With Daniel Lippman
OVER HALF THE SENATE TELLS SBA TO PICK UP THE PACE ON GETTING MONEY TO VENUES: 53 senators, led by John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), continued to pile on SBA Administrator Isabella Guzman on Tuesday over the agency’s stumbles in getting a grant program for struggling live entertainment venues off the ground. The bipartisan group warned that with each passing day the agency experiences delays in getting grant applications approved and money out the door, “more independent businesses are forced to shutter permanently or file for bankruptcy,” noting that landlords and banks are growing less lenient with venues taking financial hits as the public safety restrictions lift across the nation.
— “Fewer than 1 percent of applicants have received awards as of today, so we appreciate all efforts to get this $16 billion in emergency relief to those who desperately need it to #SaveOurStages,” Rev. Moose, the executive director and co-founder of the National Independent Venue Association, said in a statement thanking the senators for their missive.
— “It has been nearly six months since Congress passed the Save our Stages Act, nearly two months since the second launch of the program, and 51 days since the Small Business Administration (SBA) began receiving applications,” the lawmakers wrote. “We urge you to immediately take steps to ensure the funds are distributed to qualified applicants.” They added: “Further delays are unacceptable and would have irreversible consequences for these industries.”
— The pressure comes after trade groups representing different live entertainment sectors wrote to lawmakers last week declaring that SBA would not meet its deadline that day to have approved grant applications for the neediest venues. The complaints precipitated a leadership shake-up for the Shuttered Venue Operators Grants while the agency pledged to resolve the issue-plagued program.
WELLS NAMED BGR PRESIDENT: BGR Group has elevated Erskine Wells, who co-leads the public affairs firm’s commerce and defense practices, to president. Wells joined the firm in 2011 after spending a decade on the Hill working for now-Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), and “has helped guide BGR and its clients through the pandemic with tremendous results,” founding partner and former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour said in a press release.
— Guiding the firm’s smooth transition out of the pandemic will be among Wells’ top priorities, he told PI. “I think we had to learn how to help our clients differently over this past year,” he said in an interview, which included making sure “that we’re creating good opportunities for our clients to engage with policymakers and trying to create more content” despite the lack of in-person face time with policymakers. “I’m hoping that we’re gonna be able to continue to create those opportunities for our clients,” Wells said.
Good afternoon and welcome to PI. Forget about hot girl summer, I’m all about hot Girl Scout cookie summer. Send lobbying tips: [email protected]. And be sure to follow me on Twitter: @caitlinoprysko.
FLYING IN (VIRTUALLY): The U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, a group of businesses and NGOs that promotes investment in diplomacy, kicks off a virtual fly-in today with nearly 400 leaders set to meet with more than 160 congressional offices, where they plan to tout the benefit of such investments. They’ll meet with a number of lawmakers, too, including Sens. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), and Reps. Jason Crow (D-Colo.), Sharice Davids (D-Kan.) and Joe Neguse (D-Colo.).
CHAMBER, BUSINESS ROUNDTABLE, MANUFACTURERS NUDGE CONGRESS ON BIPARTISAN INFRASTRUCTURE TALKS: As haggling over an infrastructure deal struck by a bipartisan group of senators continues, three of Washington’s biggest trade groups cheered on the negotiations this morning. “There is a clear path forward for bipartisan agreement on meaningful infrastructure legislation,” the heads of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Business Roundtable and National Association of Manufacturers said in a joint statement.
— All three groups have sought to discourage Democrats from forging ahead with a partisan infrastructure package passed through budget reconciliation, and have vehemently opposed President Joe Biden’s proposed pay-fors for an expansive bill, a hike in corporate tax rates and a minimum corporate tax. Paying for the bipartisan deal is still a point of contention. Meanwhile, progressives crucial to passage have threatened defections in recent days if the deal doesn’t go far enough on climate.
— The Chamber’s Suzanne Clark, the Roundtable’s Joshua Bolten and NAM’s Jay Timmons reiterated their opposition to taxing businesses more, suggesting the bill be funded by a “combination of public-private partnerships, user fees, and reallocated unused federal appropriations,” or debt and bonds. They said a deal was “within reach” and urged lawmakers to pursue a “regular order process”
GOP LAWMAKERS QUESTION ETHICS WAIVERS FOR FORMER UNION LOBBYISTS: The top Republicans on the House Oversight and Labor committees on Tuesday asked the heads of the White House budget office and the Office of Personnel Management for more information on ethics waivers granted to a pair of former union lobbyists now working in the Biden administration. The lawmakers complained that in spite of the president’s emphasis on ethics in his administration, “unions are receiving special treatment,” GovExec’s Erich Wagner reports.
— House Oversight ranking member James Comer (R-Ky.) and Labor and Education ranking member Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) wrote to OMB acting Director Shalanda Young and OPM acting Director Kathleen McGettigan seeking more details about the waivers for Celeste Drake, a trade lobbyist for the Directors Guild of America and AFL-CIO who now heads OMB’s Made in America office, and Alethea Predeoux, a former lobbyist for the American Federation of Government Employees who now leads legislative affairs at OPM.
— The administration has defended the waivers by describing them as in “the public interest,” and justified them initially by differentiating union advocates from hires from corporate America or those who represented corporate interests. Comer and Foxx noted that Democrats probed the Trump administration’s flurry of ethics waivers and accused them of hypocrisy. “No political union should hold the levers of government power,” they argued, accusing Biden of caving to teachers unions on the issue of school reopenings.
DeVOS-LINKED LOBBYING GROUP BEHIND FAUX NEWS SEGMENTS ON LOCAL TV: “On a weekly basis over the last three years, an arm of the national school privatization lobbying group the American Federation for Children has been producing fake news segments and distributing them to local news stations,” The Intercept’s Rachel Cohen reports. Some of those segments feature “organizations, apps, schools, and services that have political and/or financial connections to both the American Federation for Children” and former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ family. DeVos chaired the group’s 501(c)(3) partner when President Donald Trump picked her to serve as Education secretary.
— “The little-known project, known as ‘Ed Newsfeed,’ has ‘distributed hundreds of stories in dozens of states,’” Walter Blanks Jr., a spokesperson for the group, told the outlet. “The Ed Newsfeed staff sends out a weekly email to producers nationwide with their new video content, including recommended scripts, available to them free of charge, and where ‘courtesy is optional.’”
BIDEN QUICKLY TAPS KHAN TO LEAD FTC: Biden “elevated Amazon critic and anti-monopoly advocate Lina Khan to chair the Federal Trade Commission on Tuesday, hours after the Senate confirmed her by a 69-28 vote,” POLITICO’s Leah Nylen reports. “She was sworn in just as quickly, the FTC said that evening. The surprise move gives progressive Democrats both the reins and a majority at the antitrust agency, spurring hopes among critics of Silicon Valley’s giants for a new assertiveness from the FTC, which is already pursuing an antitrust probe of Amazon and waging a lawsuit that seeks to break up Facebook‘s social networking monopoly.”
— Ramesh Abhishek has joined Transnational Strategy Group as senior adviser for India based in New Delhi. He was previously secretary of India’s Department for Promotion of Industry & Internal Trade.
— Lulu Cheng Meservey is now vice president of communications for Substack. She most recently was co-founder and president of strategic communications firm TrailRunner International.
— Former FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly is joining APCO Worldwide’s International Advisory Council, Morning Tech reports.
— Andrew Kalloch is the new head of Airbnb’s Covid-19 housing policy, coordinating an initiative aimed at preventing landlords from evicting renters to list properties on the platform. He was most recently senior policy development manager.
— Earl Matthews will lead Veeam Government Solutions, a new subsidiary of Veeam Software. He is a Trump White House alum and was a special assistant to the Defense secretary. Gil Vega will join the board, as will Nick Ayers, also a Trump alum.
TENNEY VAN DUYNE VICTORY FUND (Reps. Claudia Tenney, Beth Van Duyne)
New England Fuel Institute Inc. Greener Heating Fuels PAC / NEFI Greener Heating Fuels PAC (PAC)
United Health Foundation of America (Super PAC)
Blue Star Strategies LLC: Sikhs For Justice
Bose Public Affairs Group: Cigna Corporation
Enterprise Counsel Group Alc: Freesup So Cal