So far in 2009, 90 entities–local governments, oil companies, ad hoc coalitions of various interests, unions, airports, tech firms and others–have either hung out their own shingle or hired at least one of 65 lobbying firms to keep an eye on the 2008’s federal bank bailout, the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act, or 2009’s economic stimulus, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, a review of registrations filed with the Senate Office of Public Records through Feb. 23, 2009, show. These filings represent new hirings, and do not account for the hundreds of other interests whose regular Washington lobbyists have added the bailout and stimulus to their specific lobbying interests. Also, because of the vagaries of the searching the Senate Office of Public Records database and the requirements of lobbying disclosure forms, other interests might have hired new firms who added one or both bills to their lobbying issues, but won’t disclose such activity publicly until the end of the first quarter of 2009.
The list includes groups like the American Home Furnishings and Building Products Coalition that tried–and failed–to get their proposals included in the stimulus. They hired Winston & Strawn to lobby for the “inclusion of tax incentives for the home furnishing industry in the Economic Stimulus Package.” Just an aside — there’s a lot of material on the Web about the AHFA’s attempt, including PowerPoint presentations, press releases and even a list of key congressional contacts.
The government of Forsyth County in North Carolina hired the Ferguson Group, which “wrote the book on lobbying for local governments,” its Web site notes (it’s a quote from The Hill) to lobby on multiple issues, including economic stimulus funding. Maybe I’m the only one who finds this kind of stuff interesting, but this FY 2006 budget document suggests that this isn’t the first time the County has directed taxpayer money to the Ferguson Group:
Funds are provided for various agencies that promote economic development throughout the County and the region, including the Winston-Salem Chamber of Commerce, Kernersville Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Winston-Salem Association, Winston-Salem Business, Inc., !dealliance, and Piedmont Triad Partnership. The funding for the Winston-Salem Chamber of Commerce includes $22,000 for the Ferguson Group.
The Ferguson Group’s advocacy on behalf of localities seeking a piece of the stimulus action has already been covered by Lisa Zagaroli of McClatchey:
Forsyth County, N.C., signed on last month with the same lobbying firm, The Ferguson Group, which represents Concord, Fayetteville, High Point and now Matthews, among many others.
A partner in the lobbying firm, Jennifer Imo, said that because the stimulus bill doesn’t have specific earmarks, one of the ways she helps communities is by informing them which programs will require competitive grant applications, which will require applications to state administering agencies, and which have “use it or lose it” deadlines.
“How are they to know all of that unless they are following it as closely as we are?” she said. “We are basically their staff in Washington that’s monitoring very closely the stimulus process and making sure that they can take advantage of all the opportunities that will be afforded to communities like Matthews in the final package.”
Myers said he and the town manager will be traveling to Washington on Wednesday to tell lawmakers why Matthews deserves federal money.
The town’s wish list for the stimulus bill includes $750,000 for intersection improvements at NC 51 at Fullwood Drive and another $250,000 for the intersection at Monroe Road; $525,000 for work on North Trade Street; and $500,000 for Buckley Way Street.
One of the questions I always had about earmarks, which now I suppose I also have to have about stimulus spending, is whether there’s an “influence excise” attached to getting the money. How many lobbyists will be “monitoring very closely the stimulus process and making sure that they can take advantage of all the opportunities that will be afforded to communities”?