With Daniel Lippman
WHY THE NRA’S CHIEF LOBBYIST LEFT: The National Rifle Association’s top lobbyist left the scandal-plagued gun rights group this week after nearly two decades, but Jason Ouimet insisted in an interview that the organization’s recent turmoil played no role in his departure.
— “There’s been stuff surrounding the NRA for honestly, for decades,” Ouimet told PI. “You could argue it’s different now, but there’s been stuff surrounding the NRA for decades. And I wouldn’t have gone and worked there if I didn’t expect to have to deal with some controversy and some challenges.”
— The group has faced questions about its staying power as a major political force following corruption allegations that gave way to potentially existential legal threats, lagging membership and last year’s passage of the most substantial gun reforms in decades.
— Ouimet, who became head of the NRA’s lobbying arm and PAC in 2019 amid infighting in the upper echelons of its leadership, is joining the Ohio-based government affairs firm Shumaker Advisors as a senior vice president of federal affairs, where he’ll help build out the group’s D.C. presence.
— “It’s in its infancy right now,” he said of Shumaker’s political operation, contending that this opportunity, unlike past offers he’d turned down to stay at the NRA, was simply too enticing to pass up. “There’s always a lot of excitement with something new and something in the beginning, and we’re looking forward to growing that ultimately.”
— Prior to joining the NRA in 2005, Ouimet worked for former Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.). He said he’s eager to return to working on some of the issues he worked on previously, like transportation, in addition to judiciary issues and the NDAA. The firm, which currently has about a dozen federal lobbying clients skewing toward the energy and tech sectors, also has offices in Florida and the Carolinas, and its roster includes several other Washington veterans, former Reps. David Jolly and Mark Sanford.
— Ouimet wouldn’t rule out future work on gun issues. “If somebody needs help in that space, like with any other client, we’ll evaluate it and determine whether or not we’re the right fit for them … and determine whether or not we’ll take them on,” he said.
Happy Friday and welcome to PI. If you only read one thing this weekend (after PI, of course) let it be our colleagues’ first-ever oral history of the war in Ukraine marking the first anniversary. Send tips: [email protected]. And be sure to follow me on Twitter: @caitlinoprysko.
TRUMP ALLIES SEEK TO ALIENATE FIRMS WITH JAN. 6 STAFFERS: “A conservative non-profit group allied with former President Donald Trump urged ‘Hill staffers and their colleagues’ to cut off meetings with any former Jan. 6 committee staffers who have since joined firms that lobby,” POLITICO’s Hailey Fuchs and Kyle Cheney report.
— “In a letter sent to hundreds of recipients on the Hill, the dark money group American Accountability Foundation listed the names of the former committee staffers and their titles — along with their new employers and links to their firms’ clients — all of whom they urged to blacklist.”
— “AAF has put together a cheat-sheet below outlining their new firms and the firm’s clients so you can be sure you (and your staff) aren’t inadvertently taking a meeting with a company that hires staff that hates your boss,” the group’s president and founder Thomas Jones wrote, citing PI’s reporting on the white-shoe law firms snapping up congressional Jan. 6 investigators and lawyers.
— While many of those staffers may not ever register to lobby, Jones argued that the affiliation was more than enough. “It is important to remember that even if one of these former J6 investigators is not listed as a lobbyist on this specific account, the billings brought in by the clients listed below benefit all staff at the J6 investigator’s new firm,” he wrote.
— How successful the group’s play will be remains to be seen. But it “illustrates the intense desire that exists among some conservatives to exact political retribution for those staffers who helped unearth extraordinary evidence of Donald Trump’s bid to subvert the 2020 election.”
FARA FRIDAY: Former Sens. Norm Coleman and Tom Daschle are working on a push to bring an exhibit highlighting alleged war crimes committed by Russia in its war with Ukraine to the halls of Congress, according to documents filed with the Justice Department days before conflict turned one year old. Ukrainian steel oligarch Victor Pinchuk’s philanthropy is behind the effort, which Coleman, a senior counsel at Hogan Lovells, is carrying out pro bono.
— Pinchuk and his eponymous foundation are known entities on the world stage — with a major presence at both the Munich Security Conference over the weekend and the World Economic Forum’s annual confab in Davos — as well as the D.C. political scene. Pinchuk’s foundation has been a major donor to nonprofits run by both the Clinton family and former President Donald Trump, and former Clinton pollster Doug Schoen represented the oligarch for years.
— And it was reportedly Pinchuk who bankrolled a 2012 report on the jailing of former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko that landed former White House counsel Greg Craig and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom in the crosshairs of special counsel Robert Mueller.
— His latest agenda item in Washington involves transporting the Russia war crimes exhibit — which several U.S. lawmakers may have already seen on display at Davos, and which has also made stops in European Parliament and NATO headquarters — stateside, likely around the time of Congress’ Easter recess. “The purpose here is to … show the devastation, the inhumanity that’s going on, that’s being perpetrated by the Russians in Ukraine,” Coleman said. He added: “I understand from those who have seen it, it’s very moving — very, very moving.”
— In an interview, Coleman said the relationship arose out of Hogan Lovells’ lobbying work for Pinchuk’s company Interpipe, which involved a successful effort to get President Joe Biden to lift steel tariffs in Ukraine after the war broke out.
— According to Coleman, the project has already gotten the greenlight from his former colleague and Senate Rules Chair Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) as well as Sen. Chris Coons. He’s also reached out to staff for Sens. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) to sign on as bipartisan backers.
WATCH CLOSELY: “In upholding a federal agency’s ruling in a dispute between Apple and medical device company AliveCor, President Biden has also boosted the patent case of one of his 2020 campaign’s largest donors and fundraisers,” Sludge’s David Moore writes.
— “The megadonor is Joe Kiani, founder and CEO of medical technology company Masimo, which like AliveCor is battling Apple over patents underlying sensor features of the Apple Watch. Kiani and his company have donated millions of dollars to pro-Biden super PACs and the Biden Inaugural Committee, as well as hosting in-person and online fundraisers for Biden as a presidential candidate.”
— “In siding with AliveCor, President Biden is keeping alive the possibility of an Apple Watch import ban, which is precisely what Kiani’s company is seeking in a separate suit. … Tech industry observers at The Verge suggested that the case could result in hefty licensing fees from Apple for AliveCor and Masimo over the technologies. Bloomberg Law estimated that annual royalties of up to $300 million a year could be on the table for Masimo.”
FINK MAKES OVERTURES TO GOP: “BlackRock’s billionaire CEO Larry Fink — who has weathered a barrage of accusations over ‘woke capitalism’ run amok at his $10 trillion firm — is making a fresh push to repair relationships with conservatives in Washington,” per New York Post’s Lydia Moynihan.
— “The money-management kingpin has been ordering up BlackRock ads on Fox News, sending executives to DC to meet with GOP lawmakers, and is making plans to donate more money to Republicans in the next election cycle, according to sources close to the firm.”
— “The shift comes as Fink has roused the ire of multiple state attorneys general and, more recently, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis over so-called ESG investments that promote environmental, social and governance reforms.”
— “GOP lawmakers have threatened to investigate whether or not the group’s ties to various climate groups and ESG objectives conflict with its fiduciary responsibilities. In response, BlackRock has been scrambling to meet with representatives from Senate Banking, House Judiciary and House Financial Services, sources said.”
— A spokesperson for the hedge fund, though, insisted to the Post that “the company is focused on ‘educating’ people and pointed to a recently created web page, ‘BlackRock setting the record straight.’”
— Former FCC Chair Tom Wheeler has joined Global Counsel as a senior adviser.
— Greg Walters is now acting senior vice president of legislative affairs at Lockheed Martin, succeeding Christian Marrone, who announced his resignation this week.
— Specialty Equipment Market Association has hired Alicia Steger as its PAC manager. Steger most recently worked as the senior manager of the president’s office at American Beverage Association.
— Helen Zhang is now director of the International Strategy Forum at Schmidt Futures. She most recently was global public policy manager for Google Search and is also co-founder of Intrigue Media.
— Jones Walker has promoted Chris Johnsen, a partner in the government relations practice group, to head of the firm’s D.C. office.
— Jeff Ventura has joined the Council for Responsible Nutrition as vice president of communications. He’s an HHS and CVS Health alum.
— Helder Toste has joined Americans for Prosperity’s government affairs team as a federal affairs liaison. Toste formerly served as the Hispanic engagement director for the RNC in 2020 and field and coalitions director with the NRSC in 2022.
— Amanda Crane is now senior media strategist at Crowe PR. She is also the founder and CEO of ACC Strategies and an alum of Ketchum and Curley Company.
— The American Hotel & Lodging Association promoted Kevin Carey to senior executive vice president and chief operating officer. He was previously executive vice president and COO.
New Joint Fundraisers
As Maine Goes PAC (Leadership PAC: Jared Golden)
Never Back Down Inc. (Super PAC)
Rondo Research (Hybrid PAC)
We Support Dardenne Prairie Political Action Committee (PAC)
New Lobbying Registrations
Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, LLP: Pernod Ricard USa
Constitution Partners: Republican River Water Conservation District
Constitution Partners: Snp Inc.
H4 Advisors LLC: Venus Aerospace Corporation
Law Office Of Bridget Butler, Esq.: Northeast Biochar Solutions, LLC
Law Office Of Bridget Butler, Esq.: Saratoga Biochar Solutions, LLC
Lne Group: City Of Maple Heights
Mccaulley&Company: Cuyahoga County, Ohio
O’Neill And Associates: Ev Transportation Services, Inc.
Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP Dba Taft Advisors LLC Fka (Taft, Stettinius & Hollister, LLP): Jackson State University
Thorn Run Partners: Everywhere Communications
New Lobbying Terminations
American Defense International, Inc.: J.A. Green And Company (For Scola)
American Defense International, Inc.: Sertainty Corporation
Brunini, Grantham, Grower And Hewes, Pllc: Rankin County Board Of Supervisors
Capitol Partners, LLC: Providence House
Chris Walker: Thorn Run Partners Obo University Of Tennessee
Liebman & Associates, Inc.: Unilever United States, Inc.
Mrc Consulting, LLP: Bob Riley And Associates On Behalf Airbus Americas, Inc.
Mrc Consulting, LLP: Bob Riley And Associates On Behalf Of Alabama Association Of Affordable Housing
Mr. Richard Goodstein: Roche Diagnostics Corporation
Ms. Pilar Faulkner: Burrell College Of Osteopathic Medicine
Robertson, Monagle, And Eastaugh: Alaska Forest Association
Robertson, Monagle, And Eastaugh: City Of King Cove
Robertson, Monagle, And Eastaugh: City Of Kotzebue
Rosewood Strategies LLC: Humanity Forward
Savage Health Policy, LLC: Physician Clinical Registry Coalition
Step Up Advocacy: Bellxcel
Step Up Advocacy: Lucira Health
Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP Dba Taft Advisors LLC Fka (Taft, Stettinius & Hollister, LLP): Cobham Advanced Electronic Solutions, Inc.
Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP Dba Taft Advisors LLC Fka (Taft, Stettinius & Hollister, LLP): Oak Grove Technologies
Tai Ginsberg & Associates, LLC: Fishing Communities Coalition
The Mathis Harple Group: Exelon Business Services, LLC (Formerly Constellation Energy Group, Inc)
William Hyland: Mr William Hyland