With Daniel Lippman and Theodoric Meyer
PROGRAMMING NOTE: POLITICO Influence will not publish on Monday, Feb. 15. We’ll be back on our normal schedule on Tuesday, Feb. 16.
REPUBLICANS WANNA KNOW: WHAT’S GOING ON AT THE CHAMBER? The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is having a political identity crisis, Theodoric Meyer and I report. Over the past month, Washington’s most powerful trade group has taken a series of steps that have enraged its traditional Republican allies. It applauded much of President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill; cheered Biden’s decision to rejoin the Paris climate agreement; backed the former leader of the liberal Center of American Progress, Neera Tanden, for Office of Management and Budget director; and expressed openness to raising the minimum wage, though not to $15 an hour.
— All of that has put the Chamber, which is known for its bruising battles with past Democratic administrations, occupying an increasingly lonely political center, caught between angry Republicans who feel the trade group has abandoned them and Democrats who are pursuing policies anathema to many Chamber members.
— Rep. Jason Smith (R-Mo.) said in an interview that the Chamber “has forgotten Main Street America” and would have to decide what it wanted to be in Biden’s Washington. Josh Holmes, a former chief of staff to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) who remains a close ally, called some of the Chamber’s recent positions “totally unmoored to any sort of advocacy for business whatsoever.”
— Neil Bradley, the Chamber’s executive vice president and chief policy officer, defended the Tanden endorsement in an interview and maintained that the Chamber is approaching the Biden administration the same way it approached the Trump White House. “Some people may have assumed that somehow the Chamber was an arm of a political party,” he said. “They were wrong in that assumption.”
— But bipartisanship isn’t a popular approach within either party right now, and the business lobby hasn’t exactly been welcomed with open arms by Democrats, who still recoil at the Chambers efforts to defeat Obamacare and financial regulatory reform. They’re “in no man’s land,” said John Feehery, a longtime Republican lobbyist. Matt Haller, a former Chamber staffer who’s now the International Franchise Association’s top lobbyist, rejected such pessimism about the Chamber of Commerce’s shift. “There will always be a middle” among members of Congress, he said.
PROBABLY JUST A COINCIDENCE: Nearly half a dozen conservative groups released a joint statement this morning opposing Tanden’s OMB nomination and designating her confirmation as a key vote. The statement, issued by the heads of Heritage Action, Club for Growth, American Conservative Union, March for Life Action, and FreedomWorks, argues that “policies supported by Tanden will undoubtedly damage America’s fiscal, economic, moral and social well-being,” while painting the CAP founder as “radical” and “extreme.”
Happy Friday and welcome to PI. A quick programming note: PI will be off on Monday for Presidents Day, but we’ll be back in your inboxes on Tuesday. In the meantime, keep the tips coming: [email protected]. And follow me on Twitter: @caitlinoprysko.
‘THIS IS … HOW WASHINGTON WORK’: POLITICO’s Josh Gerstein reports on a trove of newly unsealed court filings that offer “new insight into how a high-flying businessman and prolific political donor pushing multibillion-dollar deals related to Libyan riches amassed under Moammar Gadhafi’s regime tried to maneuver his way into Joe Biden’s inner circle.”
— As Imaad Zuberi “awaits sentencing next week on charges of failing to register as a foreign agent, tax evasion, illegal campaign donations and obstruction of justice, a slew of his emails, text messages and other records have gone public, detailing his efforts to work the levers of power in Washington and elsewhere.”
— Some of the most eyebrow-raising revelations are texts from Zuberi “describing outreach to Fran Person, who spent eight years as a personal aide, or so-called body man, to then-Vice President Biden,” just before Zuberi “embarked on a frenzied effort to help new leaders in Libya unlock as much as $30 billion worth of government assets frozen in the chaos that followed the fall of Gadhafi’s” regime. The texts show Zuberi “discussing a potential deal on the Libya funds involving Person and others, as well as arranging meetings on the topic in Washington and Paris.”
— The documents also offer a revealing look into how Zuberi viewed dealmaking in Washington. “On the way to Washington, I read the new book Clinton Cash. You must read because it discussed how Indian businessman helped make US Indian civilian nuclear deal via Clinton,” Zuberi wrote to his associate on the Libya project, referring to the 2015 book written by GOP operative Peter Schweizer. “This is how America work. How Washington work.”
CREDIT EXPERTS FORM TRADE GROUP: Consumer credit experts have banded together to create the American Association of Consumer Credit Professionals, an advocacy group helping consumers navigate the credit reporting process in order to repair their credit scores. The group “will lobby at the state and federal levels on behalf of the credit repair industry and the consumer, and their right to fair and balanced credit practices,” said Liz Shrum, a spokesperson for the group, which will also focus on racial inequities in the credit system.
ANNALS OF FUNDRAISING: “Prominent Democratic political committees are quietly exiling embattled megadonor Martin Elling,” who played a “leading role in a massive opioid drug scandal that’s throttled his former employer, consulting giant McKinsey & Company, and coincided with his firing,” Business Insider’s Dave Levinthal reports.
— Over 20 years, “Elling has spread nearly $2 million among dozens of federal-level political committees, almost all Democratic,” including those of President Joe Biden and dozens of Senate and House candidates. “The New York Times last year reported that Elling had helped lead McKinsey’s effort to ‘turbocharge’ sales” of Purdue Pharma’s opioid drug OxyContin, and that he “suggested to a colleague that he destroy records that might implicate him in the opioid sales push.”
— “Elling is the latest example of top-tier political bankrollers who suddenly became liabilities to the recipients of their patronage” on both sides of the aisle. “But as Democrats banish Elling, they’re loath to publicly speak of it. … More than a dozen other Democratic political committees and officials to whom Elling gave four- or five-figure contributions during the 2019-2020 election cycle did not respond this week to repeated Insider inquiries.”
ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ATLANTIC: After four years of haggling, European governments have agreed on new online privacy rules, POLITICO EU’s Laura Kayali and Vincent Manancourt report. Though the European Commission first released proposed text in January 2017, “until Wednesday, eight countries at the helm of the EU Council tried, and failed, to find an agreement among governments. It didn’t help that the bill was subject to one of the most intense influence campaigns ever seen on digital files. Big Tech, European telecom operators and press publishers intensively lobbied against the text, arguing it would hamper innovation and limit media pluralism.” The massive lobbying campaign, as well as the disagreement among European capitals, resulted in a process that “outlasted eight EU presidencies and two Commissions and Parliaments before Wednesday’s vote, presided over by Portugal.”
BCW LAUNCHES PUBLIC SECTOR FOCUS: Burson Cohn & Wolfe on Thursday announced the formation of a new public affairs unit focused specifically on public sector clients. “As the new administration ramps up, many agencies will need to develop and launch compelling strategic communications campaigns to disseminate President Biden’s priorities, policies and objectives to the American public,” said Dan Doherty, BCW’s executive vice president for North America public affairs and head of its crisis practice, in a statement. The new unit is already under contract with a handful of federal agencies including the VA, Commerce Department, Pentagon and HHS.
— Sirona Strategies has hired Tharini Sathiamoorthy as a senior director. She plans to register to lobby. She previously handled global external affairs for U.S. Pharmacopeia.
— Precision Strategies has hired Tim Rice as a director in its strategic communications practice. He was previously executive vice president, managing director and a corporate branding and financial services specialist at Burson Cohn & Wolfe.
— Dan Webber will become president of Edelman’s D.C. office. He was previously managing director of their D.C. operations and succeeds Lisa Osborne Ross, who will become COO full time.
— David Broome will be executive vice president for government relations at the Professional Services Council, Playbook reports. He previously was senior vice president of government relations for Israel Aerospace Industries, and is a Bush alum.
BOLD Victory 2022 (Reps. Antonio Delgado (D-N.Y.), Mike Levin (D-Calif.), Vicente Gonzalez (D-Texas), LLEGO-PAC)
Council of Cosmic Clearance (Super PAC)
Health Jobs Justice (Leadership PAC: Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.))
Just Win Baby (Leadership PAC: Rep. Burgess Owens (R-Utah))
Nā Kānaka for Federal Recognition (Super PAC)
Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld: International Business Machines Corporation
Artemis Policy Group LLC: The Society For Maternal-Fetal Medicine
Capitaledge Advocacy Inc. (Formerly Capitaledge Advocacy, LLC): Pioneer Valley Planning Commission
Cavarocchi Ruscio Dennis Associates, L.L.C.: Rhoads Industries
Fti Government Affairs: Elite Flower Services Inc
Halcyon Strategy LLC: Reardon Consulting, LLC On Behalf Of Private Investor Coalition
Halcyon Strategy LLC: Reardon Consulting, LLC On Behalf Of S Corporation Association
Hannegan Landau Poersch & Rosenbaum Advocacy, LLC: National Hospice And Palliative Care Organization
Holland & Knight LLP: National Mining Association
Impact Public Affairs (Formerly Massey, Watson & Hembree LLC: Dulany Industries, Inc.
Kevin Kayes: Fwd.US
Kevin Kayes: NCTA
Kevin Kayes: Nextnav LLC
King & Spalding LLP: Luminultra Technologies Ltd.
Marshall & Popp, LLC: Ford Motor Company
Ms. Tami Wahl: Green Farms Co, LLC
Muroff Law Firm, LLC: Central Philadelphia Development Corporation
Natural Resource Results LLC: American Whitewater
Public Strategies Washington, Inc.: Bausch Health Companies, Inc.
Reardon Consulting, LLC: Private Investor Coalition
Tower 19: Birch Creek Development
Tower 19: Lincoln Park Group On Behalf Of City Of Palmdale
Tower 19: Miller Strategies, LLC On Behalf Of Amazon Web Services, Inc.
Tower 19: Miller Strategies, LLC On Behalf Of Oak View Group, LLC
Tower 19: Sentinel Midstream LLC
Alpine Group Partners, LLC.: Grassland Water District
Alpine Group Partners, LLC.: New Water
Ballard Partners: Balsam Brands, Inc.
Banner Public Affairs, LLC: Next Animation Services
Horizon Government Affairs: National Kidney Foundation
Kevin Kayes: Att Services Inc (Formerly Att)
Moonwalker Associates: Clark Hill, Plc On Behalf Of Persivia, Inc.
Reardon Consulting, LLC: Venn Strategies On Behalf Of Private Investor Coalition
The Liaison Group, LLC: Oregon Cannabis Association