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Sunrise (2/10/11)

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LOW CORPORATE TAX RATES AIDED BY LOBBYING

--Sunlight: "NextEra Energy is one of six energy companies that pay less than five percent in taxes, according to a collection of data from Capitol IQ by Business Insider. The data is an aggregate amount covering the years 2005-2009. NextEra is reported to have paid a 1.74 percent tax rate over this period. ... Taxes have been a focal lobbying point for many of these companies, but especially important for five of the six identified by Capitol IQ. Two of them—NextEra Energy and Xcel Energy—reported spending millions on lobbying while listing taxes on their disclosures more than any other issue in 2010. Xcel reportedly paid a 1.78 percent tax rate over the 2005-2009 period. ... The teams assembled by NextEra and Xcel included lobbyists with years of tax experience, often on the appropriate congressional committees or in the executive branch. They include a former member of the Ways and Means Committee, a former tax counsel for the Ways and Means Committee, a former political advisor to Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus, and a former tax counsel to the Senate Finance Committee."

REAL TIME CONGRESS API

--Sunlight Labs: "[W]e're making available the Real Time Congress API, a service we've been working on for several months, and will be continuing to expand. ... The Real Time Congress API (RTC) is a RESTful API over the artifacts of Congress, kept up to date in as close to real time as possible. It consists of several live feeds of data, available in JSON or XML. These feeds are filterable and sortable and sliceable in all sorts of different ways, and you can read the docs to see how."

K STREET CONTRIBUTIONS TO MEMBER CHARITIES DROP

--Roll Call: "Lobbying firms and their clients disclosed spending less than $10.4 million on Congressional charity events, meetings and gifts in the last half of 2010, according to a disclosure reports filed at the end of January. These expenditures are less than half of what was spent during the same period in 2008. It is also the fourth six-month period in a row that the gifts have declined. ... One note of caution with the figures is that there has been some confusion about which donations lobbying firms are required to disclose. As a result, the totals include everything from a donation to a foundation sponsored by or affiliated with a Member of Congress to an annual trade association dinner where a Member receives an award. Some lobbying firms are also reporting attendance fees at events where they met with a Member. ...there were still a few Members and their charities that were richly supported by lobbying groups. Among them were House Assistant Leader James Clyburn (D-S.C.) and his research and scholarship foundation, with 25 donations totaling $354,000 during the last six months of 2010. Others were Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), who had 18 expenditures made in his honor totaling $294,000, and Sen. Tom Harkin, (D-Iowa), with six donations totaling $218,000. Texas Republican Rep. Joe Barton’s family foundation also received $15,000 from AT&T and the Health Care Service Corp. while California Democratic Rep. Joe Baca’s foundation received contributions totaling $9,000 from companies such as Nike Inc., Rentech Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc."

CORPORATIONS DONATE DESPITE SHAREHOLDER MISGIVINGS

--The Diversity Factor: "Indeed, corporate payments – often secret – to controversial trade associations have become a major issue for investors. A coalition of CPA members and other institutions filed resolutions in November at Accenture, IBM, PepsiCo and Pfizer (among the 120 or so members of the board of the US Chamber of Commerce) to disclose and review their oversight of trade association donations. ... While nearly 80 percent of S&P 500 companies have disclosed political spending policies, they are often communicated with a short, imprecise statement buried deep in the company’s website, according to a report released last October by the Investor Responsibility Research Center Institute and Sustainable Investments Institute. The study also finds less than one quarter of companies require boards to oversee political spending, with health boards most likely to be involved. Less than 14 percent have revealed policies on indirect spending. Financials are least likely to provide information on indirect spending. Less than 20 percent of America’s largest companies provide any information on how much they spend. Utilities are most prone to political giving, technology companies least."

FUNDRAISING PARTIES TODAY

--Yet again, tons of parties today. All of them are listed here.

YESTERDAY

--Day in Transparency (2/9/11)

--Day in Sunlight (2/9/11)