With Daniel Lippman
K STREET SEES AN OPPORTUNITY IN MIDDLE EAST GEOPOLITICAL SCRAMBLING: As countries in the Middle East sort out the new geopolitical landscape, seasoned K Street operatives are eagerly extending a hand to help, Hailey Fuchs, Daniel Lippman and I report. In recent weeks and months, a slew of countries in the region — Qatar, Libya and Turkey among them — have put out feelers to D.C. lobbying firms in an effort to bolster their presence in the U.S. capital, according to federal filings and K Street operatives. The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan this month has added a new level of activity to the K Street-Mideast nexus, leaving countries anxious and uncertain and lobbying shops hustling to their aid,
— Former Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), who represents Qatar for the law and lobbying firm Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, insisted that the small Gulf nation is not looking to capitalize on the goodwill it is winning for helping evacuate and house Afghan refugees, calling the effort an “all hands on deck” moment.
— Still, he said, “I do think that things are going to be somewhat different [in the region] in the years ahead.” To that end, Moran didn’t rule out the possibility that at some point Doha might wind up lobbying Washington for more arms sales now that the Taliban are arming themselves with U.S. weapons left in Afghanistan. He cautioned that Qatar wouldn’t “want to take any initiative to build up weaponry” but that “if others in the region are weaponizing,” then Doha has “to be smart about it.” “I think that the U.S. will be more mindful of the fact that Qatar has stepped up in the way that they have,” he added, “and they’re willing to do anything else to be helpful.”
— A few lobbying firms, meanwhile, have already reached out to pitch their services to Ali Nazary, Afghan resistance leader Ahmad Massoud’s head of foreign relations and spokesperson. But Nazary declined to say which firms had contacted him, citing nondisclosure agreements he had signed. Asked whether they would consider hiring a lobbying firm, he said: “Probably in the future. There are some people who are in touch with me, but at the moment we haven’t signed any contracts with anyone.”
— One Middle Eastern ambassador to the U.S., who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that for Mideast countries banking on U.S. support, the crisis in Afghanistan increases the need for such lobbyists. The ambassador also said that as he considers the partisan makeup of the lobbying firms he may hire in the next year, he has to think about the consequences of the midterm elections, where Democrats may be more vulnerable because of the chaotic Afghan pullout.
— One lobbyist who declined to be named but whose firm represents a Middle Eastern government said that their client has been providing updates to GOP lawmakers who were looking for more complete information than they’d been getting, and facilitating other backchannel communications while working to ensure the situation in Afghanistan doesn’t escalate further — in other words, “realpolitik stuff,” the lobbyist said.
— Though other Middle Eastern countries may be met with open arms by K Street, it remains to be seen whether any firm or lobbyist will take the Taliban as a client. A survey of major D.C. lobbying firms asking whether any would consider representing the Taliban in Washington yielded mostly crickets. John Raffaelli, the founding partner at Capitol Counsel, put it bluntly in an email: “NO,” he responded. When asked whether Brian Ballard, a close ally of President Donald Trump whose firm, Ballard Partners, lobbied for the Turkish and Qatari governments, would agree to represent the Taliban, Justin Sayfie, the firm’s spokesperson, had just two words for POLITICO: “Hell no.”
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HOLLAND & KNIGHT ADDS EDUCATION LOBBYIST: Ashley Lawrence has joined Holland & Knight as a senior public affairs adviser in its public policy and regulation practice group. Lawrence will be part of Holland & Knight’s education policy and advocacy practice, working with university, elementary and secondary institutional clients, according to the firm.
— She was most recently managing director in Dentons‘ public policy practice and previously was a lobbyist at the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, where Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta was previously the president and chief executive. There, Lawrence specialized in criminal justice, voting rights and hate crimes issues.
FACEBOOK CONSIDERS NEW PANEL TO WHICH IT CAN PUNT ELECTION DECISIONS: “Facebook has approached academics and policy experts about forming a commission to advise it on global election-related matters,” five people with knowledge of the discussions told The New York Times’ Ryan Mac, Mike Isaac and Sheera Frenkel, “a move that would allow the social network to shift some of its political decision-making to an advisory body.”
— “The proposed commission could decide on matters such as the viability of political ads and what to do about election-related misinformation, said the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the discussions were confidential. Facebook is expected to announce the commission this fall in preparation for the 2022 midterm elections, they said, though the effort is preliminary and could still fall apart.” The new commission would of course come with the added benefit of potentially blunting criticism of the social media giant by conservatives as well as liberals. “Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, does not want to be seen as the sole decision maker on political content, two of the people said.”
— The new group “would differ from the Oversight Board in one key way, the people said. While the Oversight Board waits for Facebook to remove a post or an account and then reviews that action, the election commission would proactively provide guidance without the company having made an earlier call, they said.”
DEMOCRATIC STRATEGISTS ASK FUNDRAISING PLATFORM TO CRACK DOWN ON DECEPTIVE PRACTICES: “Political fundraising platforms are being pressured to crack down on deceptive practices to lure in and hook campaign donors,” Axios’ Lachlan Markay reports. “Fundraising vendors for political parties and campaigns are facing a three-pronged effort to weed out the bad actors: critical media coverage, scrutiny from federal regulators and, increasingly, demands from their own customers and clients. Tactics such as the phantom contribution-matching offer and the pre-checked recurring donation box have been used as both political parties ramp up their grassroots fundraising operations.”
— In a letter sent Wednesday to progressive fundraising platform EveryAction and its majority owner, the private equity firm Apax Partners, “50 progressive and Democratic digital professionals and strategists, including 27 EveryAction customers,” urged the company “to crack down on deceptive fundraising practices. ‘While a vast majority of your company’s customers use your tools responsibly, your customers also include prolific political spammers and some of the most egregious senders of deceptive political emails in the industry,’ it says. EveryAction’s subsidiaries include NGP VAN, the massive Democratic fundraising and voter contact vendor.”
GUN VIOLENCE ACTIVISTS PRESS BIDEN ON SLOW PACE OF CHANGE: “In a letter sent to [President Joe] Biden Wednesday, four advocacy groups complained that his actions on guns ‘fall significantly short of the promises you yourself made while running for the presidency’ and have not been a priority as 28,000 Americans died from gun violence this year,” POLITICO’s Anita Kumar reports. “Your administration is hard at work pursuing important priorities from infrastructure reform to reducing the disastrous impacts of climate change,” the groups wrote. “But with rising gun deaths and the heightened threat of armed political extremism, gun violence can no longer be seen as a back burner issue.”
— The groups’ plea comes as Biden’s nominee to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has stalled in the Senate. “The groups asked Biden to establish a White House office to be led by an aide who does not need Senate confirmation, similar to Biden’s White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy. They also called on Biden to use his political capital to urge lawmakers to pass gun laws and the bully pulpit to sell Americans on reforms.”
— The letter was signed by Guns Down America; March for Our Lives, which formed after the Parkland, Fla., high school shooting in 2018; Newtown Action Alliance, which was created in the wake of the 2012 school shooting in Connecticut; and Survivors Empowered, which was established after the Aurora, Colo., theater shooting in 2012.
— Bruce Andrews will join Intel as corporate vice president and chief government affairs officer. He joins from SoftBank Group and previously worked for the Commerce Department, former Senate Commerce Chair Jay Rockefeller and Ford.
— Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Chris Weggeman has joined Deloitte’s Government and Public Services practice to oversee mission-critical operations within its cyber and strategic risk sector. He previously served as an officer in the U.S. Air Force, where he led several defense and cyber initiatives, including cyber mission forces at the United States Cyber Command.
— The Industry Council for Emergency Response Technologies, which represents commercial public safety technology and response organizations, named George Kelemen its next executive director. Keleman was most recently president and chief executive of the Texas Retailers Association and is an Airports Council International – North America and AARP alum.
— The Progressive Policy Institute’s Third Way Foundation has added Elizabeth Bowyer, global co-head of brand and content strategy at Goldman Sachs; Robin Lake, director of the Center on Reinventing Public Education; and Bernard F. McKay, formerly Intuit’s chief public policy officer and senior vice president for global corporate affairs to its board of directors.
— The Progressive Policy Institute hired Jasmine Stoughton as program manager for the Mosaic Economic Project. She was previously program director at the Welman Project.
— Jeff Barrus has joined the Entertainment Software Association as director of communications and public affairs. He previously served as director of communications at the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.
— Mindset has promoted Zach Ostro to senior director and Sarah Alexander and Lois Lim to associate.
— Christopher Williams will be president and CEO of the Anacostia Watershed Society. He most recently served as senior vice president for conservation at American Rivers and is a World Wildlife Fund and National Wildlife Federation alum.
Kildee Victory Fund (Rep. Dan Kildee, Michigan Democratic State Central Committee, Michigan’s Future PAC)
BERGESON & CAMPBELL P.C. PAC (PAC)
BlueWaveAmerica (Super PAC)
Snake River Citizens for Liberty PAC, Inc. (Super PAC)
535 Group, LLC: Hudsonalpha Institute Of Biotechnology
Asian American Advisors LLC: Taiwei Biotech International
Bernstein Strategy Group: Learning Forward
Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, LLP: T.Y. Lin International
C6 Strategies, LLC (Fka Ms. Dana W. Hudson): Ridgeline International
Calfee Strategic Solutions: Unabail-Rodamco-Westfield
Clause Law P.L.L.C.: Native American Rights Fund
Donna M. Fiorentino, LLC: Capitol Counsel LLC On Behalf Of Amgen, Inc.
Donna M. Fiorentino, LLC: Capitol Counsel LLC On Behalf Of Hologic, Inc.
Government Relations Group, LLC: Logi5Ive, LLC
High Street Strategies LLC: Penn Street Partners On Behalf Of Beatty Development And Cross Street Partner
Holland & Knight LLP: Ageagle Aerial Systems
Holland & Knight LLP: Independent Sector
Holland & Knight LLP: Omnova Solutions Inc.
Holland & Knight LLP: Vibrent Health
Kadesh & Associates, LLC: Alaska Wilderness League Action
Lkb Strategies LLC: Sl Strategies, LLC (On Behalf Of Helix Opco, LLC)
Peter Knight: Federal Home Loan Bank Of San Francisco
Rpn Advocacy, LLC: Profectus Investments LLC On Behalf Of Sanborn Map Company
Schertz Strategies, LLC: Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative
Splitoak Strategies LLC: Acceleron Pharma, Inc
Tact Consulting LLC: Empire Education Corporation
The Duberstein Group Inc.: Cae USa, Inc.
Vir Biotechnology, Inc.: Vir Biotechnology, Inc.
Wsquared Strategies LLC: Qomplx
Gulf South Strategies USa, LLC: United Medical Providers
Lobbyitcom: Patriot Angels
Rpn Advocacy, LLC: Sanborn Map Company
Wsquared Strategies LLC: Kasasa