Category Archives: Uncategorized

Glenn Ivey’s History As A Corporate Lobbyist, Ties To Jack Abramoff And Associates

Glenn Ivey is currently a partner at Venable, a corporate lobbying/law firm. Above, a screenshot from the website.

A band of loud OccupyDC protesters held one of its largest actions yet against the Democratic Party and big money politics last week, picketing outside of a fundraiser for the committee charged with raising cash for House Democrats. Like most events of this nature, staffers for the party and security guards locked the demonstrators out. Eventually, a congressional attendee emerged to join with the protest, Representative Donna Edwards from Maryland. She used the ‘human mic’ to denounce income inequality, and finished her remarks, “it’s time to Occupy America!”

In a post-rally interview with Edwards, the congresswoman promised to help the 99 Percent Movement fight against corporate corruption of government. But Edwards, a standout in Congress for her support of Occupy Wall Street, may lose her district to a challenge from K Street.

Edwards faces corporate lawyer-lobbyist Glenn Ivey in the Democratic primary next year. There were rumors of Ivey’s intentions to run against her in 2009. However, Ivey announced his candidacy last month, shortly after Maryland Democrats redrew Edwards’ district to include Anne Arundel County, a more conservative area.

Democratic insiders predict that Ivey will raise vast sums to defeat Edwards in the primary.

Many in the 4th Congressional District, which encompasses the suburbs directly east of the nation’s capital, only know Ivey through his last job, as the top prosecutor in Prince George’s County. As state’s attorney, Ivey, who was first elected nine years ago, attempted to crack down on the epidemic of police brutality in the county. Ivey is well-respected among the Democratic Party establishment, and maintains connections within the influential Congressional Black Caucus because of his prior work for Congressman John Conyers (D-MI).

They Ivey for Congress website triumphs the candidate’s employment history at prestigious law firms, but glosses over his career as a registered federal lobbyist. After about a decade of work on Capitol Hill, serving at one point as the chief counsel to Senator Tom Daschle (D-SD), Ivey became a partner to Preston Gates & Ellis (now known as K&L Gates). His lobbying clients, which numbered as many as 19 one year, included Fortune 500 corporations, an association of insurance companies that deal with nuclear energy, as well as the Seattle Art Museum in its bid for federal money.

Ivey’s influence peddling may become a flashpoint in next year’s political election, which is shaping up to be as much about political corruption as about the economy.

A review of Ivey’s lobbying records shows that in last months of 2000, the year he joined his first corporate lobbying firm, Ivey worked on a Microsoft contract with infamous lobbyist Jack Abramoff and a handful of his associates later known as “Team Abramoff.” The $260,000 contract shows that Ivey worked on several Internet-related legislative bills for Microsoft, as well with issues regarding “competition in the software business.”

Along with Abramoff, Amy Berger and Patrick Pizzella, two lobbyists identified by the press as part of the network of Abramoff allies called “Team Abramoff,” worked with Ivey for a brief period on the Microsoft account:

Screenshot of Microsoft lobbying disclosure

A transcript of e-mails sent by Berger and Pizzella to Abramoff, including schemes on how to funnel corporate money through conservative think tanks, can be found in a Senate Finance Committee investigation.

When Abramoff left Preston Ellis & Gates for the firm Greenberg Traurig LLP, part of Abramoff’s portfolio of lobbying clients, including the Business Software Alliance and BNSF, a railroad corporation, were adopted by Ivey.

Abramoff typified some of the worst behavior on K street. He represented Indian casinos, many of which he manipulated using the threat of anti-gambling crusades from his friends in the Christian right, while privately referring to his clients as “troglodytes” and “monkeys.” Abramoff bribed members of Congress with campaign contributions, food, golfing trips to Scotland, and more. At Preston Ellis & Gates, he helped Hong Kong industrialists continue to mark products made in their Saipan-based sweat-shops, where forced prostitution and other abuses were rampant, as “Made in America.”

The Abramoff scandal plagued Congressional Republicans for years. Ivey left his lobbying gig in 2002 to run for local office in Maryland, escaping scrutiny of his ties to the “Super Lobbyist” and his crew.

Abramoff was hired by Preston Gates & Ellis in 1994 to lead the firm’s outreach to top Republicans, and left the firm a few months after Ivey was hired in late 2000.

Ivey may seek to downplay his work for Preston Ellis & Gates, but local Prince George’s County campaign finance data suggests a continued relationship well after he left the firm. Ralph Nurnberger, another Abramoff associate from his time representing sweat-shop interests, contributed $500 to Ivey’s first race for state’s attorney. One of Ivey’s most generous donors has been Emanuel Rouvelas, a lobbyist with Preston Ellis & Gates and now K&L Gates, who has given a total of $5,250.

View an Excel spreadsheet of Ivey’s campaign contributors here, compiled by The Second Alarm using Maryland public disclosures.

Ivey currently works as a partner to Venable, another major law firm with a DC office that is heavily involved in the corporate lobbying business. Although Ivey is not registered as a lobbyist, his firm currently represents a long list of businesses with interests that may clash with causes embraced by progressives, including Lockheed Martin, Maryland Blue Cross Blue Shield, ING Bank, and an industry group for financial speculators trading swaps and derivatives. As online critics of Ivey have pointed out at at the community website, Venable touts Ivey in categories like defense work on behalf of white collar crime. The same bio page also lists Ivey as available to work in “Government Affairs” and “Congressional Investigations,” activities that require lobby registration if Ivey meets the statutory threshold for contact with lawmakers.

As activists across the country have focused their frustration at the nexus of corporate money in politics, even Ivey’s current colleagues could become an issue. James Burnley, a lobbyist at the firm, serves on the board of the FreedomWorks, the polluter-backed Tea Party group responsible for trashing health reform and other issues important to progressives.

Edwards won her office in 2008 by defeating Al Wynn, a Democratic incumbent with a reputation for doing the bidding of corporate lobbyists in Congress. Asked by Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman what her victory meant, Edwards gushed that the people of her district were “saying no to the corporate special interests and yes to the public interest.” Her message was the same last week, when she stood outside the W Hotel with OccupyDC demonstrators. While Edwards faces a rough campaign against Ivey, this time she may have a movement to back her up.

Originally posted on Nation of Change.


Filed under Uncategorized

Rick Perry Viciously Assaulted Christmas In 2003

Rick Perry’s ‘Christians are victims’ ad, the one he released a few days ago in which he said, “I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a Christian, but you don’t need to be in the pew every Sunday to know there’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school,” faces more deadly attacks from the Internet. Not only is the ad the most disliked video in YouTube history, but Perry seems to have disrespected Christ with this atheistic “Happy Holidays” message from his office in 2003:

Screenshot from Gov. Rick Perry's website


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Another Reason Not To Pass SOPA/PROTECT-IP: Citigroup Lawyers Now Using Digital Copyright Law To Suppress Muckraking Journalism

I really can’t understand why any progressive would support PROTECT-IP/SOPA, the sprawling Internet censorship bill advancing quickly through Congress. Here’s another reason the proposed law, which allows “the attorney general to create a blacklist of sites to be blocked by Internet service providers, search engines, payment providers and advertising networks, all without a court hearing or a trial,” should be opposed.

A leaked series of Citigroup memos about the benefit of the world turning towards economic feudalism (the so-called Plutonomy Memos), once known mostly to lefty blogs, gained some notoriety after Michael Moore featured them in his movie, Capitalism: A Love Story. Here’s the clip

As you can imagine, the memos resurfaced in the last few months with the rise of Occupy Wall Street.

But recently, Citigroup’s lawyers have sent takedown letters to blogs and websites that have featured the memos. Using the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, Citigroup’s attorneys have successfully pressured Scribd and other document sharing websites to scrub the pdf from the web (here’s an example). Just a few weeks ago, they sent a takedown request to John Schmitt’s blog, demanding that he scrub a copy of the Citigroup Plutonomy memo from his site (view a copy of the letter here, a screenshot below):

Clearly, this is a brazen abuse of copyright law to suppress legitimate journalism. The documents were already widely leaked, and the bloggers writing about them were doing so under conditions which I think most would consider “fair use.” The bareknuckle tactics by Citigroup’s attorneys show the power of the laws already on the books, like the DMCA, which allows copyright holders to demand that user-submitted content websites like Scribd and remove copyrighted material. For one thing, its not even clear if the Plutonomy Memos constitute protected copyright material. I’m obviously not a lawyer, but its hard to see the expressive value of the memos. It’s a messed up situation, where just the threat of litigation has already chilled speech, but it could get much, much worse.

If SOPA/PROTECT-IP passes, then copyright holders like Citigroup will gain the ability to shut down entire websites without a court order, a power well beyond the DMCA and other digital copyright laws. That means independent blogs, media outlets, etc., will become targets for destruction when they publish allegedly copyrighted whistleblower documents and other leaked memos. Independent media will be delisted from search engines and their domains could be blocked. SOPA/PROTECT-IP is an assault on journalism (see this breakdown by Jessica Roy at Mediabistro), but the latest moves by Citigroup only reinforce the danger.

This week, the House will begin to mark-up the bill.

Back when I worked at ThinkProgress, I repeatedly broke stories using leaked memos and other internal documents from powerful corporations. Needless to say, ThinkProgress routinely posts and links to content that could arguably be considered copyrighted material or associated with “pirate” websites (like Wikileaks or the Piratebay). If SOPA/PROTECT-IP is signed into law, it’s not too extreme to suggest that even ThinkProgress or the blog’s advertisers could fall into the crosshairs of copyright trolls.

Yet on Tuesday, the MPAA is hosting somewhat of a SOPA/PROTECT-IP-friendly event with ThinkProgress. The event is billed as a discussion on “innovation.” The MPAA, however, once fought to ban VCR’s as a terrible technological threat to the movie industry. Similarly, the RIAA under Hilary Rosen once filed a lawsuit attempting to block MP3 players from entering the US consumer market. I could go on; but, it’s worth debunking the many silly arguments of the pro-SOPA/PROTECT-IP lobby, which represents mostly Hollywood and software executives, in another post.

The MPAA chief lobbyist Chris Dodd, who last week favorably compared China’s censorship regime to the legislation he is now promoting, will be speaking at the event.

Dodd sponsored the law in 1995 that makes it virtually impossible to sue banks like Citigroup for investor fraud. I guess now he’ll explain to the world why progressives should support a law that may make it virtually impossible to report on leaked Citigroup documents.

It will be interesting to see how Dodd will justify SOPA/PROTECT-IP, a law that provides overriding IP protection at the expensive of free speech.


Filed under Uncategorized

Congressman Devin Nunes Tweets About Mitt Romney $10k Remark


1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Mitt Romney Is Alf Landon, But Democratic Planners Seek To Emulate 2004 Over 1936

Alf Landon, the GOP's 1936 nominee; Mitt Romney, the GOP's likely 2012 nominee

In 1936, President Franklin Roosevelt faced his first reelection. Roosevelt began the year sliding in the polls, facing an increasingly hostile media, a still sluggish economy, and the big business-friendly Supreme Court had recently knocked down an array of New Deal legislative accomplishments, particularly the National Recovery Administration. But this election is mostly forgotten from campaign history books, largely because Roosevelt ended up crushing his opponent, the GOP’s Alf Landon, with a sweep of the entire country, losing only Maine and Vermont.

According to the New York Times, Democratic operatives are studying elections like 1996 and 2004 to develop a strategy against Mitt Romney.

Democratic planners seem to have settled on replicating the 2004 election. Republicans won that contest by brutally mocking John Kerry as a “flip-flopper,” a politician who switches positions to fit the national mood. Check out this memo from Priorities USA, or this video from American Bridge, or this microsite from the DNC, or these hits from the Obama campaign — it’s all the same message, that presumptive GOP nominee Romney flips his positions and can’t be trusted.

Next year’s election, however, has striking similarities with 1936, not 2004. Like Roosevelt, Obama is entering the year with high levels of unemployment and slow economic growth. Like Roosevelt, Obama has lost the confidence of much of the national press. Like Roosevelt, Obama is entering the election year with uninspiring poll numbers. Anti-corporate populism is alive and well today in America, just as it was during the thirties, when even Huey Long contemplated a challenge to Roosevelt on a platform of anti-Wall Street anger and fighting against income inequality.

The selection of Mitt Romney also echoes the strategic thinking of Republicans in 1936. At the time, Republicans were divided, but big business interests, particularly the du Pont family, simply wanted someone who could win. Over objections from the party’s far right faction, they nominated Alf Landon, a very moderate governor from the Midwest. Landon’s ability to win in Kansas during the Democratic sweep year of 1934 (back then, Kansas was seen as an anti-corporate bastion) showed his cross-partisan appeal, much as Romney’s victory in Massachusetts has convinced many that he can win in blue swing states. As a supporter of some New Deal policies, Landon was vulnerable to the flip-flopping charge. But like the national GOP strategists of today, who support Romney despite passing a health reform law nearly identical to Obamacare, the planners in the thirties hoped Landon’s left of center governance would be viewed as a form of responsible pragmatism to the American electorate.

Romney’s political biography, as a businessman reformer who ran against the corrupt Massachusetts machine, could be compared to Landon, a Bull Moose reformer and oilman who shook up Kansas politics.

Moreover, big business interests are poised to play an unprecedented role in 2012 just as they broke records in 1936. Exploiting the Citizens United decision, corporations will dump several billion into the election next year to smear Obama and decisively crush Democratic Senate candidates (and to a lesser extent, maintain the majority in the House). The success of the Koch secret meetings and growth of highly ideological trade associations (think the American Petroleum Institute, the Chamber, etc) has led to an unparalleled level of corporate solidarity in American politics. And this sort of unity of the 1% will mean a higher level of campaign coordination than in previous elections. Indeed, just as big business will break all campaign spending records and swamp Obama’s best fundraising efforts next year, in 1936, Republicans outspent pro-FDR Democrats $8.9 million to $5 million.

In 1936, big business finally got their act together and put forward a multifaceted campaign to defeat Roosevelt. They created a network of front groups, managed in part by something called the Liberty League. They hired Hollywood image experts to rework Landon’s interactions with the press, and to produce a series called “Liberty at the Crossroads,” a popular radio drama that claimed the New Deal would lead to communism. The RNC of 1936 developed the “Industrial Division” to outsource electioneering efforts to large corporations, which reminds me very much of how Republicans today will use corporate partners to urge employees to vote Romney (I discussed this new phenomenon at the Campus Progress convention earlier this year).

Roosevelt’s opponents had more money, the biggest communications apparatus possible, and the support of the nation’s largest companies, yet they still lost in one of the most dramatic landslides in history.

Roosevelt won by ignoring the policy positions of Landon. He flanked national Republicans in January of 1936 by launching a political assault on Wall Street fat cats in charge of the GOP. In spring of 1936, Senator Hugo Black (D-Alabama) pressed on with his investigation of corporate front groups, exposing the financiers of anti-New Deal fake “grassroots” groups (and to an extent the rich donors pulling the strings of the Landon campaign) were the same people who destroyed the economy. The investigation revealed to the American people that Roosevelt still faced an uphill battle, that the “economic royalists” still had too much political power, and that Landon and his allied front groups were merely puppets of a moneyed and selfish aristocracy. Roosevelt’s top political hand, James Farley, mapped out a strategy of running against robber barons like the du Pont family rather than wasting time by talking about Landon’s record. The American people saw past the GOP/Wall Street propaganda machine and voted Roosevelt. The strategy worked.

I understand the temptation to run against Romney as a flip-flopping opportunist. It’s pretty easy to demonstrate and Romney continues to try to reinvent himself, even while shooting himself in the foot at times. That being said, do the American people care? Outside the bubble of Washington DC, will Americans reject Romney simply because he has changed his positions multiple times? For many independent voters, the ability to change position and support smart policies (like health reform), is a virtue, not a vulnerability. The reason Kerry lost, in my most humble opinion, was the failure to crystallize opposition to the war in Iraq, and the flip-flopping charge spoke to his inherent weakness in the face of tough decisions like foreign policy. Today, Americans for the most part feel cheated by the economy and by the political system, and that feeling has exploded with the growth of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Will a campaign centered on flip-flopping really speak to this sentiment? I doubt it.

There are many other lessons for Obama from the FDR era. The comparisons are far from perfect, especially because the Great Depression left people far more resentful of Wall Street than our current ‘Jobless Recovery,’ but the 1936 election is still instructive.


Filed under Uncategorized

National Review Buoyed By Drug Lobbyist Cash

National Review cover

Part of the reason healthcare costs keep skyrocketing is the near unrestricted power of the pharmaceutical lobby. Drug makers, for instance, hired an army of lobbyists to pass President Bush’s drug benefit expansion, known as Medicare Part D, with a provision that restricted the government from negotiating for lower prices. Efforts to import cheaper drugs have been similarly squashed by K Street firms working on behalf of pharmaceutical corporations. While the drug industry is well-known for its hefty campaign contributions, mysterious front groups and even illicit payments to doctors, there appears be other avenues for influence, such as the popular conservative media outlet, National Review.

Disclosures reviewed by The Second Alarm show that two years ago, the primary lobbying association for the drug industry gave $205,000 to the National Review Institute, a nonprofit that supports the monthly magazine founded by right-wing legend William F. Buckley, Jr. Below is a screenshot from the disclosure, which can be found in full here:

Screenshot of PhRMA contribution to the National Review foundation

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the group that gave to National Review, represents large drug corporations like AstraZeneca, Bayer, Bristol-Myers Squibb, GlaxoSmithKline, and Merck. In 2009, the National Review Institute received $619,181 in contributions, meaning that the drug lobby’s check constituted about a third of overall income for the magazine’s nonprofit.

The time period in which PhRMA made its contribution coincided with helpful political attacks emanating from the pages of the National Review. The National Review took a leading role demonizing a cost-saving proposal from the Obama administration that could diminish millions, if not billions, in pharmaceutical company profits.

In 2009, as President Obama fought to deliver reform by cutting some of the waste out of the health care system. His first signature accomplishment, the stimulus, contained some initial funding of Comparative Effectiveness Research (CER). CER would set up an independent body to develop a system to find the best medical outcomes, and in doing so, save up to $700 billion by some estimates in annual health spending. PhRMA recognized quickly that CER would most likely steer medical professional towards prescribing more generic medications over branded drugs, thus slicing a sizable share of corporate profits.

While PhRMA launched ads to dissuade the Obama administration from enacting such waste-cutting reforms, the National Review took a more nasty route.

One article slammed the initial CER funding as a “slush fund” to give government control of health care decisions. In reality, the CER would help doctors and scientists have more control of how taxpayer is spent, while taking away those decisions from industry representatives.

Writing for National Review, Charles Krauthammer even advised Democrats that a health law without CER would be more likely to pass.

The National Review website also served as a sounding board for various conservatives to experiment with hits on CER. Congressman Eric Cantor published an op-ed complaining that Democrats refused to accept language into health reform that would have canceled out the CER funding Obama initiated in the stimulus. Pointing to CER funding, Peter Ferrera, a fellow at something called the Institute for Policy Innovation, wrote a piece for National Review demanding that Republicans reject any “bureaucracy that would have any power to ration health care.” Ferrera added that such power would be “the real death panels.”

Notably, National Review did criticize its corporate benefactor by name multiple times. The magazine lashed out at PhRMA for making a deal with the Obama administration to support the Baucus health reform legislation in exchange for a promise not to negotiate for Medicare drug prices or import drugs from Canada. Editor Rich Lowry recommended that PhRMA should back out of any deal with the Obama “Axis of Evil,” and kill any effort to reform health care. The magazine believed that drug company lobbyists should be more ruthless.

While PhRMA ultimately cut a check to run ads in support of health reform, the lobby continued to play both sides, funding front groups like the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest, a Tea Party-aligned ant-health reform group I wrote about back in November of 2009.

CER is a conservative idea, in a way, because it forces the government to cut waste and reduce costs for taxpayers. Science-driven efforts like CER take medical decisions out of the hands of lobbyists and politicians and instead empower doctors to make Medicare reimbursement policies. But perhaps National Review would attack it anyways, given the magazine’s proclivity to slime any idea connected to Barack Obama. In either case, the big drug lobby rewarded the magazine handsomely.

Originally posted at Nation of Change.


Filed under Uncategorized

Frank Luntz, GOP Consultant Behind Anti-Occupy Talking Points, Is Funded By Citibank, Bank of America

Frank Luntz

By now I’m sure you’ve seen Chris Moody’s article about Frank Luntz, the GOP’s message guru, and his talking points on how to combat Occupy Wall Street’s arguments. For a great analysis of the message, read Zaid Jilani and Joe Romm.

But here’s whats missing in the reporting of Luntz’s comments: According to his firm’s website Luntz is paid by Wall Street giants like Citigroup, Bank of America, Wachovia (now part of Wells Fargo), Swiss financial conglomerate UBS, Chase bank, and others. It’s even possible he’s recycling ideas he’s already given to firms like Citi.

Here’s the secret about Luntz. You may only him from his political endeavors. Of course, he famously helped write the Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America in 1994. You can find him awkwardly leading focus group sessions on Fox News. And every now and then, he will pop up to advise a Republican candidate or issue group. (Flashback! Here’s a video of me speaking to Luntz after meeting with GOP lawmakers at the height of the BP oil spill controversy)

Luntz’s political work, however, is small potatoes. As I understand it, from speaking to people who’ve known Luntz for years, Luntz does the high-profile, headline-grabbing crap to generate lucrative corporate contracts. That’s where the money is, and that’s how his polling firm apparently derives most of its revenues. If you really want to see how Republicans are messaging around OWS, find out what The Tarrance Group, McLaughlin & Associations, and Public Opinion Strategies Inc are telling Boehner and Cantor. That’s where the the high-end Republican advice comes from; but those firms, unlike Luntz, prefer the background rather than the spotlight. Luntz just wants more corporate contracts, and will do anything to publicize himself and pretend to be expert on something like sliming protesters. That way, a Goldman Sachs contract or whatever is more likely to land in his lap.


Filed under Uncategorized