Archive for May, 2012

Mixed Policies and Mixed Messages

Posted on May 2, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

By Caren Z. Turner

As we approach 90 degrees in the nation’s Capitol, many in DC are simply confused about what is going on and why. Maybe it’s the heat..!

Just some examples…Confused about the Obama Administration’s policy vis-a-vis Afghanistan? We certainly were. In the early morning we swore we heard commentary regarding a continued commitment to Afghanistan – until the year 2024. By early afternoon, we kept hearing about troop withdrawal. The Associated Press seems to have pegged it perfectly. “In President Barack Obama’s twin narratives, the United States is both leaving Afghanistan and staying there.” They further noted that, ” Even after the U.S. combat mission is concluded in 2014, it is likely that thousands of U.S. troops will remain for some years to conduct counter terrorism strikes and otherwise train and advise Afghan forces, and help the Afghans collect and exploit intelligence on insurgents and other military targets.” “Forward” I suppose?

The US Postal Service, is eager to activate a $22 billion cost-cutting plan by May 15. However, a letter sent earlier this week by Sens. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Thomas Carper (D-Del.) and Scott Brown (R-Mass.) emphasizes that the Postal Service also should wait to close facilities because the Senate bill passed last week might actually bar USPS from closing some of its sites.

On the positive front, while the government is teasing out its manufacturing policy, manufacturing expanded last month at the strongest pace since June, according to the Institute for Supply Management. Conferees were named for both the Senate and House Transportation bills. This legislation is likely to create more jobs than most other pieces of legislation passed this year. Let’s hope for quick resolution and passage.

Paul Ryan’s alternative to sequestration was unveiled this week. Without an alternative to sequestration, most non DOD government agencies and programs are likely to see a 9 percent cut. Most budget experts on Capitol Hill are working on their budgets based on either House or Senate plans. It is still unknown whether either House or Senate budgets will be passed. In recent years the most the Congress has done is pass the continuing resolution (CR), a measure that simply continues the budget of the previous year!

C’est la vie!

Please call with any questions you may have!
(202)466-2511

Turner GPA is a leading D.C.-based national lobbying and government affairs firm dedicated to delivering cutting edge policy advocacy for the manufacturing, defense, aerospace, health and energy industries. Members of our professional policy team can be reached at (202) 466-2511. We are also on the Web at www.turnergpa.com.

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FCC Ruling Promises Easier Access to Campaign Ad Data

Posted on May 2, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

By Scott Orr

The Federal Communications Commission ruled last week that broadcasters must make available, via the Internet, detailed information about the ad buys of political campaigns.

This won’t have any major impact on campaigns or broadcast outlets, since the information already must be made public on request under existing rules. But making the data available online creates a new environment for campaign strategists and a playground for journalists who love to analyze campaign spending.

Currently anyone can get access to the data about how much each candidate spent on advertising with individual media outlets, but they must visit individual radio or television stations to view reports on paper.

Once the new rule takes effect, campaign finance advocacy groups like the Center for Responsive Politics should be able to provide much more detailed campaign advertising reports to show how ad money influenced the outcome of elections.

This is especially important today, when billions of dollars from so-called super PACS are being spent on behalf of presidential candidates for the first time. Super PACS, political action committees that can raise unlimited sums from individuals, corporations, unions and other groups, were made legal under a 2010 Supreme Court decision.

The ruling didn’t really attract a whole lot of interest among the political parties and candidates, though special interest groups and Super PACS would no doubt have preferred to keep the old system in place.

Still, the data could be used to analyze the spending strategies of candidates or interest groups. It could create a new parlor game for campaign finance nerds to try to analyze the significance of how much, where and when campaigns chose to advertise.

That there was little public outcry from political campaigns does not mean the decision lacked controversy though. The broadcasters fought it, arguing it would be costly and time-consuming to post the information online and that it could provide new insights for competitors.

At their annual trade show in Las Vegas recently, members of the National Association of Broadcasters got a stern talking to from FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski: “Some in the broadcast industry have elected to position themselves against technology, against transparency and against journalism,” said Genachowski.

The FCC did not set a deadline for launching the database, but it did say that for the next two years only the top four network affiliates in the top 50 markets will be required to post, with the rest of the stations given until July 1, 2014 to do so.

While we recognize the ruling isn’t going to have any early impact on the multibillion dollar business of campaign finance, we still believe it is good public policy. Average Americans are powerless to stop the influence of big money in politics, but at least they can find out how it’s spent.

Turner GPA is a leading D.C.-based national lobbying and government affairs firm dedicated to delivering cutting edge policy advocacy for the manufacturing, defense, aerospace, health and energy industries. Members of our professional policy team can be reached at (202) 466-2511. We are also on the Web at at www.turnergpa.com.

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In Election Year Washington, Student Loans in the Crosshairs

Posted on May 2, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , |

By Scott Orr

Another week, another epic election-year failure in Washington. At stake this time: the education of roughly 7 million student borrowers.

The interest rate charged on student loans is currently 3.4 percent, but that will increase to 6.8 percent if the current rate is allowed to expire on July 1. The White House, Republicans and Democrats all agree that the existing rate should be extended.

The agreement is so universal, in fact, that both President Obama and presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney have endorsed extending the rate during campaign appearances in the last few weeks.

But House Republicans can’t let anything, even the education of American college students, become law without forcing a partisan battle. Last week the House approved a Republican-backed plan to keep the interest rates low, but only if the extension would be paid for by taking money from a preventive care fund that is part of Obamacare.

The vote was 215 to 195, with 13 Democrats joining in voting for the package and 30 Republicans opposing it.
President Obama did not hesitate to say he will veto the package.

Democrats wondered why Republicans had to connect student loans and health care, and in the process deplete a fund that helps fight obesity, the spread of HIV/AIDS and provides training for health care workers.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said it is the Democrats who are injecting election year politics into the debate, though he couldn’t really explain how. “Why do people insist that we have to have a political fight on something where there is no fight,” Boehner said, sounding more like a Democrat.

On the Senate side, meanwhile, Democrats want to pay for the student loan interest rate extension by raising taxes on so-called “S Corporations,” which have three or fewer shareholders. This, Republicans charge, is another election-year ploy aimed at pitting constituencies against one another – in this case, students against businessmen.

Anyway, students, you needn’t worry. The good thing about these election-year squabbles is that they rarely, if ever, result in an impact on government policy.

This fight, like many that have already been waged this campaign season, will come to a predictable end by the July 1 deadline with a compromise measure passing that preserves the interest rate and that both sides can spin. We just wish it didn’t always have to be this way.

Turner GPA is a leading D.C.-based national lobbying and government affairs firm dedicated to delivering cutting edge policy advocacy for the manufacturing, defense, aerospace, health and energy industries. Members of our professional policy team can be reached at (202) 466-2511. We are also on the Web at www.turnergpa.com.

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Senate Committee’s Farm Bill Proves Bipartisanship Still Alive on the Hill

Posted on May 2, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , |

By Carl Chancellor

On a 16-5 vote, the Senate Agriculture Committee recently passed the “Agricultural Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012”, but the farm bill, which saves $26 billion over the next 10 years by slashing crop subsidies, consolidating programs and ending the misuse of food assistance programs, still has a long row to hoe before becoming law.

Next, the bill must pass the full Senate, before heading to the House Agriculture Committee for approval. From there it must be passed and reconciled by the House and be approved by members of both houses again before going to the President for his signature. In light of all that and despite grumblings from senators from southern peanut, cotton, and rice producing states, Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow, (D-MI), said her committee’s strong bipartisan vote bodes well for the bill’s passage (at least by the Senate), which replaces the current law that expires Sept. 30.

“This bill proves that by working across party lines, we can save taxpayer money and create smart, cost-effective policies that lay the foundation for a stronger, more prosperous economy,” said Stabenow.

Certainly, there are a lot of people, from both ends of the political spectrum who are unhappy with the bill, which to us is a sign that the Senate bill is setting the correct tone.
Sen. John Boozman (R-AR) said the bill “will have devastating impact on Southern agriculture.” He and others complain that rice and peanuts are grown and marketed differently, which they claim means that rice and peanut farmers cannot adapt easily to new crop insurance guidelines.

Equally displeased with portions of the bill the progressive Environmental Working Group dubbed it a new entitlement program for the largest farm operations paid for by cuts to hunger programs. Yet the group also applauded “provisions of the bill that support healthy diets, expand links between local farmers and consumers and help new farmers.”

Some of the key provisions of the Senate committee bill include:
• Ending farm subsidies to individuals earning more than $750,000;
• Capping subsidies at $50,000 per person;
• Ending practice of paying farmers for crops they aren’t growing;
• Consolidating 23 conservation programs into 13 programs;
• Investing in agricultural research and innovation, including bio-energy products;
• Increasing accountability in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), including cracking down on retailer benefit trafficking, ending misuse by college students, stopping lottery winners from receiving assistance, while maintaining benefits for needy families;
• Expanding links (food hubs) between local farmers and low-income consumers, schools, and community groups.

Hopefully, lawmakers in both houses will take their lead from Sen. Stabenow and her committee and craft a final version of the farm bill that through give and take—“compromise”—will produce a law that strikes a legislative balance that Americans of every stripe can embrace.

Turner GPA is a leading D.C.-based national lobbying and government affairs firm dedicated to delivering cutting edge policy advocacy for the manufacturing, defense, aerospace, health and energy industries. Members of our professional policy team can be reached at (202) 466-2511. We are also on the Web at www.turnergpa.com.

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