With David Beavers, Steven Overly and Daniel Lippman
AL JAZEERA HIRES DLA PIPER: Al Jazeera is adding some Washington firepower. The Qatar-based news outlet has hired Ignacio Sanchez, John Merrigan and Kevin Walsh of DLA Piper to lobby on Al Jazeera’s “journalism, press freedom, and other issues impacting client’s U.S. operations,” according to a disclosure filing. DLA Piper, in turn, has hired a former Democratic congressional staffer, Andrew Koneschusky of CLS Strategies, as a subcontractor. They’ll be Al Jazeera’s first Washington lobbyists since the news outlet parted ways with DLA Piper and TCK International in 2015.
— Al Jazeera’s decision to hire lobbyists comes after Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.) and other members of Congress asked the Justice Department last year to push Al Jazeera to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which the news outlet hasn’t done. It’s not clear whether the lobbyists will be working on the issue or not. Koneschusky wrote in an email to PI only that they’d be “working to inform policymakers” about the issues outlined in the filing.
WHY JOHN BREAUX WENT TO BIDEN’S FUNDRAISER: Former Sen. John Breaux (D-La.) was one of several former senators now on K Street who headed to Georgetown for a fundraiser Monday evening to support a former colleague: Joe Biden. But Biden’s campaign has said it won’t accept lobbyist contributions, so it was unclear what the influence industry types were doing at the event.
— Breaux, who’s now the co-chairman of Squire Patton Boggs’ public policy practice and is a registered lobbyist, said in an interview that he didn’t write Biden’s campaign a check. He attended “as a friend,” he said. “I’m sure I wasn’t the only non-paying customer,” he added with a laugh.
— Breaux is supporting his old friend’s campaign even though he’s banned from donating to him. “I think he’s the best person to end the chaos and to bring this country together,” Breaux said. While he hasn’t advised Biden’s campaign, he said he’d be happy to do so if asked. Former Sens. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), who’s now at Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer, and Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), who’s now at Cozen O’Connor, also showed up but didn’t respond to PI’s requests for comment. Dodd is a registered lobbyist; Bayh is not, meaning he is allowed to give to Biden’s campaign if he chooses.
SOFTBANK ADDS FORMER ROSS AIDE: SoftBank, the Japanese conglomerate that owns stakes in companies such as Slack, Sprint, Uber and WeWork, is adding Israel Hernandez to its expanding government relations operation. He’ll be SoftBank’s head of Latin American government affairs, based in Miami. He was previously the head of international corporate affairs for HNA Group, a Chinese conglomerate, and before that served as a senior adviser to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.
— SoftBank has been building a substantial government affairs team since hiring Ziad Ojakli away from Ford last year to open the company’s Washington office. “We’re continuing to ramp up,” Ojakli told PI in an interview in March. “This is just the beginning.”
INSIDE GOOGLE’S WASHINGTON SHAKEUP: “Google has fired about a half-dozen of its largest lobbying firms as part of a major overhaul of its global government affairs and policy operations amid the prospect of greater government scrutiny of its businesses,” The Wall Street Journal’s Brody Mullins and Ted Mann report. “In the past few months, the company has shaken up its roster of lobbying firms, restructured its Washington policy team and lost two senior officials who helped build its influence operation into one of the largest in the nation’s capital, according to people familiar with Google’s Washington strategy.”
— “The firms Google has dumped make up about half of the company’s more than $20 million annual lobbying bill. People familiar with the matter say the revamp is part of a continuing modernization of the influence operation Google built over the last 15 years, but it comes as Google faces a number of government investigations into its affairs. … Among the lobbyists no longer working for the company are Charlie Black, a longtime Republican strategist, and firms that have relationships with senior Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill, including Off Hill Strategies LLC, which has ties to fiscally conservative Republicans.” Full story.
ROHRABACHER MAY REGISTER TO LOBBY: Former Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), who recently agreed to advise the cannabis companies BudTrader.com and PharmaCielo after losing reelection last year, told The Hill’s Alex Gangitano he “has no problem registering to lobby” once his cooling-off period is over. Rohrabacher is banned from lobbying Congress until January under House ethics rules, although he’s allowed to lobby the administration immediately.
MICHAEL FLYNN HAS A NEW LAWYER: “Former national security adviser Michael Flynn has a new attorney: former federal prosecutor Sidney Powell, one of the earliest and fiercest critics of the Justice Department and the FBI’s investigation into a potential conspiracy between President Trump’s campaign and Russia,” POLITICO‘s Natasha Bertrand reports. “The move appears to signal a shift in posture, if not in strategy: Powell, a former Justice Department attorney who has written extensively about overzealous prosecutors, has claimed that Flynn was spied on as part of a ‘set-up’ by the FBI, and that his entire case should be “dismissed,” taking a far more aggressive public stance than Flynn’s previous lawyers, Robert Kelner and Stephen Anthony [of Covington & Burling], ever did.” Full story.
PHRMA GOES AFTER AARP: Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America “is launching an ad campaign attacking the AARP over its opposition to the Trump administration’s proposal to require that Medicare prescription drug rebates be passed on directly to consumers,” POLITICO’s Paul Demko reports. “The deep-pocketed drug lobby is accusing the influential senior advocacy group of being bought off by health insurance companies. According to PhRMA, AARP received $4.5 billion from the insurance industry between 2010 and 2017. … AARP has argued that the policy change will lead to increased costs for Medicare Part D enrollees and benefit drugmakers.” Full story.
‘WE DON’T SPEND A LOT OF TIME TALKING ABOUT IT’: Are tech executives worried that Washington will break their companies? Nah. “‘We don’t spend a lot of time talking about it,’ Andy Jassy, CEO of Amazon Web Services, said about the possibility that federal regulators could spin off his unit from its parent company, Amazon,” POLITICO’s Nancy Scola reports. “Jassy, speaking at an industry gathering called the Code Conference roughly 2,000 miles from Washington, said CEO Jeff Bezos and others in Amazon’s inner circle aren’t preoccupied by a potential forced restructuring at government hands.” Full story.
FLYING IN: Allstate is flying in agency owners and employees to discuss the National Flood Insurance Program, tax reform and corporate diversity, among other issues, on the Hill today. They’ll be meeting with Sens. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Reps. Alma Adams (D-N.C.), Chris Pappas (D-N.H.), Fred Upton (R-Mich.), Neal Dunn (R-Fla.), Sean Maloney (D-N.Y.), Denny Heck (D-Wash.), Kenny Marchant (R-Texas), Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.) and Scott Tipton (R-Colo.).
— Executives from chain restaurants including Domino’s, Waffle House and Rita’s Franchise Company are in Washington today to discuss worker shortages with Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta and the so-called retail glitch in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act with House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.). The fly-in is being organized by the National Council of Chain Restaurants, a division of the National Retail Federation.
— Elizabeth Hyman has been named chief executive of the XR Association, a trade group representing headset and technology manufacturers in the virtual and augmented reality industries. She previously was executive vice president of public advocacy at CompTIA.
— Union Pacific has hired Andrew Brady as general director of external affairs. He previously was assistant vice president of government affairs at the Association of American Railroads.
— The Glover Park Group has hired Mike Iger as vice president, Playbook reports. He previously was chief of staff for Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.).
— Dezenhall Resources has hired two: Colton Henson as senior director and Maggie McNerney as senior counselor. Henson previously was vice president of public affairs at Ohio-based Swing State Strategies; McNerney was a senior program specialist in corporate communications at Marriott International.
— Capitol Hill Policy Group has hired two: Xavier Barraza as public policy adviser and Susan Paxon as public policy analyst.
— The American Financial Services Association has hired Ed McFadden as vice president of communications, Playbook reports. He previously was the chief communications officer for the Archdiocese of Washington.
SPOTTED: At a fundraiser for Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.) on Tuesday night at Venable’s offices, according to a PI tipster: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi; Reps. Richard Neal, Mike Doyle (D-Pa.), Dan Kildee (D-Mich.), Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.), Joe Courtney (D-Conn.), Judy Chu (D-Calif.), Jim Himes (D-Conn.), Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.), Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) and Jim Costa (D-Calif.); former Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), former Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), Tom Quinn, Josh Finestone, Nick Choate and Josh Raymond of Venable; former Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) of Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer; former Rep. Ron Klink (D-Pa.) of Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough; Amy Roberti of Procter & Gamble; Vin Roberti of Roberti Global; Nick Lewis of UPS and Shelley Rubino of Airlines for America.
Hold the House Frontline Fund (Hold the House PAC and Reps. Katie Porter, Harley Rouda, Mike Levin, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, Abby Finkenauer, Cindy Axne, Sharice Davids, Haley Stevens, Angie Craig, Jeff Van Drew, Andy Kim, Josh Gottheimer, Xochitl Torres Small, Susie Lee, Antonio Delgado, Anthony Brindisi, Kendra Horn, Conor Lamb, Elaine Luria, Kim Schrier, Elissa Slotkin, Gil Cisneros, TJ Cox, Lucy McBath, Tom O’Halleran, Sean Casten, Jared Golden, Tom Malinowski, Susan Wild, Joe Cunningham, Lizzie Fletcher, Colin Allred, Josh Harder, Jason Crow, Lauren Underwood, Chris Pappas and Mikie Sherrill)
Fighting for Alabama Fund, Inc (Super PAC)
Keeping America Strong Committee (Super PAC)
Cline Strategic Consulting, LLC: FTI Government Affairs obo South Florida Regional Transportation Authority
Cline Strategic Consulting, LLC: Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County
Cline Strategic Consulting, LLC: Porsche Cars North America, Inc.
CLS Strategies (formerly Chlopak, Leonard, Schechter and Associates, Inc.): DLA Piper LLP (US) (For Al Jazeera Media Network)
Crossroads Strategies, LLC: McCain Institute Foundation
DLA Piper LLP (US): Al Jazeera Media Network
Envision Strategy: Ventech Solutions, Inc.
FrogueClark, LLC: Deloitte LLP
Odney, Inc.: Meridian Energy Group, Inc.
Alpine Group, Inc.: Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame
Brody Group L.L.C. Public Affairs: Parker Aerospace
North Shore Consultants: Cleveland Institute of Art