i would say health insurance lobbyists and the broader for-profit health care system do call themselves winners with this bill. it expands subsidies to private health care insurance and a lot of health care lobbyists were concerned with the democratic
2:03 am
presidential primaries that democrats were going to pivot to expanding government health care programs like a public option or medicare for all, which would damage the profits of the health care sector and would be an existential threat to health insurers. i think they were happy to see that democrats went with the option of expanding on the affordable care act versus doing other measures to actually expand health insurance coverage. some other lobbying groups that were successful, restaurants were a big one. obviously, the industry has been hard-hit by the pandemic and they felt they did not get enough relief in the cares act and in previous legislation. they got a big heart out of about $29 billion in direct aid and there were a number of coalitions launched by the
2:04 am
industry to aggressively lobby congress. that was a big win because it was not initially included inviting's -- biden's first draft. that is something congress included in the final negotiation. host: covid lobbying is our topic. phone lines as usual, democrats, (202) 748-8000. republicans, (202) 748-8001. independents, (202) 748-8002. as you call income it bernie sanders earlier this month gave a peek behind the curtain about lobbying efforts behind -- on capitol hill when i came to the rescue plan and specifically during that debate over the $15 an hour federal mineral wage. this is bernie sanders from march. [video clip] >> i know here in washington, any we bring forth serious and important legislation for working people, the big money
2:05 am
interests get to work. all of their lobbyists who make their six figures a year, they get to work on congress and tell you why you can't do anything to protect the most vulnerable and hard-hit people in this country. the national restaurant association are very powerful lobbying organization. they have been enormously successful because we have not raised the minimum wage since 2007. this powerful lobbying organization is going around telling members of the house and senate that raising the tipped wage is opposed by restaurant workers and would be harmful to the interests of waiters and waitresses and other people. that is not true. that is what lobbyists say, representing big money interests. that is what they are paid to
2:06 am
say, but that is not what workers who wait on tables are telling us. host: bernie sanders from earlier this month about covid lobbying. the $15 minimum wage was eventually removed from the american rescue plan. karl evers-hillstrom, when we talk about the final package, how do you find out who eventually lobbied for it? tell us the process you go through there at open secrets? guest: all lobbying clients and firms have to file reports with congress laying out how much they spent on lobbying, what bills they were lobbying and what issues they were lobbying. they also have to disclose which lobbyists were involved in all of those activities. what we do is we download those filings that are filed with congress and we standardize them
2:07 am
in a way where we can have different profiles representing various lobbying forces. we also have a database of lobbyists that shows which lobbyists are lobbying for which clients. you can also look to see where they used to work because a lot of top lobbyists used to work in congress either as members of congress or top officials and government. it is always good to be able to see what connections they have to people in government. host: it is that reason we are able to look back on the 2020 lobbying and these massive rescue bills including the cares act, a big part of the lobbying pushover that 12 month period. some numbers from open secrets, the health care sector paid $615 million over the course of 2020 when it comes to lobbying spending. the finance insurance and real
2:08 am
estate, $539 million. business sector, $498 million. energy and natural resources, 293 million. transportation, $253 million. karl evers-hillstrom, in a usual year what would those look like? guest: for total spending? host: yeah. guest: normally we find that it is anywhere in the range of 3.2 -- 3.2 billion dollars to $3.5 billion. that range stays relatively fat -- flat. many special interests believe that there is a cap on how much you can spend on lobbying to a point where you get diminishing returns. about $3.5 billion was spent in 2020 and that was close to the record, just about at the record mark. anywhere from $3.2 billion to
2:09 am
$3.5 billion. host: if you have questions about lobbying, you can call in. phone lines are split. we will start with republicans, this is rhonda in lebanon, tennessee. caller: i just want to say quickly, i know you need to get to other calls, this release bill is the heroes act, essentially, repackaged. the most horrific thing is about 10% of the money in this bill goes to corona relief. among other things, it gives -- guaranteed money to illegals. the most horrific thing to me is that it absolutely gets -- guts our election laws and out laws voter id.
2:10 am
most people have not read this. i think even election officials whose job it is to know what they are supporting have no idea what this actually contains. i have been beside myself since i printed that heroes act myself , all 1800 pages and read it. this is the biggest trojan horse designed to destroy american society as we know it. host: karl evers-hillstrom, concerns during this process of non-covid related initiatives being included in the final package from what you have been able to study, what have you found? guest: i think republicans have -- i think what the caller was referring to was hr one, democrat's built overhaul elections and campaign finance laws. that past the house and is going
2:11 am
to get a hearing in the senate later this month. certainly, i think democrats were messaging this as saying we are providing aid to hard-hit industries and maybe shoring up some areas that may have been weak already before the pandemic. some republicans have taken aim at that. i would note that one of the biggest winners, if we are not talking private sector, is state, local land tribal governments that got a massive infusion of cash. obviously, they were hard-hit by covid but this will also generally help them shore up their finances. i would note that in addition to the private sector, state local land tribal governments are also lobbying for aid. you've got this interesting government to government
2:12 am
lobbying. host: do they lobby in the traditional way of hiring lobbyists who are connected to members or former members or do they lobby directly? guest: both. obviously, if you are a big city or state, you have a certain amount of sway to directly reach out to congressional leaders where the president and talk to them yourself, but we have seen they also do hire lobbyists who go work with the staffers and tell them to dig in the specifics and say this is how we need to write the bill to give us exactly what we need. host:host: what have you found out when it comes to lobbyists who have direct connections to the major players, whether it is nancy pelosi or chuck schumer, congress and mccarthy, mitch
2:13 am
mcconnell, what do we know about the connections to people who have worked for them who are now in the lobbying community? guest: we released a report last year talking about how over 1000 clients hire lobbyists who previously worked for the four congressional leaders and president trump aide a lot of -- president trump. a lot of special interests want to hire lobbyists who have a direct connection to the majority leader or the house speaker. that direct pipeline gives you better access and a better chance you will deliver for your client. than if you are a rank-and-file. i think especially during stimulus talks, rank lawmakers were sidelined and it was leadership making the calls and deciding ultimately what would be in the package.
2:14 am
having that connection during covid stimulus talks was very valuable. host: minneapolis, minnesota, this is richard. caller: good morning. those congressmen and senators are already eyeing lobbying jobs while they are in office. they are probably making decisions that are going to get them a job after they get out of service. i think they should be barred from lobbying. if biden raises the corporate talks -- tax to 28%, that is going to put us at a disadvantage to other countries who have their corporate tasks -- tax at 20%. we are going into a deep depression. host: we will stick to lobbying. caller: there definitely -- guest: there have been proposals, lawmakers have talked about banning members of congress from going into lobbying.
2:15 am
there is already a cooling-off period that members of congress have to go to before they officially lobby their former colleagues. but it is not strongly enforced. certainly one of the tactics for lobbying groups is to offer members of congress jobs. we have seen members of congress leave, then soon after join up with a lobbying firm or a top trade association where they make seven figures. obviously a lot more than they would get paid as a member of congress. host: lobbying, very big money. coming off a year in which two of the most lobbied bills of all time passed two of those relief bills including the cares act and the heroes act. here are the companies that spent the most last year, the national association of realtors spending $84 million on lobbying last year.
2:16 am
the u.s. chamber of commerce, $82 million. farmers and manufacturers, $26 million. american hospital association, $24 million. blue cross/blue shield, $23 million. what connections have you been able to draw between that spending on what ended up in the legislation? guest: one thing that stuck out to me was there were massive tax breaks for real estate investors. that was pretty significant for those investing in real estate. the chamber of commerce is also one of the most influential groups. 2020 was the first year in 20 years they were not the top lobbying spender. they certainly pushed for the expansion of private insurance subsidies, and certainly were
2:17 am
opposed to the minimum-wage expansion to $15, which democrats ultimately did not overrule the parliamentarian. host: karen in leesburg, virginia. caller: before my comment, it does not surprise me that the national association of realtors is the lobbying firm where the price of housing is out of control. your second-largest firm, the chamber of commerce won't even support $15 an hour so you can afford a house that is out of control. at the end of the day, all of this is about the inefficiency and dysfunction of congress. lobbying groups make their money because they have to find some type of way to grab a member of congress to get what they want. congress won't sit down to make
2:18 am
decisions for the american people. and then they turn around and get hired by the lobbying firm at the end. it is one big joke of saying, who has enough money to buy my senator so he can go back to work for the lobbying firm that is going to ultimately screw the public? that is unfortunate. it has taught me how important it is to know your congressman and hold them accountable because it is a joke to them. they make 10 times more than the average american and their interests are never about us, it is about them. you can see it in the tax breaks. there is no reason why jeff bezos should not be paying taxes. if you can live with that in your congressmen can live with that, that is a problem. host: karl evers-hillstrom, go ahead. guest: like i was mentioning,
2:19 am
members of congress can get paid five or six times more as lobbyists than they are paid to be memories of congress. if you are really a top member, especially if you are the chair of the top congressional committee or ranking member. those are positions that can get you the big bucks. or if you are in leadership, democrat or republican. we have seen high-profile examples of members of congress going on to become lobbyists. billy townsend, who passed the law that makes it so that medicare can't negotiate drug prices, went on to become president of the pharmaceutical trade group. just shortly after they passed that bill and he made millions of dollars.
2:20 am
there are high-profile examples of members of congress getting paid very well to become lobbyists. host: an example of how you can use the open secrets website,, you can type amazon into that website and look at their contributions and lobbying efforts over the past year. when it comes to lobbying in 2020, amazon spending some 18 million dollars on lobbying, ranking ninth in 2020. that is up from $60 million in lobbying from 2019. what have you found about amazon lobbying? guest: amazon has increased at spending every year for the past six or seven years. as amazon has grown, its influence has grown. not just because they have more money, but because they have
2:21 am
more employees, which means they have more employees in every congressional district and every state. that is something they can go back to members of congress and remind them to maybe -- they definitely tried to higher lobbyists with close ties to those in power. spending has increased a lot and i think that is a broader trend within the tech industry. these companies are growing and they are also coming under scrutiny more so by congress. if you go back 10 years ago, it was not nearly as scrutinized as it is nowadays. in response, they upped their lobbying game. host: you talk about that revolving door when it comes to lobbying. 82 out of the 118 amazon
2:22 am
lobbyists hired in 2020, 82 were previously -- 82 previously held government jobs. caller: good morning. the last lady that was on from virginia kind of stole my thunder. i wanted to know how honest and truthful this gentleman was about the congressional leaders and the lobbyists because i have been living for a long time and it has been a well-known fact that these congressional leaders like pelosi get bribed by these lobbyists to make these laws. the last lady from virginia hit the nail on the head and this gentleman here, i would like to get an honest answer about how many of the millions of dollars congressional leaders get to pass their bills. money in their pockets, that's the way the bill is going to go. thanks for taking my call. host: karl evers-hillstrom on
2:23 am
bribes versus political contributions. guest: i should specify, when we talk about members of congress being offered jobs after they leave, or campaign contributions, lobbying groups and lobbyists are not literally bribing congress, that is illegal. but a lot of powerful interest groups are making campaign donations. sometimes you see big lobbying groups make big campaign donations to super pac's or dark money groups that are effectively controlled by top leaders in congress. you certainly have a good deal of financial support for campaigns for members of congress. in return, these groups are going to add something for
2:24 am
helping them win reelection or win a tough primary. host: back to those amazon numbers, another way you can break down the numbers on the open secrets website is by political contributions. take amazon for example, there senate contributions over the years, you can see amazon spending more on democrats, getting more contributions to their political pacs then republicans -- then republicans. guest: big companies like amazon have a pack -- a pac but typically do not make a ton of donations. when you look at those numbers,
2:25 am
those are really their employees making those donations and that would include executives but also lower-level employees. what we have seen is that a lot of the big tech companies, their employees overwhelmingly favor democrats compared to republicans. as these companies grow, the more political donations their employees are going to be making. host: time for more calls. the website, center for responsive politics, the website you know them best for is this is lorraine out of ithaca, new york. are you with us? we will go to mike in comanche, texas. republican. caller: how y'all doing? host: are. -- all right. caller: i wanted to bring up
2:26 am
something that is kind of about covid but is really more about, well, i will just tell you. i was out in west texas when we had the power failure last month. we went for seven days with no electricity. they were packing people into the hospitals and any that had electricity, they were putting people in their. i think that could cause a problem with transmission of covid disease. but the thing of it is, it never should have happened in the first place. the fact that we went so long without power and come to find out that it was sent up north where they were having 70 degree
2:27 am
days and we were -- i had at my house one degree days. host: that is mike in texas. texas coming off a year in which the energy and natural resources sector spent 290 $3 million in 2020 and lobbying on capitol hill. guest: it always has been a powerful sector, especially oil and gas has long been a lobbying powerhouse. but we have also seen with green energy, growth. the green energy sector is also trying to start a lobbying push now, especially with biden becoming president there is opportunity with government spending on green energy product -- projects. host: one other term we hear is shadow lobbying. what does that mean?
2:28 am
guest: that generally refers to an individual's attempts to influence policymakers or government policy generally. what you would consider lobbying, but are not actually registered as a lobbyist. the current lobbying rules require you to register as a lobbyist if you make certain contacts and spend a certain amount of time actually lobbying. what shadow lobbyists do is say i am not spending most of my time lobbying, i am only talking to people once in a while or i am not communicating with them at all. usually a lot of shadow lobbyists will work at a lobbying firm but not actually registered. by not registering, you cannot see who their clients are and it also gives them benefits if they want to maybe jump back into the administration one day.
2:29 am
because we have seen a lot of the biden administration has said they do not want registered lobbyists. if you do not actually register, you can get around those things. host: why would one register? guest: you have to register if you spend 20% of your time lobbying. there are other factors as well, but i would note that the provisions are not strongly enforced. we have only seen a handful of finds for people violating the lobbying exposure act and the bill has not been updated in 20 years. something that is in the campaign-finance community is to actually reform the lobbying disclosure act to better encourage people to actually register as lobbyists. host: do you expect that from the biden administration? guest: it is a possibility. one of the administration's
2:30 am
early moose was an executive order trying to tap down on shadow -- tamp down on shadow lobbying. a sickly saying after you leave the administration you can't take a job at a lobbying firm regardless of whether you are registered or not. we have seen efforts from the administration to crackdown. whether congress actually wants to crackdown, we will see. hr one, the elections and ethics bill would lower the threshold for the amount of time lobbying to 10% so that it effectively is trying to counter this practice. host: karl evers-hillstrom is a money in politics reporter at the center for responsive politics.
2:31 am
2:32 am


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on