With Daniel Lippman and Hannah Farrow
PHARMA GAVE BIG TO DEM-TIED DARK MONEY GROUP: The pharmaceutical industry’s lobbying arm gave a massive sum to a group tied to centrist Democrats, which has in turn supported lawmakers involved in watering down the administration’s prescription drug pricing proposal.
— Tax filings from 2020 obtained by POLITICO show that the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America gave $2.68 million to Center Forward, a group once known as the Blue Dog Research Forum, chaired by former Rep. Bud Cramer (D-Ala.). According to its website, the group convenes lawmakers, corporations, trade associations and others “to find common ground.”
— The millions that PhRMA gave to the group this year is a marked increase from the last federal election cycle in 2018. That year, the pharmaceutical industry’s lobbying arm gave $1.439 million to Center Forward, according to PhRMA’s 2018 tax filing.
— Center Forward has spent upwards of $3 million on TV, radio and digital ads since June, according to research from AdImpact. Much of the data does not provide details about the content of the ads. However, the group doled out an estimated $195,169.66 on a TV ad praising Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) as one man who “never gives up on West Virginia” that aired between August and September. Additionally, three separate TV ads, including one in Spanish, lauded Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) for her independence. AdImpact estimated that the series, which ran between September and November, cost Center Forward about $720,653.
— “Independence, bipartisanship, straight talk,” one of the ads, which aired in September and cost nearly $300,000, read. “These are Arizona traditions, and Kyrsten Sinema is carrying them on. An independent voice, a bipartisan leader.”
— In a separate ad that appeared on Facebook, which cost between $45,000 and $50,000, Center Forward urged others to call on Sinema to continue to govern as an independent. “In Arizona, we know working together moves us forward. So does Kyrsten Sinema. She’s an independent and effective voice for our state,” the 30-second video states. “Thank Kyrsten Sinema, and tell her to keep fighting as an independent and effective voice for us.”
— In November, Center Forward ran a series of ads on Facebook praising Reps. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.), Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.), Lou Correa (D-Calif.), Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.), Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) and Rep. Scott Peters (D-Calif.), according to Facebook’s ad database. All six of those lawmakers have pushed back against the progressive drug pricing proposal and were also targeted by advocates of the drug pricing plan championed by the administration. Some voted against it in committee. Ultimately, their dissension led progressives to drop some key provisions, which were wins for PhRMA.
— A PhRMA spokesperson said that the group engages with those that have “a wide array of opinions and priorities, including those who want lawmakers to advance common-sense, bipartisan solutions to help make health care more affordable.” The spokesperson, Brian Newell, added that PhRMA would continue to work with “a variety of interested stakeholders to help deliver an outcome that lowers out-of-pocket costs at the pharmacy and ensures patients can get the medicines they need”
— Center Forward did not offer a direct response when asked about the PhRMA’s giving. Cori Kramer, executive director of Center Forward, said the group’s “mission is to foster productive discussions of the issues facing Americans, and we are proud to have engaged hundreds of thought leaders on both sides of the aisle and across numerous industries over our 11 years.”
PROJECT VERITAS HIRES LOBBYIST TO PROTEST DOJ RAID: Project Veritas, the conservative organization known for its hidden-camera video stings, has turned to K Street to help win sympathy on the Hill after a series of pre-dawn FBI raids against its founder, James O’Keefe, and several associates, that have prompted concern from First Amendment advocates.
— Lobbying disclosures show the group hired Mark Paoletta of Schaerr Jaffe last month, days after the FBI obtained a warrant to seize cell phones from O’Keefe’s apartment as part of an investigation that appears to center on the alleged theft of a diary belonging to President Joe Biden’s daughter, Ashley Biden.
— Project Veritas has denied that the diary was stolen by its original sources but in a letter to Democratic and Republican leaders on the House and Senate Judiciary and Homeland Security committees this morning obtained by POLITICO’s Josh Gerstein, Paoletta, a former counsel to former Vice President Mike Pence and chief counsel on the House Energy and Commerce Oversight Subcommittee, noted that the law protects journalists for legally obtaining even stolen information.
— “The principle is simple: the government can’t punish journalists for lawfully obtaining, investigating, or publishing information—even information that a source may have obtained illegally,” Paoletta wrote to the lawmakers, less than a day after a federal magistrate judge in Manhattan denied Veritas’ bid to unseal records related to the raid. Paoletta urged Democratic lawmakers to probe the Justice Department’s actions, contending that “this type of assault on the First Amendment should be a priority for both sides of the aisle.” Paoletta, who disclosure filings show is the first lobbyist retained by Project Veritas, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
FLYING IN: The National Retail Federation is bringing together 60 retailers today and yesterday for virtual staff meetings with the offices of eight Senate Democrats on corporate tax provisions in the party’s climate and social spending bill. The trade group is set to meet with the offices of Sinema and Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).
— Meanwhile the Election Infrastructure Initiative, a coalition led by the Center for Tech and Civic Life and the Center for Secure and Modern Elections, is wrapping up a two-day virtual fly-in to advocate for federal funding to shore up critical election infrastructure as designated by the Department of Homeland Security. The coalition and local and state election administrators met with House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), Reps. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), Carolyn Bourdeaux (D-Ga.) and Tom O’Halleran (D-Ariz.), and the White House’s Domestic Policy Council to ask for $20 billion in funding over 10 years to help cover expenses ranging from fixing outdated voting technology to election administration staffing to physical security.
NEXT THREAT UP FOR GIG COMPANIES: “Worker misclassifications — particularly by gig economy companies — should be scrutinized to see if they violate antitrust laws, White House competition adviser Tim Wu said Tuesday at a workshop on competition in labor markets,” per POLITICO‘s Benjamin Din.
— “Some of the contracts and relationships that may be set up to avoid classifying someone as an employee should be themselves carefully examined for legality under the antitrust laws,” he said during a keynote at the event hosted by the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department’s antitrust division. The industry’s worker classification model, which it has spent heavily on influence activities to protect, has also faced heightened scrutiny from a Biden administration that pledged to be worker friendly.
— Uber, who’s already faced an antitrust lawsuit from a customer over its surge pricing model, and Lyft “referred requests for comments to the App-Based Work Alliance, which said in a statement it would ‘continue to support policies that preserve the flexibility and independence’ enjoyed by app-based workers. ‘Protecting independence and access to work opportunities is critically important,’ said the group formed by Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, Instacart and Postmates.”
DOUBLE THE INFLUENCE, DOUBLE THE FUN: The farming industry aims to influence federal policy more than the average sector, especially when major changes in programs like new farm bills are being considered, according to a report released Tuesday by the conservative think tank the American Enterprise Institute.
— “In a typical year, the farm sector invested in twice the level of campaign contribution and lobbying efforts” when adjusted for industry size, compared with the average influence effort of all 60 sectors the report examined. “Given the extent to which farmers benefit from and are otherwise affected by federal programs, this finding is not a surprise,” the report says.
— “In some senses, I’m a little surprised that the farm sector isn’t higher than that,” said Vince Smith, an AEI agricultural economist and author of the report, adding that he expects lobbying spending to surge as farm bill debates inch closer. The farm sector benefited to the tune of about $15 billion a year from direct subsidy payments from 2000 to 2018. The subsidies increased to about $30 billion in 2019 and further still in 2020 to $52 billion, the report says.
CORRECTION: Tuesday’s Influence misstated Anchal Liddar’s gender; she is female. PI regrets the error.
— The American Hotel & Lodging Association has hired John Jarrard as director of state and local government affairs, based in Atlanta and Angela McDonald as executive assistant to the CEO. Jarrard previously worked at The Hudson Group and McDonald previously worked at DCI Group. It also promoted Maura Morton to vice president of communications, Lauren Pravlik to senior director of partnerships and business development, Olivia Klipa to senior director of conventions and events, and Megan Steggert to senior manager of marketing.
— Kyle Gerron has joined the Society of Interventional Radiology as senior manager of government affairs. He was previously vice president at DDC Public Affairs and is a Williams & Jensen alum.
— Cornerstone Government Affairs has hired Karyn Richman and Matt Schnappauf to its government relations team. Richman most recently was a staffer on the House Appropriations Committee and Schnappauf most recently served as the director of U.S. Navy Liaison Office to the House and the Department of the Navy’s deputy chief of legislative affairs.
— Gardner Foster has joined Squire Patton Boggs’ communications practice as of counsel. He most recently served as principal for satellite policy at SpaceX, and is a Sprint (now T-Mobile) alum.
— Sydney Pettit is now director of government affairs at CTIA. She previously was a legislative assistant for Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.).
— Dilara Yilmaz has launched Yilmaz Communications, her own political and advocacy consulting group. She previously was chief communications officer for foreign policy and national security at the British Embassy.
— Lori Wallach will join Economic Liberties as director of a new Rethink Trade program effective Jan. 1. She was most recently director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch.
— The Healthcare Supply Chain Association named Todd Ebert as permanent president and CEO. He was previously interim chief executive and served as president and CEO of the trade group from 2015 to 2019.
— Kara Adame (Wheeler) has joined Mutual of Omaha as head of its Washington office. She previously was a federal government relations director at MetLife and is a Sam Graves and RNC alum.
Bridge Public Affairs, LLC: Global Health Supply, LLC
Envision Strategy: United Expert Holdings, LLC
Hobart Hallaway & Quayle Ventures, LLC: Demopolis Industrial Development Board
Hobart Hallaway & Quayle Ventures, LLC: Performance Contracting Group, Inc.
Ice Miller Strategies LLC: Lit Communities
Nvg, LLC: Kreindler & Kreindler LLP (For Certain Plaintiffs In “9/11” Litigation)
Rich Feuer Anderson: Kalshi Inc.
S-3 Group: Telephone Systems International
The Vogel Group: Spac Association
Thompson Coburn LLP: Liger Investments Limited
Tiger Hill Partners LLC: Bitwise Asset Management
Tiger Hill Partners LLC: Maxwell Financial Labs, Inc.
Watkins & Eager Pllc: Great City Mississippi Foundation
Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld: Forever Energy, LLC