Anti-Big Tech lobbyist heads to the Hill

Gun Rights

With Daniel Lippman

ANTI-BIG TECH LOBBYIST HEADS TO THE HILL: Democrats on the House’s antitrust panel have tapped a top outside advocate for breaking up tech giants to serve as their top lawyer for the new Congress. Katie McInnis will be the chief Democratic counsel on the House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust subcommittee, per Morning Tech.

— McInnis was most recently senior public policy manager for DuckDuckGo, the privacy-focused search engine that’s emerged as a foil for its larger rival Google in tech policy debates over privacy and competition. (Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), who earlier this year was passed over by new Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) to lead the antitrust subcommittee, famously exclusively uses the search engine in protest.)

— DuckDuckGo was among the groups of smaller tech firms that vocally supported last year’s legislative efforts to rein in tech companies like Google, Apple, Amazon and Meta by limiting their ability to promote their own products on their platforms. McInnis, who helped spearhead that coalition, was the company’s only registered lobbyist, but DuckDuckGo threw money behind other efforts to advance antitrust bills such as ad blitzes to squeeze lawmakers.

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— Those bills are now widely viewed as nonstarters in the newly divided Congress, as evidenced most recently by Jordan’s snub of Buck to lead the antitrust subcommittee in favor of the more libertarian Thomas Massie (R-Ky.). Buck and former antitrust Chair David Cicilline (D-R.I.) recently launched the Congressional Antitrust Caucus in an effort to sustain focus on the issue.

NHL LOBBYING ON FITNESS BILL: The National Hockey League has turned to K Street to support legislation that would let people use pre-tax medical accounts to pay for fitness-related expenses. The league hired a team at Cornerstone Government Affairs that includes former Steve Scalise aide Chris Hodgson, to lobby on the Personal Health Investment Today, or PHIT, Act, according to disclosures filed this week. Cornerstone also hired JGB & Associates as a subcontractor on the account.

— The perennially introduced measure would let people use FSAs and HSAs to help pay for gym memberships, fitness classes or programs like youth sports leagues, and fitness equipment up to a certain amount. The PHIT Act has yet to be introduced in the new Congress, but last session it was introduced by former Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) and Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.).

— The NHL and the other three major sports leagues — Major League Baseball, National Football League and National Basketball Association — all endorsed the bill at the end of last year. But the NHL, which spends a fraction of what fellow sports leagues do on lobbying, is the only one of those leagues to report lobbying on the bill.

— A range of other groups reported lobbying on the bill last quarter, including the International Health Racquet & Sportsclub Association, the Yoga Alliance, Beachbody, Nike, the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners, the National Athletic Trainers Association, Sports & Fitness Industry Association and the American Heart Association. PGA of America and the American Golf Industry Coalition also lobbied on the bill, which bars spending at private clubs that offer golf, hunting, sailing or horseback riding but doesn’t preclude all of those sports.

Happy Friday and welcome to PI. Send K Street tips and gossip: [email protected]. And be sure to follow me on Twitter: @caitlinoprysko.

FIRST IN PI — PRECISION GETS A PRIVATE EQUITY BACKER: Precision Strategies is the latest beneficiary of the gusher of private equity money flowing into prominent public affairs and lobbying firms in Washington.

— The Boston-based Abry Partners has taken a minority stake in the consulting firm, which was launched a decade ago this year by President Joe Biden’s deputy chief of staff, Jen O’Malley Dillon; Stephanie Cutter, a top adviser to the Biden-blessed outside group Building Back Together; and Obama reelection campaign alum Teddy Goff.

— “We founded Precision as a truly integrated agency that could bring world class expertise and cutting-edge services to campaigns, causes and corporations,” Cutter and Goff said in a statement, adding that Abry’s “strategic investment” will allow Precision to “expand our reach” and “drive continued growth and innovation as we enter our second decade.”

— The firm’s ties to the White House drew interest from potential buyers early on in the administration, and its clients have included corporations like IBM, General Electric and Lyft as well as nonprofits like the ACLU and March for Our Lives. Precision was also paid $3.7 million in 2021 for work for Build Back Together, the dark money group working to promote Biden’s agenda, POLITICO reported last year.

— Abry’s funding indicates that private equity’s appetite for K Street investments remains high. Last year saw a number of such deals: Seidler Equity Partners took a minority stake in a conglomerate of 10 firms that included Public Opinion Strategies, GuidePost Strategies and Bullpen Strategy Group; half a dozen political intelligence, media monitoring, research and strategic consulting shops including Hamilton Place Strategies and Ballast Research merged to become Penta thanks to a majority investment by Falfurrias Capital Partners; and Coral Tree Partners bought a stake in the lobbying shop Subject Matter.

MCHENRY PADS COMMITTEE STAFF WITH K STREETERS: As the House Financial Services Committee revs up under new Chair Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), he’ll be getting a boost from more than half a dozen staffers who previously worked on K Street or otherwise worked for or represented big corporations or the banking industry, according to a new analysis by the left-leaning watchdog group Accountable.US.

— They make up about a quarter of the majority’s committee staff, according to the analysis. The top GOP aide on the panel, staff director Matt Hoffmann, previously worked at BGR Group for clients like Credit Suisse Securities. Kimberly Betz, the committee’s chief counsel and policy director, previously lobbied for PepsiCo., and the panel’s director of member services and coalitions Larry Seyfried was a longtime lobbyist for the American Bankers Association.

— One aide on the Financial Services Committee’s brand new cryptocurrency subcommittee, which is poised to play a key role in crafting legislation to regulate the industry, previously worked at one of its top trade groups. Lindsey Kelleher, a professional staffer on the subcommittee on digital assets, financial technology and inclusion, worked until recently as a senior policy manager at the Blockchain Association. Other staffers identified by Accountable.US worked at major law firms that represented clients in the financial services industry.

MORE NEW BUSINESS: The city of Atlanta has hired Democrat-connected firm theGROUP for help tapping into the billions in new federal spending as a result of major pieces of legislation passed over the past two years.

Joseph Kwabena Nsiah, an ex-staffer to former White House aide Cedric Richmond (whose successor is former Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms) and Estefania Rodriguez, who previously worked for Georgia Democratic Rep. Hank Johnson and former Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux, will lobby for the city on implementation of the bipartisan infrastructure bill, CHIPS and Science Act, and Inflation Reduction Act, and in particular funding for water infrastructure and transportation and infrastructure grants.

TOUGH TIMES FOR THE NRA CONTINUE: National Rifle Association executive Wayne LaPierre “told attendees at the gun-rights group’s most recent board meeting that the organization is down to 4.3 million members,” The Reload’s Stephen Gutowski reports — a drop of “more than a million members since allegations of financial impropriety were leveled against LaPierre and other members of NRA leadership in 2019.”

— “The NRA is now smaller than it has been since 2012 when internal documents show the group had 4 million members. ‘Membership/Contribution Performance has continued to experience softness through 2022,’ a message in a presentation prepared for the group’s finance committee in January said.”

— “The drop in membership has driven a stark decline in the NRA’s revenue over the same period. The presentation shows revenues were down nearly $24 million, or 11 percent, between 2021 and 2022, while expenses grew by more than $11.5 million, or 5.5 percent. A $37.4 million, or 32 percent, shortfall in membership dues was behind the revenue collapse. At the same time, a $16.4 million, or 47.4 percent, overrun in legal expenses led the group to finish in the red for the year.”

— “The membership woes came at a time when external forces presented a favorable atmosphere for NRA growth. Political non-profits tend to see an upswing during election years, and NRA membership increases are often associated with high-profile mass shootings and the gun-control pushes that follow them. The financial statement shows the combined effect of both scenarios saw NRA membership reach record levels in 2018.”

— “2022 saw a midterm election that determined control of Congress under a president pursuing new gun bans and a mass shooting that motivated the first new federal gun restrictions in a generation. But, instead of a surge in new members turning to the NRA, the group experienced a tremendous downturn. Despite that, the group’s 2023 budget projection paints a rosy picture and predicts, without explanation, a $23.4M, or 21 percent, increase in membership revenue.”

Jobs Report

SPOTTED at S-3 Group’s open house on Thursday night to celebrate the recent promotions of Martin Delgado, Matt Bravo and Hastie Afkhami, per a tipster: Arjun Mody of the Senate GOP Conference, Jeff Shockey of Raytheon, Dan Curran of McKinsey, Sarah Rittling of First Five Years Fund, Alex Maggos and Parker Kasmer of JUUL Labs, Erin Billings of Global Strategy Group, Antonia Ferrier of the International Republican Institute, Megan Garcia of Conagra Brands, Mike Liptak and Rhonda Bentz of the Consumer Brands Association, Kasper Zeuthen of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Jennifer Jose of the National Association of Broadcasters, Christina Sevilla of USTR, Ben Napier, Bart Reising, and Annie Minkler of Scalise’s office, Chris Crawford of Rep. Buddy Carter’s (R-Ga.) office, David Planning and Hailey Borden of Majority Whip Tom Emmer’s office, Mike Sommer and Amanda Eversole of American Petroleum Institute, Spencer Pederson of the National Electrical Manufacturers Association, Nancy Peele of Rep. Bruce Westerman’s (R-Ark.) office, Brent Perry of Eastman Chemical Company, Vivian Moeglein of the Natural Resources Committee, Michael Taggart of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, Scott McLucas of KPMG, Parker Poling of Harbinger Strategies, Stephen Cote and Mike Robinson of Mehlman Consulting, Ella Yates of the House Judiciary Committee, Jacque Mosley of NelNet, Jeff Butler of McHenry’s office, James Min of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s office, Tom Craig and Jennifer Loraine of Duke Energy, Chris Herndon of Meta, Andrew Ladner of Google, Robert Yeakel of DoorDash, Adam Huftalen of Merck, Todd Sloves of Rep. Donald Norcross (D-N.J.) office, Hector Colon of Rep. Marilyn Strickland’s (D-Wash.) Office, Keith Stern of Rep. Katherine Clark’s (D-Mass.) office, Ron Benner and Matt Willette of the American Optometric Association, Brendan Devine of Cigna, Courtney Watson of Parsons, Tim Pataki of CGCN Group, Collin McCune of a16z, Brighton Hasslet of the House Financial Services Committee, Patrick Hester of Rep. Elise Stefanik’s (R-N.Y.) office, Amy Albro of Rep. Stephanie Bice’s (R-Okla.) office, Jimmy Peacock of Sen. Eric Schmitt’s (R-Mo.) office, Ben Cantrell of Sen. Markwayne Mullin’s (R-Okla.) office, Brandi Pensoneau and Sierra Grimes of National Business Aviation Association, Tom McLemore and Kevin Rozelsky of Boeing, Jim Richards of Cornerstone Government Affairs, Meg Baglien of Forbes Tate Partners, Ryan Losack of Banner Public Affairs, DJ Fredericks of Walter Reed National Medical Center and McHenry.

Jen Curt is joining Rep. Maxwell Frost‘s (D-Fla.) office as legislative director. Curt was previously the director of government affairs for the Campaign for Trauma Informed Policy and is a Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) alum.

Reservoir Communications Group has hired Chrystine Zacherau as a senior vice president following her time at APCO Worldwide,Lauren Kotwicki as a vice president following more than a decade of public affairs experience in the federal government, and Grace Montgomery as a vice president following her time at RF Binder.

Auke Mahar-Piersma is joining Cardinal Infrastructure as a senior adviser, helping transit clients navigate the infrastructure law. He’s spent the past eight years with the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

New Joint Fundraisers


New PACs

Facts from Florida (Super PAC)
Facts in Politics (Super PAC) (Hybrid PAC)
Leadership for the Capital Region (PAC)
Proud to be Progressive (Super PAC)
Stop Adam Political Action Committee (Super PAC)
Voters of Tomorrow PAC (Hybrid PAC)

New Lobbying Registrations

Capitol Consulting Group LLC (Dc): British American Tobacco
Dla Piper LLP (US): Globalstar, Inc.
King & Spalding LLP: Taurx Pharmaceuticals Ltd
Md Eastport Strategies LLC: Puerto Rico Statehood Council
Sage Femme Strategies: American Association Of Birth Centers (Aabc)
Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP Dba Taft Advisors LLC Fka (Taft, Stettinius & Hollister, LLP): National Stone Sand And Gravel Association
Thegroup Dc, LLC: City Of Atlanta

New Lobbying Terminations

Penn Strategies: Jersey Shore Area Joint Water Authority

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