Nancy Pelosi's Lobbying Ban in Stimulus Package Quickly Nixed by K Street and Senate -- WSJ
By Gabriel T. Rubin
This article is being republished as part of our daily
reproduction of WSJ.com articles that also appeared in the U.S.
print edition of The Wall Street Journal (March 28, 2020).
NANCY PELOSI TRIED TO BAN LOBBYING by firms that receive funds
as part of the coronavirus stimulus package, but the provision
tucked into page 728 of House Democrats' draft proposal quickly
caught the eye of lobbyists who were assured by Hill contacts that
the provision had no chance of being included in the final
legislation hammered out by the Senate. "The corporation may not
carry out any Federal lobbying activities," the House draft
It was one of several conditions on federal aid to corporations
in Pelosi's bill. Others included bans on stock buybacks,
restrictions on executive pay and a ban on paying dividends to
shareholders until the federal assistance was fully repaid. Some of
those corporate-accountability conditions were ultimately included
in the Senate legislation.
Some legal experts saw the lobbying provision as a Democratic
messaging effort that wouldn't have survived legal scrutiny. "It's
highly likely to be struck down as unconstitutional under the
'unconstitutional conditions' doctrine," because it violates
corporations' First Amendment rights to petition the government,
said Robert Kelner, a partner at Covington & Burling who
advises companies on lobbying-disclosure rules.
Lobbying by firms that receive bailout money was controversial
during the financial crisis, too, and had uneven outcomes: Major
banks continued to employ lobbyists, while American International
Group took a yearslong break from lobbying after feeling pressure
from Congress. It restarted in 2014 after it had repaid its $182
BILL HAGERTY , the former ambassador to Japan now running for
Senate in Tennessee, is following President Trump's lead and
referring to the coronavirus as the "Wuhan coronavirus" or the
"foreign virus," terms rejected by public health experts like
Anthony Fauci. The Republican Hagerty was supposed to hold a
telephone town hall meeting on Wednesday with White House adviser
Larry Kudlow, and the event's press release referred to the "Wuhan
coronavirus" numerous times in quotes from Hagerty and Kudlow. The
event was postponed. Hagerty has ratcheted up his anti-China
rhetoric since leaving Japan, including writing a Breitbart op-ed
last week blaming China for the virus's spread.
Trump says terms like "Chinese virus" aren't racist, but told
Fox News on Tuesday that he would stop saying it: "I decided we
shouldn't make any more of a big deal out of it." Trump has taken
issue with some Chinese government attempts to blame the U.S.
military for the virus, which experts agree began its spread in
Wuhan. Hagerty told the Journal that he believes the Chinese
government was to blame for the crisis, and that the U.S. "cannot
allow them to rewrite history by deflecting blame for this deadly
illness." His former employer seems to agree: the State Department
scuttled a G-7 joint statement because it didn't call the
coronavirus the "Wuhan Virus."
DEFICIT CONCERNS have been thrown out the window in a time of
crisis, and proponents of larger government programs feel
vindicated. "It's actually a fascinating progressive moment,
because what it's shown is that all of these issues have never been
about how are you going to pay for it," Rep. Alexandria
Ocasio-Cortez said on a Bernie Sanders campaign livestream.
Stephanie Kelton, a Sanders-backing economist, says there are
plenty of other major programs that could be pursued without
spending offsets, including canceling medical debt.
Fiscal conservatives say that current economic conditions are
exceptional and akin to wartime, so normal spending rules don't
apply. "Larger deficits are not only an inevitability, but are,
unfortunately, a necessity," the Committee for a Responsible
Federal Budget said.
CONGRESSIONAL OVERSIGHT becomes a casualty of the pandemic. The
House Judiciary Committee canceled a March 31 hearing with Attorney
General Bill Barr. That hearing would have been Congress's first
chance to question him about the handling of Trump associate Roger
Stone's sentencing, which prompted all of the front-line Justice
Department prosecutors to resign from the case. Many in Congress
worry that oversight of the Trump administration's coronavirus
response will be impeded by social-distancing measures that could
keep Congress out of session.
RETAIL SECTOR expects large, but uneven, contraction. While some
large retailers look for more workers to keep up with the demand
for household essentials, the sector as a whole expects sales to
plummet by around 30% a month as the pandemic continues, National
Retail Federation chief economist Jack Kleinhenz said. Fiscal
stimulus from Washington will be "critical not only for keeping
[workers] alive, but also retailers," he said on a call with the
National Association of Business Economists.
CORONAVIRUS ATTACK ADS from Democratic groups debut against
senators accused of selling stocks ahead of the market's steep
decline. Majority Forward is running spots in Georgia attacking the
state's GOP Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, both up for
election this year. Both have denied allegations that they profited
from information about the virus's expected damage by selling
stocks after they received a briefing from health officials.
Republicans see the threat of coronavirus-related ads: a pro-Trump
Super PAC has sent cease-and-desist letters to TV stations in swing
states to try to block them from airing ads about Trump's response
to the virus.
MINOR MEMOS: Sports betting site puts odds on Trump using words
like "tremendous" and "not our fault" in coronavirus daily press
briefings.... New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo appears on his brother
Chris's CNN show, says "Mom told me I had to."... Senators struggle
with work from home, too: Illinois's Tammy Duckworth forgets to
mute conference call with Democratic Senate caucus, tells her
toddler to "go potty and wash your hands then mommy will come
Write to Gabriel T. Rubin at email@example.com
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