Topic: Lobbyists

  • HSUS Failures on Capitol Hill Mount

    This week a letter signed by several dozen Members of Congress—who are members of HSUS’s so-called Animal Protection Caucus—was sent to the House agriculture committee ranking members asking that HSUS-backed provisions be included in the 2018 Farm Bill. The request is quite telling—because it goes to show how little success HSUS has had over the past several years in getting its legislation through on its own.

    Despite its propensity to toot its own horn, HSUS has been a specialist in failure when it comes to the halls of Congress. One particular black mark came as HSUS backer Rep. Ed Whitfield was investigated by the House Ethics Committee following allegations that his wife, HSUS lobbyist Connie Harriman-Whitfield, improperly used his office’s resources for her lobbying efforts. The Committee issued a “scathing report” against Whitfield, and he resigned last year. His wife is no longer lobbying for HSUS.

    The legislative failures have piled up. Here are some notable ones:

    PAST Act: Supposedly would combat horse soring. First introduced in 2010, hasn’t passed in seven years. (Opponents have submitted a competing anti-soring bill.)

    Egg Bill: Introduced in 2011 after HSUS cut a deal with the egg industry’s main trade group, it would have created mandatory requirements for hen housing nationwide. Went down in flames.

    SAFE Act. Introduced since 2013, would ban the export of horses to Mexico for slaughter for human consumption—a problem ironically created by HSUS when it pushed to ban horse slaughter domestically 10 years ago in US plants overseen by federal humane-treatment regulations.

    In fact, HSUS has pushed an additional nine animal rights bills (some for multiple years) that have gone nowhere. It’s not clear if they haven’t passed because they are simply inept, or if their reckless style has made HSUS toxic in the halls of Congress. (We have worked to make sure Congressional staffers understand what HSUS is all about with ad campaigns on Capitol Hill such as the one at right.)

    Meanwhile, HSUS pushed a Congressional Resolution last year against the dog meat trade in Asia—a lay-up that HSUS still couldn’t get passed. (The main sponsor of the resolution was Rep. Alcee Hastings, who was removed from a judgeship for bribery and perjury. Is he the only guy who would return HSUS’s calls?)

    And then there’s the plethora of state bills that HSUS has pushed, many of which do absolutely nothing (like restricting how farms house pigs in Rhode Island—where there are hardly any pigs).

    The only bills we can find that HSUS appears to have had a hand in passing was a 2010 law banning pornographic videos that involve killing animals and one banning being a spectator at animal fights—pretty much no-brainer laws.

    Tellingly, HSUS’s federal legislation website is so out of date that it still has a call-to-action to Tom Vilsack—who hasn’t been agriculture secretary in over six months. In other words, like most of HSUS’s bills, the web portal is collecting cobwebs.

    It’s hard to imagine a bigger waste of money than donating to HSUS’s PAC or legislative fund.

    HSUS currently has an employment posting for political director for its legislative arm as well as three public policy positions. Any prospective candidate who does his homework will know it’s a dead-end job.

    Posted on 08/03/2017 at 12:40 pm by Humane Watch Team.

    Topics: Gov't, Lobbying, PoliticsHorsesLobbyists


  • Court Rules HSUS a “Lobbying” Organization

    Facing a lawsuit for breach of contract and fraud, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) recently faced off in federal court against a former donor.

    Hiroshi Horiike, CEO of the Genlin Foundation, in association with the Hong Kong-based World Dog Alliance, created “Eating Happiness,” a documentary that tackled multiple aspects of the abhorrent dog meat trade in Asia. HSUS, through its international organization, agreed to do promotional work, lobbying, and screenings of the movie in the United States in return for a donation of $1 million over two years.

    But after HSUS, apparently, couldn’t come through with the screenings, and HSUS failed to get legislation introduced in Congress, Horiike sued for breach of contract some months later, arguing HSUS wasn’t upholding its end of the deal.
    Unfortunately, a judge didn’t agree and dismissed the suit, arguing that it was premature–even though something like documentary screenings is a timely matter and cannot drag on for the length of a two-year agreement.
    But the judge also noted in his ruling that “HSUS is a lobbying organization. Its success is predicated on its ability to maintain and use relationships with lawmakers. Common sense shows that it has an interest in preserving those relationships. Therefore this is not a sufficient basis to establish a triable issue as to the claimed breach.”
    This is interesting. As a 501(c)(3) organization, HSUS is not allowed to be a “lobbying organization.” It has a very limited scope for the amount of lobbying it, and its volunteers, do.
    In 2011, it faced a call for investigation from federal lawmakers regarding the total tonnage of its lobbying. These members of Congress complained to the IRS, but it may have gone nowhere because the now notorious Lois Lerner, who oversaw tax-exempt groups, was a member of HSUS.
    With a sitting federal judge now calling HSUS a “lobbying organization,” it’s about time the IRS looked into how HSUS is spending its tax-free dollars.

    Posted on 06/12/2017 at 1:52 pm by HumaneWatch Team.

    Topics: Courtroom DramaGov't, Lobbying, PoliticsLitigationLobbyists


  • HSUS Helps PETA-Linked Group Lobby on Capitol Hill

    If you watch any of the ads from the Humane Society of the United States you likely think it’s related to all the local humane societies that care for pets—name confusion is how it raises millions of dollars a year. HSUS also likes to imply that it’s a mainstream animal welfare group that doesn’t work together with radical animal rights groups. Given how many staff members at HSUS come from PETA and other extremist elements, we know that’s not true. And emails from an ethics investigation is one more bit of evidence that HSUS works with fringe elements.

    The emails come from a Congressional ethics investigation involving former Congressman Ed Whitfield and his wife, who is an HSUS lobbyist. Whitfield resigned last year after the investigation reprimanded Rep. Whitfield for giving his wife special privileges by allowing her to use his office’s resources to further HSUS’s lobbying.

    The emails show that the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) asked HSUS for help in getting sponsors on a bill to ban the military from using animals to practice battlefield medical procedures, and received it:

    “I’d be more than happy to help hook you up with our friends in [Sen.] Blumenthal’s office,” replied Jessica Feingold-Lieberson, then with HSUS. (She’s the daughter of former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, who lost last fall despite HSUS’s political arm spending a pretty penny on ads in his favor.)

    What is the “Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine”? It’s a PETA-linked group that advocates for veganism while wearing white coats. PCRM has received funding from The PETA Foundation, and PCRM president Neal Barnard reportedly lived with PETA president Ingrid Newkirk. Barnard also “co-signed letters, on PCRM letterhead, with the leader of Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, an animal-rights group the Department of Justice calls a ‘domestic terrorist threat,’” according to Newsweek, and has uttered such ridiculous proclamations as, “To give a child animal products is a form of child abuse.” (Kids who enjoy chocolate milk would disagree.)

    The American Medical Association has previously called PCRM a “fringe organization” that uses “unethical tactics” and is “interested in perverting medical science.”

    Last we heard, only around 10% of PCRM’s members were actually physicians. No surprise why: PCRM is notorious for campaigns comparing hot dogs to cigarettes. Its advocacy is as silly as PETA’s; even The Daily Show couldn’t resist making fun of PCRM a few years ago.

    That’s probably why HSUS doesn’t publicly work with PCRM. But when it comes to fringe animal liberation groups, HSUS is all too happy to assist under the radar.

    Posted on 04/05/2017 at 10:28 am by Humane Watch Team.

    Topics: Gov't, Lobbying, PoliticsLobbyists


  • How’s HSUS Faring Post-Election?

    Today’s nomination of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to run the EPA must have the execs at the Humane Society of the United States fuming. Pruitt was no fan of HSUS, putting out a public consumer alert against HSUS and opening a well-deserved inquiry into HSUS’s deceptive fundraising. Pruitt’s inquiry was also the subject of some tough questions HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle received from US Senator James Inhofe at a hearing last year. While the EPA and HSUS won’t cross paths too much, Pruitt’s going to have a nice, direct line to a President and other cabinet members.

    Overall, election night was a big “L” for HSUS. HSUS’s political arm went in heavily against Donald Trump, calling him essentially the worst threat that could possibly happen to HSUS’s agenda. And he won.

    The HSUS world generally supported Democrats. According to FEC filings, HSUS employees spent about $14,000 personally, 100% of which went to Democrats. HSUS’s political action committee made $370,000 in contributions, of which 67% went to Democrats. And HSUS’s legislative fund made about $1.1 million in independent expenditures, with 77% going to Democrats. Democrats are out of power. And of the few Republicans that the HSUS PAC did support, a number lost their bids, such as US Sens. Kelly Ayotte (NH) and Mark Kirk (IL).

    And lastly, the election saw HSUS ally Ed Whitfield—a Kentucky Republican whose wife, an HSUS lobbyist, got him into an ethical quagmire—resign and have his seat won by James Comer, an anti-HSUS politician and former state ag commissioner.

    Election night did bring a win for HSUS in Massachusetts, where it passed a ballot measure that will ban most eggs and pork from being sold in the state by 2022. Expect that law to be challenged and possibly overturned. And if it goes to the Supreme Court, well, who will be making judicial nominations for the next four years?

    Things aren’t looking peachy for HSUS. And with folks such as former Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman, who told HSUS he’d kick their butts out of his state, rumored to be in the mix to run the USDA, things could get even worse for HSUS.

    Posted on 12/08/2016 at 5:06 pm by Humane Watch Team.

    Topics: Gov't, Lobbying, PoliticsLobbyists


  • Does Wayne Pacelle Have a Problem with Women?

    HSUS recently laid off 55 staffers due to financial difficulties—despite pouring millions into lobbying campaigns for ballot measures this fall. The present situation isn’t the first time questions have been raised about Wayne Pacelle’s decision-making.

    In late 2004, after Pacelle became CEO of HSUS, he merged the organization with the Fund for Animals, an anti-hunting group he ran in the early 90’s before he joined HSUS as its head lobbyist in 1994. One Fund employee was Virginia Handley, who had been with the organization as a lobbyist in California for decades. In fact, Pacelle acknowledged to staff that Handley had “decades of invaluable lobbying experience.”

    But then Pacelle decided to close the office and fire Handley as part of an apparent consolidation. The rent for her office was just $400 a month.

    Merritt Clifton, then editor of ANIMAL PEOPLE, an inside-the-animal-rights-movement newspaper, emailed a Handley friend and indicated this wasn’t the first time Pacelle “pushed out” women. Clifton wrote:

    First, 10 years ago, when Wayne Pacelle first took over political affairs at HSUS, he similarly pushed out the older women who had formerly run the department, e.g. Ann Church. This is just a rerun of an episode that was exposed only by ANIMAL PEOPLE. Now he is consolidating regional offices all around the country and dumping people like Virginia Handley and Sandy Rowlands. Why is this a surprise?

    “Personally,” Clifton wrote, “I still wouldn’t trust him [Pacelle] farther than I could punt him like a football.” (You can view a partial copy of the email here. The writing on the printout belongs to Handley, who passed away in 2014.)

    Handley appears to have resolved her exit from HSUS/FFA through a compromise handled by HSUS human resources VP Bob Roop. (You may remember Roop—we busted him a few years back for running HSUS’s HR department while having a phony Ph.D. from a diploma mill.)

    But then a few weeks after the deal was reached, Handley emailed Pacelle saying that she had neither received her promised letter of recommendation from HSUS, nor had she received reimbursement for expenses that she had submitted many weeks previously. Handley also asked for a donation to her new venture, Animal Switchboard, but Roop said no donation would be forthcoming.

    That hardly seems a humane way to treat a longtime employee. But the story serves as a microcosm: Under Wayne Pacelle, being humane to humans has never been a top priority.

    Posted on 11/07/2016 at 6:31 pm by Humane Watch Team.

    Topics: Former EmployeesHistoryLobbyists


  • Congressional Investigation Targets HSUS Ally, Lobbyist

    capitolIt’s been a bad fortnight for the Humane Society of the United States on Capitol Hill. First, HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle got caught with his pants on fire in front of a U.S. Senate subcommittee. And on Wednesday, the House of Representatives Committee on Ethics voted unanimously to investigate whether Representative Whitfield (R-KY) violated the law by improperly giving his wife Connie Harriman-Whitfield, a registered HSUS lobbyist, privileged access to contacts on Capitol Hill. The committee will also determine whether “special favors” were dispensed to HSUS or the Humane Society Legislative Fund, HSUS’s official lobbying arm.

    The Committee’s decision to investigate to Rep. Whitfield, as well as HSUS’s potentially improper access on Capitol Hill, is a welcomed announcement for those who have been following this story since the allegations were first levied. In May 2014, a report released by the Board of the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) said Connie Harriman-Whitfield allegedly contacted her husband’s congressional staff “on numerous occasions,” scheduling “as many as 100 meetings with other congressional offices” through his staff.

    The 26-page OCE report also quoted emails exchanged in which Harriman-Whitfield details the legislative advantages of her marital situation: “Neither HSUS or HSLF [the lobbying arm of HSUS] will be able to do well setting up meetings with Republican offices…That is why Ed’s office was so crucial in setting up meetings between Republicans and third parties.” The report also believes that the special access that HSUS had on Capitol Hill may have helped gain support for HSUS-backed legislation. Stay tuned—we’ll be watching for what the investigation turns up.

    Posted on 03/27/2015 at 1:56 pm by HumaneWatch Team.

    Topics: Animal AgricultureExecutive StaffGov't, Lobbying, PoliticsLobbying DisclosuresLobbyistsMain