/Lobbyist for U.S. Soccer reached out to Dem presidential candidates

Lobbyist for U.S. Soccer reached out to Dem presidential candidates

Megan Rapinoe

The lawsuit the women’s national soccer team filed against U.S. Soccer argued a player on the women’s team, like captain Megan Rapinoe, could have earned in a year as little as 38 percent of what a men’s team player made. | Maja Hitij/Getty Images

lobbying

The federation apparently believed that the women’s team’s claims that they’re underpaid might become an issue in the July debates.

A lobbyist for the U.S. Soccer Federation reached out to at least five Democratic presidential campaigns ahead of their primary debate last month to argue that the women’s national team isn’t paid less than the men’s team.

The soccer organization has been fighting a highly publicized lawsuit brought by the World Cup-winning women’s team, and the federation apparently believed the players’ claims of being underpaid might become an issue in the Democratic debate, emails obtained by POLITICO show.

Story Continued Below

“Given the high profile nature of this issue, and the fact that it could come up during the debate, the U.S. Soccer Federation wants to be sure all of the candidates have access to all available information,” Ray Bucheger, a lobbyist hired by U.S. Soccer, wrote in an email to one of the campaigns late last month.

Bucheger also sent to several campaigns a presentation U.S. Soccer has circulated on Capitol Hill in recent weeks as part of a lobbying campaign to push back against the women’s pay claims. Bucheger and another lobbyist, along with U.S. Soccer’s general counsel, Lydia Wahlke, have met with staffers for lawmakers who have introduced legislation designed to force U.S. Soccer to pay the women’s and men’s teams equally.

Staffers for five presidential campaigns contacted by U.S. Soccer shared details of Bucheger’s outreach on the condition that POLITICO not identify which candidates they worked for. U.S. Soccer declined to answer questions about Bucheger’s efforts to reach the campaigns. Bucheger didn’t respond to a request for comment.

It’s unclear how many campaigns were approached. POLITICO reached out to the campaigns of all 20 Democrats who participated in the debate last month. Several said they weren’t aware of any outreach from Bucheger, and others did not respond to requests for comment.

Patricia Ewing, a spokeswoman for Marianne Williamson’s campaign, said no one from U.S. Soccer had reached out ahead of the debate.

“If they had, Marianne Williamson would have told U.S. Soccer to pay the women more than the men, since it is the women that are world champions,” she wrote in an email to POLITICO.

In the lawsuit the women’s team filed against U.S. Soccer in March, they argued, among other things, that under a previous contract, a player on the women’s team could have earned in a year as little as 38 percent of what a men’s team player made.

U.S. Soccer has hired two Washington lobbying firms, FBB Federal Relations and Van Ness Feldman, to push back against those claims. The lobbyists they’ve hired have met with staffers for lawmakers who introduced equal-pay legislation, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.), both of whom have cited the 38 percent statistic in pushing for pay equity.

The presentation given to congressional staffers and sent to presidential campaigns emphasizes the benefits the female players receive — including a guaranteed salary, maternity leave, a nanny subsidy, injury protection, health benefits, and retirement perks — that the male players do not. It also states that the women were paid nearly five times as much as the men last year, earning $275,478 in average cash compensation per player, compared with $57,283 for the men’s team. Both teams have criticized those numbers as misleading.

Comparing how the women’s and men’s teams are paid is tricky because they play different numbers of games each year and their compensation is structured differently. Molly Levinson, a spokeswoman for the women’s team players in their lawsuit, said the presentation Bucheger sent to the campaigns contained “inflated and cherry-picked numbers.”

“Imagine the proudest time of your life was putting on a USA jersey, working harder than ever, winning the World Cup,” Levinson said in a statement Friday. “Then imagine coming home to find that [U.S. Soccer], your employer, the organization whose stated purpose is to promote and support you, has had hidden meetings with lawmakers to diminish and undervalue you.”

Neil Buethe, a U.S. Soccer spokesman, said the organization was trying to provide accurate information about how the women’s team is compensated.

“There was a dearth of information publicly available about U.S. Soccer and its role in supporting women’s soccer; an information gap we were asked by several Members of Congress and others to fill,” Buethe wrote in an email to POLITICO. “We are 100 percent supportive of the Women’s National Team and have done more than any organization in the country, and perhaps the world, to invest in and build the girls and women’s teams.”

U.S. Soccer might not have needed to worry about the debate. Only one candidate — Sen. Kamala Harris of California — talked about the pay gap between men and women during the two-night event in Detroit, but she didn’t mention the women’s team.

“Since 1963, when we passed the Equal Pay Act, we have been talking about the fact women are not paid equally for equal work,” Harris said. “Fast forward to the year of our Lord 2019 and women are paid 80 cents on the dollar, black women 61 cents, Native American women 58 cents, Latinas 53 cents.”

Harris proposed requiring corporations to make public whether they’re paying women equally and fining them 1 percent of their profits for every percentage point of difference between what they pay men and women.

“That will get everybody’s attention,” she said.

A senior adviser to one of the campaigns contacted by Bucheger who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to talk with reporters said the lobbying efforts had no effect on the campaign’s debate preparations.

“Whoever does their lobbying and PR should be fired, and the money should go to the players,” the adviser said.

Please follow and like us:
Original Source