BIG SPENDING, NEW HIRE BOLSTERS GOP LGBT GROUP — It looks like American Unity Fund, a conservative group that advocates for LGBT rights, is ramping up its advocacy operations.
— The group recently hired Gracey Roskam through her new firm Uptown Solutions to work on a number of issues, including legislation involving LGBT equality and religious freedoms and policies that “[maximize] election transparency and security.”
— The new hire is the latest data point suggesting that the nonprofit, which made strides in encouraging Republicans to support same-sex marriage prior to the Supreme Court ruling that legalized it, is bolstering its Washington muscle: AUF spent $940,000 on lobbying in 2022, compared to $410,000 the previous year.
— In the second quarter of 2023, it spent $350,000 — the most of any quarter since 2018. Much of that amount, $300,000, went to top K Street firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck.
— The lobbyists on the account — former GOP leadership aides Marc Lampkin and Brian McGuire and former DOJ official William Moschella — listed working on the Electoral Count Reform and Presidential Transition Improvement Act, which was signed into law in December as part of the omnibus funding bill, but may require action in the states. Lampkin didn’t respond to a request for more details about the work.
— Roskam is the daughter of former Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.), a lawmaker known for anti-LGBT views who faced a surprise reelection upset loss in 2018 to his Democratic challenger, Sean Casten. Casten, who now represents Illinois’ 6th Congressional District, is a member of the congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus.
— Gracey Roskam didn’t respond to a request for comment, but Uptown Solutions’ disclosures specifically mention that she’ll be lobbying on two measures that aim to expand federal nondiscrimination protections to LGBTQ Americans:
— The Equality Act, a bill that would expand federal nondiscrimination protections to LGBTQ Americans. It had garnered a handful of Republican votes when it passed the House in 2019, but has only garnered support from Democrats and independent lawmakers since.
— And the Fairness for All Act, a Republican bill that would also prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity while providing some religious exemptions — it has drawn criticism from the ACLU, the progressive Human Rights Campaign and the conservative Heritage Foundation.
— The AUF’s main lobbying firm, Allegiance Strategies, has similar language on its disclosure forms — listing its advocacy priorities as pushing election transparency issues, in addition to “center-right and conservative policies advancing freedom for gay and transgender Americans, supporting religious freedom, supporting freedom of speech.”
— Tyler Deaton, the lobbyist on the account and AUF’s senior adviser, didn’t respond to a request for more details. He has previously written in support of balancing equality with religious freedoms.
Welcome to PI on this very August Tuesday afternoon — I’m Megan Wilson, POLITICO’s friendly neighborhood health lobbying reporter, filling in for Caitlin today. Take advantage of recess to send me your story tips, hot gossip and cocktail orders: [email protected].
NEW ENVIRO PUBLIC AFFAIRS FIRM: Dan Whitten, longtime public affairs pro for the Solar Energy Industries Association, is hanging a shingle of his own: Athanor Public Affairs.
— The firm derives its name from a book written by his late father Les called “The Alchemist,” and is focused on “creating campaigns for companies and organizations focused on the nation’s clean energy transition.”
— In addition to spending more than seven years at the solar industry group, Whitten also worked at America’s Natural Gas Alliance, helping to build out the trade association’s communications shop. He’s also got reporting stints at Bloomberg News and Platts on his resume.
NONPROFITS CUT BACK ON LOBBYING: A survey of more than 2,000 charities showed that “less than one-third of nonprofits have actively advocated for policy issues or lobbied on specific legislation over the past five years, down from nearly three-quarters of nonprofits in 2000,” reports Alex Daniels of The Chronicle of Philanthropy.
— The survey was conducted for Independent Sector, a membership organization of nonprofits and grantmakers.
— “And even though nonprofits work on a range of issues that are affected by policy choices, such as funding for the arts and science and policies on hot-button issues like abortion and gun control, less than one-third of nonprofits said they were well-versed in how to legally conduct advocacy campaigns and how much lobbying they were permitted to do. Twenty years ago more than half knew the rules, the survey found.”
— “‘This is a missed opportunity for nonprofits,’ said Akilah Watkins, president of Independent Sector. ‘We want them to get off the sidelines and to get back on the field.’”
— “Independent Sector plans to conduct studies to dig deeper into the reasons for the decline, but experts said many nonprofits don’t have the money to engage in policy debates. And some organizations may fear taking public stances on issues, given the heated political environment.”
— “What trips up many nonprofits, [said Eric Gorovitz, who served in leadership roles at several nonprofits before becoming a principal at the law firm Adler & Colvin], is the Internal Revenue Service guidance that nonprofits risk losing their tax-exempt status if a ‘substantial’ amount of their activities are attempting to influence legislation.”
– “‘It does not mean ‘don’t lobby,’” he said. “It means lobby. It’s an express invitation in the tax code that says you can lobby.’”
TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALLGAME: “Seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in state funds for stadium renovations, the Milwaukee Brewers spent more on lobbying in the first half of the year than any other organization in Wisconsin,” reports Peter Cameron for The Badger Project.
— “The ballclub reported spending $575,000 from January through June, according to state lobbying records. The team also reported spending 143.75 hours communicating with legislators.”
— “By comparison, the Wisconsin Realtors Association and Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, regularly the state’s biggest lobbying organizations, spent the second and third highest amounts through June of this year — about $506,000 and $495,000, respectively.”
— “The stadium, which opened in 2001 as Miller Park and known as American Family Field since 2021, needs more than $400 million in updates over the next 20 years, according to two reports, one commissioned by the Brewers and one by the state. Before it funds a renovation, the state wants a commitment from the Brewers to extend its lease in Milwaukee. The Brewers’ current lease expires in 2030.”
BEYOND MEAT BITES BACK: “Beyond Meat‘s latest ad emphasizes the ‘goodness’ in its products, showing a farm field and fava beans. But it also counters one of the most common criticisms of plant-based meats from the animal meat industry — that these products are highly processed and unhealthy to eat,” reports Insider’s Alex Bitter.
— “‘Beyond Meat is taking back the narrative to showcase why the clean and simple steps in its process should be celebrated,’” a company spokesperson told Insider.
— “While Impossible Foods has been direct in countering claims that its products aren’t healthy, the new ad represents Beyond’s biggest attempt yet to do the same.”
— “The spot comes years after the Center for Consumer Freedom, a group founded by corporate lobbyist Rick Berman, started targeting Beyond and other plant-based meat makers, Fast Company reported. The Center has ties to the meat industry, according to Fast Company.”
— “In its own ads and messaging, the Center said that plant-based meat was ‘ultra-processed’ and that the products posed health risks.”
— Krysten Jenci has been named senior government affairs manager at Cisco. She formerly served as the director of the Office of Digital Services Industries at the Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration.
— TechNet promoted Meghan Dorn to federal policy director. Her policy portfolio includes artificial intelligence, the “on-demand” economy, climate, and electric and autonomous vehicles.
— Holland & Knight hired Bob Rizzi, who has built a reputation for representing presidential appointees as they move through the vetting process. Rizzi, who comes from Steptoe & Johnson, will serve as a partner in Holland & Knight’s tax, executive compensation and benefits practice.
— K&L Gates hired Geoffrey Greeves to serve in its litigation and dispute resolution practice. Prior to that, he worked at Bradley Arant Boult Cummings.
Ashley Ehasz Victory Fund
Craig Budzinski Victory Fund
Bennet Warner Victory
Holland & Knight LLP: University Of Health And Performance
Oxford Strategies LLC-Md: Action Now Initiative, LLC
Mullen Consulting LLC: Clean Freight Coalition
Williams And Jensen, Pllc: Defined Benefit Retirement Protection Fund, Inc.
O’Neil Bradley Consulting LLC: Marketaxess Holdings Inc.
O’Neil Bradley Consulting LLC: Virtu Financial
O’Neil Bradley Consulting LLC: Msci Inc.
O’Neil Bradley Consulting LLC: Cboe Bats, LLC
Holland & Knight LLP: City Of Portsmouth, NH
Federal Science Partners LLC: Carnegie Institution For Science