NBA vet launches sports diplomacy, immigration law practice

NBA vet launches sports diplomacy, immigration law practice

With help from Daniel Lippman and Megan Wilson

NBA VET LAUNCHES SPORTS DIPLOMACY LAW PRACTICE: As the surprise partnership between the PGA Tour and the Saudi-funded LIV Golf continues to reverberate across Washington, a new D.C. firm is launching a law practice focused on helping the U.S. export its own values abroad through the use of sports diplomacy.

Travis Murphy, a former Hill aide-turned-foreign service officer, launched the consultancy Jetr Global Partners last year to operate at the nexus between the sports world and federal government. Now, the firm has hired a former State Department attorney to provide immigration services tailored to professional sports in service of that objective.

— “There was an opportunity in this space of immigration and sports diplomacy that is the use of sports as a tool to reach foreign audiences,” Murphy, who most recently spent half a decade doing international government affairs for the National Basketball Association, said in an interview.

— But given the complexities of immigration law, “being able to kind of speak both languages of both of those worlds has proven to be really valuable,” he said. That’s where Chloe Dybdahl, the firm’s newest hire, will come in. Dybdahl, who most recently served as attorney adviser to State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs, will launch Jetr Law to help clients work through slow-moving and wonky immigration issues.

— As the global interconnectivity of pro sports accelerates, Murphy has worked to help the NBA obtain visas for its players and served as the top policy official for the State Department’s Sports Envoy Program under former President Barack Obama. But he’s also worked on the other side of the issue, becoming a key link between WNBA star Brittney Griner’s camp, State, and contacts in Russia during her detention there last year.

— “Obviously, the hope is that that never happens again,” he told PI of that work. “Other actors, international actors, see the sports space as a place to get attention … for good or for other purposes.” At the same time, her incarceration underscored the premise of his firm, Murphy argued. “That is a perfect example of how sports and the geopolitical landscape have intersected in a way that’s, really … the norm for the future.”

— The discourse surrounding the emergence of LIV Golf is further proof that “some of these other countries have seen” the value of sports “as an equalizer” and means of building bridges, Murphy said. And he argued that with the U.S. poised to host parts of the 2026 World Cup, Washington should be prepared to capitalize on the opportunities that offers.

— He pointed to the elaborate public affairs campaigns World Cup host cities have undertaken ahead of the tournament. “It’s an integration, and seeing sports as more than just a game … and the truly unique tool to bring people together in a way like that really no other policy or concept can.”

Happy Monday and welcome to PI. Send K Street tips: [email protected]. And be sure to follow me on Twitter: @caitlinoprysko.

FIRST IN PI — THEGROUP PROMOTES HENRY: TheGROUP D.C. has promoted Sudafi Henry to managing partner, elevating a former aide to some of Washington’s top Democratic leaders amid the firm’s explosive growth during the Biden administration.

— Henry has been with the firm for more than a decade, joining in 2011 after serving as legislative affairs director to then-Vice President Joe Biden. Before that, he worked for Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi during her time as House minority leader, as well as then-Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer and Rep. Emanuel Cleaver. In his new role, he will oversee theGROUP’s client-related services and manage the firm’s engagement with the Biden administration and the Hill.

— The move follows a major boom in business for the firm in the years since Henry’s former boss kicked off his latest presidential campaign. The firm hauled in $9.4 million in lobbying revenues last year, an almost sevenfold increase from the $1.4 million in lobbying fees it reported earning in 2018.

— The firm has also gone bipartisan in recent years, adding its first Republican lobbyist in 2021 and its first GOP partner earlier this year.

PRECISION LAUNCHING HISPANIC OUTREACH PRACTICE: Progressive firm Precision Strategies is launching a new practice specializing in Spanish and Hispanic culture, Morning Score’s Madison Fernandez reports, ahead of an election in which Democrats are seeking to stave off defections to the GOP by Hispanic voters and avoid embarrassing themselves in the process.

— “Daniel Hernández, a principal on Precision’s digital team who founded the practice, said he was tired of seeing ‘lazy’ campaigns targeted at Hispanics — including hasty Spanish translations, imagery that doesn’t resonate culturally with the audiences and voice overs with the wrong accent,” Madison writes, noting that Biden’s campaign has fallen victim to these kinds of missteps as recently as this year.

— Hernández’s proposed solution would have campaigns work with a “Spanish specialist” from the outset. “Clients and teams might work on a project, and it’s not until once they have English-centric ads ready and developed that they tap people to just translate them,” he told her. “That’s not how we want to work. We want to be involved from the ground-up, from the start of the project, to have our input.”

— The new practice will offer all the usual campaign services, like social media, text, email, video production and graphics, but is also “looking to implement a strategy for WhatsApp, a messaging service that’s popular among the Hispanic community” but “where misinformation and disinformation tends to percolate.”

GOLDBERG STEPPING DOWN AS REALTORS’ CEO: Bob Goldberg will step down as chief executive of the National Association of Realtors at the end of 2024, after five years at the helm of the powerful real estate lobby and nearly three decades with the trade group.

— NAR is launching a nationwide search for his successor, led by Career Management Partners and CMP President Joe Frodsham, with the goal of finishing the initial sourcing process by the end of July.

— Goldberg took the reins of the association in 2017 after serving as a senior vice president, and oversaw the trade group during the turbulence of the Covid pandemic — when like other trade groups facing financial crunches, NAR put freeze on hiring — and its 2020 acknowledgment of and apology for the real estate industry’s role in perpetuating racial discrimination in housing.

— The trade group is routinely one of Washington’s top political spenders, dropping more than $81 million on federal lobbying in 2022 while pouring tens of millions more into last year’s midterms. According to the group’s most recent tax returns, which cover 2021, NAR reported more than $327 million in revenues while paying Goldberg a salary of $2.5 million — nothing to sniff at.

ANNALS OF FUNDRAISING: “Facing multiple intensifying investigations, former President Donald J. Trump has quietly begun diverting more of the money he is raising away from his 2024 presidential campaign and into a political action committee that he has used to pay his personal legal fees,” The New York Times’ Shane Goldmacher and Maggie Haberman report.

— “The change, which went unannounced except in the fine print of his online disclosures, raises fresh questions about how Mr. Trump is paying for his mounting legal bills — which could run into millions of dollars — as he prepares for at least two criminal trials, and whether his PAC, Save America, is facing a financial crunch.”

— “When Mr. Trump kicked off his 2024 campaign in November, for every dollar raised online, 99 cents went to his campaign, and a penny went to Save America. But internet archival records show that sometime in February or March, he adjusted that split. Now his campaign’s share has been reduced to 90 percent of donations, and 10 percent goes to Save America.”

ICYMI OVER THE WEEKEND: “Federal political committees reported taking in $615 million from ‘dark money’ groups and shell companies during the 2022 election — a new midterm record,” OpenSecrets’ Anna Massoglia reports.

— But the flood of dark money is pouring in “with less disclosure, and 501(c)(4) nonprofits that don’t disclose their donors reported less than $25 million in spending to the FEC during the entire 2022 election cycle — the lowest total since the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision rolled back restrictions on corporate political speech.”

— “Federal political committees reported over three times more political contributions from dark money groups and shell companies during the 2022 cycle than they did during the 2018 midterm cycle.”

Cliff Waldman has joined the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation as associate director of economic policy. He most recently founded the economic consultancy New World Economics.

James Pittman has joined Holland & Knight as a senior counsel for the D.C. business team. He was most recently director of government and external affairs for Pepco.

Susan Lane Stone has been named interim executive director of the National Headache Foundation as it searches for a permanent leader. Stone, who is leading the search, has been on the organization’s board of directors for three years. She previously worked as an executive at Allergan, a pharmaceutical company now part of AbbVie.

Samantha Helton joined PhRMA’s federal advocacy team as a senior director. She most recently was director of government affairs at 3M and is a Walgreens and Roger Wicker alum.

Chloe Cantor joined TVA’s federal affairs team as a Washington representative. She was most recently senior legislative assistant for Wicker.

Ryan Johnson is now senior director at Evergreen Strategy Group. He most recently was deputy director of comms for Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and is a BerlinRosen, Cory Booker, and Bobby Rush alum.

Sarah Lovenheim is now vice president of external relations at AARP. She previously was assistant secretary for public affairs at HHS and is a Xavier Becerra and Harry Reid alum.

Joshua Baca has left the American Chemistry Council, where he was vice president in the trade group’s plastics division since 2020.


Club America (Hybrid PAC)
Heroes for Democracy (Hybrid PAC)
Texans for Public Safety (Super PAC)

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld: City Of Plano
Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld: Green Thumb Industries, Inc.
Cornerstone Government Affairs, Inc.: The University Of Texas System
Dinino Associates, LLC: Cornerstone Government Affairs Obo Veterans Guardian
Foley Hoag LLP: Terumo Medical
Navistar, Inc.: Owen Morgan
Prism Group: Genevant Sciences, Inc.
Resolution Public Affairs, LLC: National Association Of Federally-Insured Credit Unions
Squire Patton Boggs: Resolution Copper Mining LLC

Katherine Oh: Government Accountability Project
Kerry O’Brien: Polaris

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