Defining Political Intelligence – Event Recap

Last week, First Street and Women in Government Relations convened a panel of industry experts from the government, legal, lobbying, and political intelligence communities to discuss the current state of the political intelligence industry.  I had the honor of moderating the distinguished panel, which focused on:

  • the history of the industry
  • how the industry is defined today
  • where the media fits
  • how the industry should grow and be defined going forward

Here are my takeaways from the discussion:

  • There is a lot of misinformation and differing opinions about the political intelligence industry
  • The STOCK Act and political intelligence are two separate concerns and Congress was wise to pass the STOCK Act without the political intelligence registration component
  • The GAO/CRS study of the political intelligence industry mandated in the STOCK Act is an important opportunity for all players in the debate to help shape the definition of their industry
  • There is an awakening in Washington to the immense value of political intelligence
    • There are a growing number of political intelligence products and services aimed at hedge funds, investment banks and mutual funds
    • A number of clients purchase political intelligence – the expected hedge funds, investment banks and mutual funds, but also corporations
  • Part of the challenge going forward will be how political intelligence is defined, in particular as it pertains to the collection or deliverable of political intelligence
    • If  political intelligence is defined broadly as the collection of information of which investment decisions are made, it would include a wide swath of media activities, which may suggest the registration of journalists
    • If political intelligence is defined more narrowly on the delivarable, the challenge will be defining what constitutes political intelligence

Overall, the conversation highlighted the need for further discussions of the nuances of the industry.  The political intelligence industry’s current challenge is separating itself from the STOCK Act, but an opportunity also exists for the industry players to inform and shape the conversation going forward.  Defining the industry through its function of collecting information and analysis on any industry, it is easier to understand its benefits to lobbyists and corporations. Political intelligence has very real value because being first to know is hugely important, but we have to be careful not to require registration that would create a chilling effect on the collection of government information. The story of the industry has yet to be written, but the next few months will be pivotal in the professionalization of the industry.

Notable quotes from the discussion include:

On the topic of insider trading and the STOCK act and its effect on the industry:

  • Potitico reported –
    • “Congress got it right. The irony of it is that it’s a law that confirms a law — but that’s important,” said Patrick J. Cave of the Cypress group.
    • Heather Podesta of Heather Podesta + Partners, said, “The bill clearly had a chilling effect on the industry. We are in a cooling off period as people reassess the situation. We can expect things to morph because the information is so valuable.”

On the value of political intelligence:

  • Podesta said, “political intelligence has real value, being the first to know is hugely important and can mean hundreds of millions of dollars in one day.”

Differing opinions from the panel on the topic of the media’s need to register as lobbyists included:

  • Micheal Mayhew of Integrity Research Associatessignaled out media services that provide industry analysis specifically geared towards Wall Street firms, in advocating for some level of media disclosure.
  • Podesta expressed that registration would be a mistake because the media provides information to a wide-spread audience, not a small client base like lobbyists.
  • Washington Examiner reports:
    • Robert Walker of Wiley Rein LLP, indicated that registering media would have a “chilling effect” on sources and kill the news media’s best friend: the leak. “It would be too big of a price to pay,”
    • Cave said “The (specialized) media should not be exempt” from registering like lobbyists. You are providing the same content that we do.”

Here are links to the write-ups of the event:

We will be posting video of the event when it becomes available.  In the meantime if you are interested in viewing the event in full, please e-mail me.


  1. Thadford Jackson says:

    My name is Thad Jackson and my co-author and I (University of Alabama Department of Finance) are researching political intelligence firms. Your website has provided a wealth of information. I just got my hands on a research report from Integrity, which I found out about from First Street.) I am interested in viewing the event that you refer to in ” Defining Political Intelligence – Event Recap.” I searched Youtube, but to no avail. How can I get my hands on the proceedings of this event. There is so little written about PI firms, and my co-author and I intend to remedy this. You guys are doing great though. Great website. Thank you,

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