By Theodoric Meyer | 05/17/2017 02:21 PM EDT
With David Beavers and Aubree Eliza Weaver
TRUMP-CONNECTED FIRM SIGNS SAUDI, KOREAN CLIENTS: SPG, a lobbying firm with ties to the Trump administration, has signed two new foreign clients: Saudi Arabia's Interior Ministry and the Korean International Trade Association. The Saudi contract, worth $5.4 million and signed shortly before President Donald Trump travels to the kingdom, "calls for SPG to provide 'public relations and media engagement as well as public affairs counsel' to the Saudi Ministry of the Interior," POLITICO's Kenneth P. Vogel and Theodoric Meyer report. "While Saudi Arabia deploys an army of well-paid lobbyists and public relations consultants in Washington, the SPG contract appears to represent the first time in recent years that the Interior Ministry has retained a lobbying firm."
- The Saudi contract may draw Saudi Arabia's lobbyists in Washington into the rivalry between Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who heads the Interior Ministry, and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the chief rival to the crown prince to succeed the elderly King Salman . (The two princes are known in diplomatic circles as MBN and MBS.) "Trump is scheduled to meet in Riyadh in the coming days with King Salman, as well as with both MBN, who is the King's nephew and is the first in line for the crown, and MBS, who is the King's son and is the No. 2 in the order of succession. ... Several of MBS' allies recently were appointed to influential posts, including his younger brother Prince Khaled bin Salman, who late last month was tapped as the Saudi ambassador to Washington." Full story.
- SPG will also provide "negotiations and and engagement with US Officials on matters related to promoting the 2017 Korean Business Symposium" on behalf of the Korean International Trade Association as part of a contract worth $20,000. SPG - which stands for Sonoran Policy Group - is one of a handful of upstart lobbying firms with Trump connections that have pursued foreign lobbying clients since Trump's election, along with Avenue Strategies, Gotham Government Relations & Communications and Ballard Partners . SPG previously signed the governments of New Zealand and the Czech Republic, and Ballard Partners is representing the Dominican Republic.
YELP UPDATE: PI reported on Tuesday that Yelp had filed a lobbying termination report, leaving it without an in-house lobbyist in Washington. Yelp's Laurent Crenshaw got in touch with some details about what's going on. "I am still with Yelp as the Director of Public Policy, however given my shifted duties and the fact that we have other outside lobbyists, I deregistered earlier this year," Crenshaw wrote in an email to PI. "Since I was Yelp's only in-house registered lobbyist, we went ahead and filed a termination report to reflect our change in status." Monument Policy Group and Bloom Strategic Council are the company's outside lobbyists, according to disclosure filings.
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CARIBBEAN ESTATE TRUMP IS SELLING RAISES ETHICS CONCERNS: President Donald Trump is selling an estate he bought in 2013 on the Caribbean island of St. Martin, The Washington Post's Matea Gold reports. "It's unclear why the property is for sale. It earned Trump between $200,000 and $2 million in rental fees between 2014 and mid-2016, according to financial disclosures. Officials with the White House and the Trump Organization did not respond to repeated requests for comment. The effort to sell the high-priced estate in the midst of Trump's tenure could present a similar ethical problem to the one his lawyer cited in defending his decision not to sell off his company after the election: that a buyer could overpay as a way to gain currency with the president."
- "If the estate is sold, the public probably would learn little, if anything, about who has purchased it. ... Four St. Martin real estate agents told The Washington Post that the $28 million price tag far outstrips the amount that sellers are getting for the most exclusive properties on the Caribbean island, where the market is still rebounding from the 2008 banking crisis. ... Arun Jagtiani , the owner of Island Real Estate Team, said that he thinks the property is 'overpriced by about $10 million.' 'If someone does pay anything close to the asking price, it will be because they are paying a premium to say they own a property that was once owned by President Trump,' Jagtiani said." Full story.
FLYING IN: Energy executives are meeting with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, at 2 p.m. as part of a fly-in organized by the Edison Electric Institute. The meeting comes a day after retail executives huddled with Mnuchin and pressed him to kill the proposed border-adjustment tax. The energy executives are also meeting with Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn; Sens. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Todd Young (R-Ind.); and Reps. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) and Fred Upton (R-Mich.).
- The American Hotel & Lodging Association and the Asian American Hotel Owners Association are on the Hill today for a fly-in.
** A message from the National Confectioners Association - #AlwaysATreat: Leading global chocolate and candy companies are coming together to provide more information, options, and support as consumers enjoy their favorite treats. It's the first step on our journey to help people manage their sugar intake and ensure that they feel empowered to make informed choices. Learn more at AlwaysATreat.com. **
ETHICS OFFICE INVESTIGATING COLLINS: "Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) is under scrutiny by ethics investigators for his role in soliciting investors for an Australian biotech company, according to a news report," POLITICO's John Bresnahan reports. "The Buffalo News reported on Tuesday that investigators from the Office of Congressional Ethics - the independent ethics watchdog - are speaking to Buffalo-area investors in the company, Innate Immunotherapeutics , over Collins' role in finding investors. Collins owns a stake in the firm worth $5 million to $25 million, according to his most recent financial disclosure report. Collins, one of President Donald Trump's most vocal supporters, was once heard bragging in the House Speaker's Lobby about 'how many millionaires I've made in Buffalo the past few months.'" Full story.
WALL STREET NOT HOLDING ITS BREATH FOR TAX REFORM: "Wall Street and corporate America view President Donald Trump's bold agenda for a sweeping tax overhaul as largely dead for the year," POLITICO's Ben White reports. "Executives, lobbyists and Wall Street analysts increasingly believe the administration - distracted by repeated crises while facing a short and crowded legislative calendar - will be unable to deliver on Trump's promise to slash corporate and individual tax rates this year and ignite significantly faster economic growth. ... 'I still see a slight possibility that some slimmed-down version of a tax cut could get done late this year, but it's probably an early 2018 event,' said a financial services industry lobbyist who declined to be identified by name contradicting the White House timeline. 'What's being talked about in meetings I'm having is just some targeted rate reductions and that's pretty much it. Maybe they could do that but even then it's probably next year.'" Full story.
TRUMP CAMPAIGN VETERANS LAUNCH FUNDRAISING STARTUP: Two GOP digital strategists who worked on Donald Trump's campaign, Matt Oczkowski and Parks Bennett, are launching an email-fundraising company this week called Campaign Inbox, The Washington Post's Matea Gold reports. "The venture is the first known startup to emerge from Trump's White House run - the latest example of how presidential campaigns serve as hothouses for new enterprises, particularly in the technological space. ... President Barack Obama's two presidential bids, for example, birthed a slew of successful enterprises such as Optimizely, a website optimization company, and Modest, a mobile commerce platform eventually acquired by PayPal." Full story.
RACE UPDATE: The American Council of Life Insurers' three-mile Capital Challenge run took a worrisome turn this morning when Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) was overcome by heat, but he said via Twitter that he's doing just fine. Reps. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) and Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.) were the fastest male and female members of the House, while Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) were the fastest senators. Other runners included Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), who was the first wheelchair finisher; Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn; and Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), Susan Davis (D-Calif.), Tom Graves (R-Ga.), Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.), Evan Jenkins (R-W.Va.), Daniel Lipinski (D-Ill.), Tom Reed (R-N.Y.), Tim Walz (D-Minn.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.).
- Jeffrey J. Kimbell & Associates is adding John Herzog as vice president of government affairs and political strategy and John Ray as senior manager of government affairs. Herzog was previously a senior government relations adviser at Butler Snow in Nashville, Tenn. Ray previously worked for the American Occupational Therapy Association.
- Amanda Austin is joining the Locust Street Group as a partner, heading the firm's coalitions work as well as strategizing with existing clients. She was previously vice president of government relations and media at the National Federation of Independent Business.
- Fenton has tapped Ben Wyskida as its next chief executive. He was previously an executive vice president at BerlinRosen. The firm's current chief executive, Michael Huttner, is remaining with Fenton as political director.
- Jen Young has joined APCO Worldwide's Washington office, where she'll be a senior director in the global health care practice. She was previously an executive vice president and director of operations at Edelman.
- Federal Advocates has added Peter Mihalick as a director of government affairs. He was previously legislative director for Rep. Rod Blum (R-Iowa).
- Vince Zito started today as vice president of corporate communications and government relations for SunTrust Bank. He was previously communications director for Rep. Roger Williams (R-Texas).
SPOTTED: At the New York chapter kickoff for the Jenkins Hill Society, a group of women donors dedicated to supporting Democratic congresswomen, at LMHQ in the Financial District on Monday night, according to a PI tipster: Reps. Nita Lowey and Grace Meng, both New York Democrats; Erin Loos Cutraro of She Should Run; Joy McGlaun, Catlin O'Neill, Daniele Baierlein and Kate Rose of the Jenkins Hill Society; Jordanna Davis of the Rockingstone Group; Daisy Tomaselli of Jackson Lewis; Jennifer Manley of Prime Strategies; Brette McSweeney of Eleanor's Legacy; and Moira McDermott of 21 in '21.
NEW JOINT FUNDRAISERS:
Strange Victory Committee (Luther Strange, NRSC)
National Stop Elizabeth Warren Committee (Person Or Group Not A Committee)
Raising Our Future (PAC)
NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS:
NEW LOBBYING TERMINATIONS:
Smart Growth America: Smart Growth America
** A message from the National Confectioners Association - #AlwaysATreat: We've always created transparent, fun, and great-tasting treats. By 2022, Mars, Wrigley, Nestlé USA, Ferrero, Lindt, Ghirardelli, Russell Stover, and Ferrara Candy Company will work together to make half of their individually wrapped products available in sizes that contain 200 calories or less per pack. And, 90 percent of the best-selling treats made by these companies will have calorie information printed right on the front of the pack. During the same time period, the newly established AlwaysATreat.com will evolve into a digital resource full of easy-to-use information for consumers to better understand the unique role that chocolate and candy can play in a happy, balanced lifestyle. Learn more at AlwaysATreat.com. **
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