Psychedelics coalition grows its advocacy footprint

Psychedelics coalition grows its advocacy footprint

With help from Daniel Lippman

PSYCHEDELIC MEDICINE COALITION BUILDS OUT ADVOCACY FOOTPRINT: A coalition of advocates pushing for looser regulations governing the therapeutic use of psychedelic drugs is moving to build out its lobbying footprint in Washington. The Psychedelic Medicine Coalition hired its first federal lobbyists this month and also launched a political action committee to back lawmakers supportive of investing in research on psychedelic substances like ketamine, psilocybin — or mushrooms — and MDMA, or ecstasy, several of which are in various phases of clinical trials.

— The coalition has been around since 2021, when Melissa Lavasani launched the group after leading a successful campaign to decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms in D.C. The coalition hired The Conafay Group’s Darin Gardner — a one-time chief of staff to House Appropriations Chair Kay Granger (R-Texas) — and Josh Narrow to help with its push to fund psychedelics research, likely through the Department of Veterans Affairs or new advanced research agency ARPA-H.

— The emphasis on funding federal research into that class of psychedelic drugs, which like marijuana are classified federally as Schedule 1 substances with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse, is a conscious effort to avoid the pitfalls of the stalled marijuana legalization push, Lavasani told PI.

— “We need to get federal adoption of psychedelics as a legitimate medicine as a top priority, and taking a research and science based approach and ensuring that we can get the federal government to take first steps on psychedelics — it’s not going to be with decriminalization, that argument is really polarizing,” she said. “Really building that evidence, we believe it’s going to lead to better policy outcomes in the end.”

— By focusing on building a base of support for the medicinal use of drugs like psilocybin, which Lavasani used to treat her own postpartum depression, she argued, the coalition hopes to sidestep political land mines over the criminal justice element of decriminalization that have held up marijuana legalization.

— That was one of Lavasani’s major takeaways during the mushroom decriminalization campaign in D.C. “It was very clear that like, this was, if we pursue decrim[inalization] any further, this is going to continue to go down the road of this is a Democrat versus Republican issue. And this is really not.”

— The coalition already has an ideologically broad crew of supporters in Congress that include the likes of Reps. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas), Nancy Mace (R-S.C.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Lou Correa (D-Calif.) and Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), several of whom just introduced legislation that would let the VA research psilocybin and MDMA as treatments for veterans suffering from mental illness.

— The Congressional Psychedelics Advancing Therapies Caucus, co-chaired by Correa and Rep. Jack Bergman (R-Mich.), re-launched earlier this month, and at a recent fly-in attendees heard from experts from Johns Hopkins University as the coalition pushes to legitimize the idea. The coalition also plans a PR push to normalize psychedelics across the country, and will use the PAC to conduct polling on psychedelics in addition to supporting politicians “sticking their neck out for this,” Lavasani said.

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

BUSINESS TRADES TURN THE SCREWS ON SU: Nearly three dozen trade groups are laying the groundwork for their opposition to President Joe Biden’s pick to lead the Labor Department, Julie Su. Su is temporarily leading the department after the departure of Marty Walsh, to whom she served as deputy, but in a letter to the heads of the Senate HELP Committee on Thursday the groups took a critical lens to Su’s time as California’s top labor official and pointed to several high-profile labor negotiations in the offing.

— Those talks between owners of West Coast ports, UPS and their respective employees, “if mismanaged, could have devastating consequences for the U.S. economy,” wrote the trade groups, which included the National Retail Federation, International Franchise Association, Associated Builders and Contractors, the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors and Consumer Technology Association.

— The National Restaurant Association, which came out against Su’s nomination this morning, also signed the letter, which cites her support of a contentious California fast food-industry labor law, her position on independent contractors, and her Covid-era workplace safety rules and handling of unemployment benefits in California as cause for concern.

— “Confirming a labor secretary with a track record of putting roadblocks in the way of solving the current workforce shortage would negatively affect every American, every business (particularly small businesses), and the economy,” the groups wrote, urging close scrutiny of her record.

FARA FRIDAY: “Federal prosecutors on Thursday portrayed rap star Pras Michel as a washed-up, money-hungry entertainer who embarked on a brazen secret-influence scheme aimed at the highest levels of the U.S. government,” our Josh Gerstein reports.

— “‘The defendant needed money and was willing to do anything to get it, including being an agent of the Chinese government,’ Justice Department attorney Nicole Lockhart told jurors during the government’s opening argument in the criminal foreign-agent and campaign-finance case against Michel, a member of the Fugees. ‘The defendant wanted money and was willing to break any laws necessary to get paid.’”

— “In her half-hour presentation, Lockhart laid out a dizzying series of allegations against Michel, including claims that over a span of about five years he accepted vast sums from Malaysian businessman Jho Low in order to try to shut down an investigation into Low’s alleged role in looting a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund known as 1MDB.”

— Michel’s trial — which is expected to feature testimony from a grab bag of prominent Hollywood and political figures from Leonardo DiCaprio to former Attorney General Jeff Sessions — offers the government a reset following a string of high-profile legal defeats in its efforts to crack down on foreign influence campaigns.

— The rapper’s defense team declined to give an opening statement on Thursday, but “has signaled plans to argue that he believed he was working to advance U.S. interests in his dealings related to Guo and in related efforts to free U.S. citizens held by China.”

FLY-IN SZN: The National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors held its first women’s fly-in this week, bringing female financial professionals to Washington to meet with Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) and Reps. Bill Foster (D-Ill.), Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pa.), Ralph Norman (R-S.C.), David Kustoff (R-Tenn.), and nearly 100 other offices. They discussed policy decisions, including those on taxes and retirement planning, that impact their clients’ financial security.

TAX PREPARERS TAKE AIM AT IRS INVESTMENTS: “The Biden administration’s $80 billion overhaul of the Internal Revenue Service is facing a new line of attack, this time from lobbyists representing tax preparers who fear that the agency’s growing power will cripple their businesses and infringe upon taxpayer privacy,” The New York Times’ Alan Rappeport reports.

— Business groups and representatives for tax prep giants like H&R Block and Intuit’s TurboTax are targeting a chunk of the more than $80 billion provided to improve operations at the IRS as part of last year’s Inflation Reduction Act. Democrats’ bill also set aside funding for the agency to study what it would take to develop a program to let taxpayers file their returns directly with the IRS — and eat into the lucrative tax prep business, which has poured tens of millions of dollars into lobbying against such a system.

— “Top Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee wrote a letter to the I.R.S. early this month expressing alarm about the study and claiming that political bias was already taking place,” per the Times. “The research is being conducted by the left-leaning New America Foundation — which has supported the idea of free tax filing — and that has raised concern that the Biden administration has decided to move ahead with the plan.”

— “The letter came amid pushback from the tax preparation industry, which has been urging lawmakers to prevent the government from becoming a competitor. Lobbyists for the tax preparation industry and the companies argue that creating a free, federal tax-filing system is redundant and would give the agency too much power over the filing process.” The industry has also found allies among conservative tax policy organizations like the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, Americans for Tax Reform and the Club for Growth.

ACTUM ADDS NYC CONSULTANCY: Lobbying and consulting firm Actum has acquired Kirtzman Strategies, a New York consultancy run by former journalist and New York City schools official Andrew Kirtzman. Kirtzman founded his firm in 2016 after working at Global Strategy Group, and before that he was an anchor on NY1 and wrote a book on former Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Kirtzman will become managing director at Actum, which was launched last year by a crew of former Mercury lobbyists and former acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and has since added more former lawmakers like Tom Suozzi to its ranks.

SPOTTED at the Options Clearing Corporation’s spring congressional reception at Charlie Palmer, per a tipster: Reps. Andy Barr (R-Ky.) Sean Casten (D-Ill.), Ron Estes (R-Kan.), Bill Foster (D-Ill.), Vicente Gonzalez (D-Texas), Josh Gottheimer (R-N.J.), Jim Himes (D-Conn.), Bill Huizenga (R-Mich.), Jonathan Jackson (D-Ill.), Dan Kildee (D-Mich.), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), Darin LaHood (R-Ill.), John Larson (D-Conn.), Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), Bryan Steil (R-Wis.), Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) and OCC’s Craig Donohue, Andrej Bolkovic, Julie Bauer, Jim Hall and Daniel Schramm.

Charles Wollenhaupt has launched Potomac Hill Strategies, a government relations and consulting firm. He spent the past 16 years at DHS, most recently serving as principal director and acting deputy assistant secretary, office of partnership and engagement.

John F. Kwant will serve as the 5G Automotive Association’s inaugural executive director for the Americas. He was most recently Ford Motor Co.’s global director of mobility and advanced technologies.

Tatiana Torres has joined Dentons Global Advisors as an associate partner. She was most recently a vice president at SKDK.

Kathryn Brown is joining Cystic Fibrosis Foundation as chief communications and marketing officer. She was most recently at Howard Hughes Medical Institute, where she served as chief of communications.

Laura Vallis has been named head of communications at JLL. She most recently was chief communications officer at Manulife and is an alum of Barclays, Dow Jones and AB Inbev.

Jimmy Anderson is now an associate partner at IBM Global Consulting. He most recently was director of veterans engagement at the White House, and is a VA alum.

Ericka Morris is now deputy chief of staff at The Heritage Foundation. She previously was special assistant to the CEO of Rolls-Royce North America and is a Mike Pence alum.

Campaign for Democracy Committee (Campaign for Democracy PAC, Campaign for Democracy Group)

Campaign for Democracy Group (Super PAC)
Campaign for Democracy PAC (PAC)
Courage PAC (Leadership PAC: Becca Balint)
Newsom for California Governor 2022 (Hybrid PAC)

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld: Dell Technologies, Inc.
Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP: Inductivehealth Informatics
Becker & Poliakoff, P.A.: Sea & Shoreline, LLC
Best Best & Krieger LLP: Cucamonga Valley Water District
Cordone Consulting LLC: Tri-State Generation And Transmission Association, Inc.
Map Large, Inc.: Map Large, Inc.
Mr. Gregory Kulchyckyj: Razom, Inc.
Prewitt Group, P.A.: Hush Aerospace
Strategies 360: Inland Northwest Land Conservancy
Tarplin, Downs & Young, LLC: Quest Diagnostics
Thompson Coburn LLP: Signet Maritime Coporation

Becker & Poliakoff, P.A.: Butterfly Network, Inc.
Canopy Growth USa LLC: Canopy Growth USa LLC
Fourth Street Advocacy (Corsa Potomac, LLC): Mcr Oil Tools, LLC
Fourth Street Advocacy (Corsa Potomac, LLC): Texans Against High Speed Rail
Invariant LLC: Niantic, Inc.
Invariant LLC: Tri-County Electric Cooperative
Rampy Northrup LLC: Cure Rare Disease

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