February 24, 2024

Michael Best lobbyists strike out on their own

Michael Best lobbyists strike out on their own

With Daniel Lippman 

MICHAEL BEST LOBBYISTS HANG A SHINGLE: A trio of lobbyists at Michael Best Strategies, the Wisconsin-based law and lobbying firm whose staff includes former RNC Chair Reince Priebus, former Rep. Steve Israel, former Sen. Cory Gardner and former Texas land commissioner George P. Bush, have launched their own lobbying shop.

Denise Bode, who’d been with Michael Best since 2017 and previously ran the firm’s federal lobbying practice, will lead the new firm, called Constitution Partners. Before joining Michael Best, Bode was the first woman to run multiple energy trade groups and also worked for Cornerstone Government Affairs.

— She’s joined at the new firm by Pat Firth, who was a principal at Michael Best and will be a partner at Constitution Partners, and Emily Green, who was a legislative assistant at Michael Best and will now be an associate. The new firm will have an emphasis on clients in the agriculture, food, energy, environment, tax and trade industries.

— So far, five of Bode’s former clients have followed her, Firth and Green to the new firm: the American Fruit & Vegetable Processors & Growers Coalition, the ​Institute of Food Technologists, ​Plains All American Pipeline, ​SNP Inc. and the Republican River Water Conservation District. They’ve recruited one additional client as well, the transmission advocacy group Americans for a Clean Energy Grid.

Good afternoon and welcome to PI. Send tips: [email protected]. And be sure to follow me on Twitter: @caitlinoprysko.

THE DEETS ON SBF’S ALLEGED STRAW DONOR SCHEME: Federal prosecutors this morning painted a clearer picture of the alleged straw donor scheme carried out by FTX executives at the behest of founder Sam Bankman-Fried in the fallen crypto magnate’s bid to make friends in Washington.

— A superseding indictment filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan tacks on four additional charges to the eight counts of fraud, conspiracy and campaign finance violations Bankman-Fried was hit with last year, to which he pleaded not guilty.

— Bankman-Fried allegedly directed more than 300 political contributions that came from his hedge fund Alameda Research and FTX funds — which were themselves commingled with FTX customer assets — “at least in part to improve his personal standing in Washington, D.C., increase FTX’s profile, and curry favor with candidates that could help pass legislation favorable” to the exchange or SBF personally, including crypto regulations, the indictment says.

— At least $100 million in donations were made in the names of two fellow FTX executives in particular, prosecutors say. The campaign cash benefited Democrats and Republicans alike, but its source was concealed internally and externally in part because they came from corporate bank accounts but also because Bankman-Fried “did not want to be known as a left leaning partisan, or to have his name publicly attached to Republican candidates,” the indictment says.

— The document doesn’t name Bankman-Fried’s co-conspirators in the straw donor scheme. But it references plans for two donations that match campaign finance records attributed to Nishad Singh, FTX’s former director of engineering who emerged last cycle as a major Democratic donor. He has not been charged with any wrongdoing, but has reportedly been negotiating a plea deal with prosecutors.

— According to the indictment, one co-conspirator became the face of FTX’s political spending on the left, with a consultant telling the person that “in general, you being the center left face of our spending will mean you giving to a lot of woke shit for transactional purposes.”

— Another executive, “who publicly aligned himself with conservatives, made contributions to Republican candidates that” were directed by Bankman-Fried and financed by Alameda. Bankman-Fried’s former co-CEO Ryan Salame, like Singh, emerged suddenly on the political scene last cycle with millions of dollars in donations almost exclusively to Republicans or conservative groups. Salame also has not been charged with any wrongdoing.

MANUFACTURERS NUDGE THE HILL ON PERMITTING: The National Association of Manufacturers is nudging House lawmakers to get a move on enacting permitting reforms that were sidelined at the end of the last Congress.

— Ahead of hearings next week on energy and mining permitting bills, NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons laid out some of the trade group’s top priorities in a letter to the heads of the House Natural Resources, Transportation and Infrastructure and Energy and Commerce committees last night.

— Timmons urged lawmakers to remove red tape to speed up energy and transportation infrastructure improvements — especially for projects boosted by the bipartisan infrastructure bill. The group also wants greater transparency and consistency on natural resource development policy and environmental reviews while streamlining and reducing inefficiency in reviews across the board.

— “When federal agencies continually revise standards before current standards are met and before states have implemented prior mandates, they create unpredictability,” Timmons wrote, which he argued exacerbates inflation “and can lead to the U.S. losing out on new projects and facilities to other countries, undermining the very goals of our environmental standards.”

NEW WAYS AND MEANS CHAIR RATTLES K STREET: “Rep. Jason Smith hasn’t been chair of the House Ways and Means Committee very long, but he’s already done something rare for a Republican,” POLITICO’s Brian Faler reports: “He’s struck fear into the heart of corporate tax lobbyists.”

— “The Missouri lawmaker is making it clear he isn’t the sort of Chamber of Commerce Republican his side usually picks for this job. He is going out of his way to let corporate America know he’s not terribly concerned with its problems, even if its taxes are going up substantially, while promising a lot more scrutiny of its relations with China.”

— “All of that is throwing K Street into a tizzy. Corporate tax lobbyists are not used to taking heat from Republicans, and many don’t know what to make of Smith. They didn’t know him well before his surprise win last month for the committee gavel over two more traditional, business-friendly Republicans.”

— “‘People are wondering how best to approach him with corporate issues,’ said one former Republican tax aide. ‘People have spun themselves into a frenzy — but he’s still a Republican.’” One lobbyist “is focusing on other Republican members of the panel — 40 percent of whom joined Ways and Means just last month. The idea is that they will be more receptive, and Smith will have a harder time saying no to them.”

GETTING CHIPPY: “Rival semiconductor suppliers and their customers pulled together last year as they lobbied Congress to help shore up U.S. chip manufacturing and reduce vulnerabilities in the crucial supply chain,” The New York Times Ana Swanson and Don Clark write. But since last year’s passage of the CHIPS and Science Act — with tens of billions in funding up grabs — “that unity is beginning to crack.”

— “As the Biden administration prepares to begin handing out the money, chief executives, lobbyists and lawmakers have begun jostling to make their case for funding, in public and behind closed doors.”

— “Purveyors of chips, their suppliers and the trade associations that represent them together spent $59 million on lobbying last year, according to tracking from OpenSecrets, up from $46 million in 2021 and $36 million in 2020, as they tried to ensure that Congress approved their funding. Some of those activities have now shifted to making sure companies snag the biggest portion.”

ADVERTISERS FORM DARK MONEY GROUP TO FIGHT DIGITAL AD TAXES: The Association of National Advertisers is seeding a new nonprofit group to stem the rising tide of digital ad tax proposals popping up in statehouses across the country. Americans for Digital Opportunity is a 501(c)(4) group that will work to make sure “concerned citizens and consumers are educated on digital advertising tax issues and how elected leaders in their respective states are voting,” according to the coalition.

— The nonprofit isn’t required to disclose its donors, but ANA lists Google, Meta and Amazon and Walmart’s ad tech arms as “strategic partners” and boasts a membership of more than 1,000 client-side companies and over 500 suppliers, consultants, agencies, media companies and law firms.

Doug Mayer, who’s got experience with such policy fights, will steer ADO as its president, and former South Dakota state Sen. Deb Peters will serve as the group’s lead advocate and tax expert. Peters authored the law that resulted in a landmark Supreme Court ruling giving states the ability to collect sales taxes from online purchases. Mayer previously ran Marylanders for Tax Fairness, a coalition that opposed Maryland’s first-in-the-nation tax on digital ad revenues.

— That law is wrapped up in legal challenges from the business community at both the state and federal level, but the idea took off during the pandemic as the world moved (even more) online, generating even more ad revenue for tech giants while states grappled with budget shortfalls. That bubble has since appeared to burst, but Bloomberg reports that already this year, digital advertising taxes have been introduced in Connecticut, Indiana, Massachusetts and New York.

— “We don’t tax other forms of advertising in America, and it makes zero economic or legal sense to treat digital advertising any differently,” Mayer argued in a statement. “We need to promote and celebrate the jobs and industries that digital advertising has created and supports, not invent ways to shut them down.”

Wayne Weikel is now vice president for state government affairs at the Alliance for Automotive Innovation. He was most recently senior director of state government affairs with the group.

Bill George has joined FGS Global as a senior adviser. He was previously chair and CEO of Medtronic.

Anna Rosenberg has joined the London Stock Exchange Group as a senior manager of government relations and regulatory strategy. She most recently led fintech and crypto efforts at FTI Consulting in New York.

— The National Asphalt Pavement Association has hired Nile Elam as vice president of government affairs. He was most recently senior director of energy and resources policy at NAM.

Josh Meservey has joined the Hudson Institute as a senior fellow to help stand up its Africa program. He previously was a research fellow focused on Africa and the Middle East at the Heritage Foundation.

Tiffany Wynn has been promoted to partner at Crowell & Moring. She is a member of the firm’s white collar and regulatory enforcement group and its investigations practice.

Magnus Pearson Media has promoted Lauren Passalacqua and Jordan Wilson to partner.

— Retired Army Maj. Gen. Todd Royar has joined Textron as vice president and lead executive for government affairs and Washington operations, per Morning Defense.

Austin Dahmer has joined Sen. Josh Hawley’s (R-Mo.) office as defense policy adviser. He previously served as a senior policy analyst in national security at SAIC.

Shin Inouye is now deputy assistant secretary for communications with the Education Department. He previously was executive vice president of communications at the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

T.W. Arrighi is now vice president at Push Digital. He previously was national press secretary at the NRSC and is a Jim Banks, Mimi Walters and Mike Pompeo alum.

Tayhlor Coleman is joining Resonance Campaigns as a principal. She most recently was a senior account executive at AL Media and is a DCCC alum.

Steve Perrotta is now a public policy director at the Society for Human Resource Management. He previously was labor and retirement policy director for former Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and is a John Boehner and Amo Houghton alum.

Justice 2024 (Sens. Sherrod Brown, Jon Tester)
Washington Senate Victory 2024 (Sen. Maria Cantwell, DSCC)

Alaine Giuliani (Super PAC)
Cleco Federal PAC (PAC)

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld: Milliken & Company
Capitol Core Group, Inc.: California Sensor Corporation (Calsense)
Constitution Partners: Aceg
Constitution Partners: American Fruit & Vegetable Processors & Growers Coalition
Constitution Partners: Institute Of Food Technologists
Constitution Partners: Plains All American Pipeline, L.P.
Fdj Solutions, LLC: Puerto Rican Cultural Center
Lne Group: Ekso Bionics
Patriot Strategies, LLC: City Of Laredo, Texas
The Russell Group, Inc.: Tufts University
Venable LLP: The Diatribe Foundation
Venn Strategies: Welbehealth

Donna M. Fiorentino, LLC: Capitol Counsel LLC On Behalf Of Hologic, Inc.
Robertson, Monagle, & Eastaugh Pc (Formelry Known At Hoffman, Silver, Gilman And: City Of Kotzebue
Simon And Company: Louisville, Kentucky
Zte USa: Zte USa