Does lobbying help companies win tariff relief?


With Daniel Lippman

DOES HIRING LOBBYISTS HELP COMPANIES WIN TARIFF RELIEF? THE EVIDENCE IS MIXED: Before the pandemic struck, lobbying for relief from President Donald Trump’s China tariffs was one of the biggest drivers of business on K Street. How successful were lobbyists in securing tariff exemptions, though? To find out, your guest host combed through the more than 10,000 exemption requests filed under List 1 of Trump’s Section 301 tariffs on Chinese goods.

— Most companies seeking exemptions don’t appear to have hired lobbyists. Of 1,207 entities that filed List 1 exemption requests, only 167 retained lobbyists for help, according to PI’s analysis (though others may have lobbied in less direct ways, such as through trade groups or under the name of a subsidiary). Companies that hired lobbyists on average filed more exemption requests than companies that did not hire lobbyists — about 14 requests per company versus eight.

— How successful were the companies that did hire lobbyists? The majority — 57 percent — of them received at least one of the exemptions they asked for. Just 38 percent of organizations that didn’t hire lobbyists, by contrast, got at least one exemption approved. But companies that hired lobbyists didn’t get as many of their exemptions approved in total: The Trump administration granted 30 percent of their exemptions requests but 35 percent of requests from companies that didn’t lobby on the issue.

— Whether a company wins an exemption or not mostly depends on how well they can make the case that they have no alternative but to import from China, said Frank Samolis, co-chair of Squire Patton Boggs’ international trade practice. Smaller companies can often do it better themselves. “The lobbying may be simply connecting the dots on what other forces can be helpful for these individual requests,” he said. Lobbyists can help a client “understand what additional arrows they have in their quiver that maybe they haven’t thought about.”

— Emphasizing the trickle-down effect of the tariffs proved helpful to Apex Sourcing & Manufacturing, the Colorado manufacturer’s general counsel, Stephanie Foote, said in an interview. Apex, which does not employ a Washington lobbyist, had all 68 of its List 1 requests granted. Foote attributed the success, in part, to having done the research and crafted a compelling argument about how many U.S. employees would be impacted by the tariffs — not just at Apex, but also at their corporate clients that rely on them.

— Others have been less fortunate. Scosche Industries, a consumer technology company based in California, retained a trio of lobbyists at Arent Fox from September 2018 through March 2019 but wasn’t granted a single one of its 201 exemptions requests. Roger Alves, the company’s chief executive, told PI in an email in March that the tariffs were effectively “nationalizing” his company, which he said was preparing for layoffs at the time.

Good afternoon, and welcome to PI. I’m pinch hitting for Theo today. PI is taking a long weekend and will be back in your inboxes on Tuesday (not Monday). Send ideas for social distancing Independence Day celebrations to [email protected] and [email protected]. You can also follow us on Twitter: @theodoricmeyer and @davidabeavers.

NEW BUSINESS: The American Society of Travel Advisors has hired a team of four at Kountoupes Denham Carr & Reid to lobby on coronavirus relief legislation. The trade group representing travel agencies and tour providers also retains Banner Public Affairs. Kountoupes Denham has also registered to lobby for the National Propane Gas Association on “energy and transportation infrastructure” issues, per a filing shared with PI.

RESTAURANTS PRESS FOR MORE RELIEF AID: As coronavirus cases surge in many parts of the country, the food and restaurant industry is pushing Congress to establish a dedicated relief fund to help the struggling sectors. In a letter sent today to House and Senate leadership, over 215 food and beverage suppliers and trade groups, including Bacardi, the United States Cattlemen’s Association and the Organic Trade Association, called on Congress to pass legislation Sens. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) introduced last month that would establish a $120 billion grant program to help restaurants.

— “We need restaurants to survive so we can help the millions of Americans in the extensive supply chain survive too,” the groups wrote in the letter, which was organized by the Independent Restaurant Coalition.

— “We are delighted with the approach that Sen. Wicker and Sen. Simena are taking on behalf of the restaurant industry, and we’re going to do everything we can to ensure that the next ‘phase 4’ bill includes a strong recovery component for the entire restaurant industry,” Sean Kennedy, the National Restaurant Association’s top lobbyist, told PI. “The needs of the restaurant industry are going to be bigger than just financial support and recovery,” Kennedy said, adding that the trade group will be pushing for a plan to ensure workers across the food supply chain remain safe.

TECH CEOS SET FOR HILL GRILLING: “The chief executives of four of the world’s biggest technology companies will appear before Congress this month as part of its sweeping antitrust investigation into their market power, according to the committee running the inquiry, setting up a high-profile face-off between the companies and skeptical lawmakers,” reports The New York TimesDavid McCabe. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Apple’s Tim Cook, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Google’s Sundar Pichai will appear before the House Judiciary Committee this month.

— “The date and whether the executives will appear in person or virtually, as has become common during the coronavirus pandemic, are still being discussed,” a committee spokesperson told the Times.

TRUMP TO HEADLINE FLORIDA FUNDRAISER: “President Trump is set to hold a high-dollar dinner at a private residence in Hillsboro Beach, Fla., next week to raise money for his campaign and the Republican National Committee, according to an invitation sent to top GOP donors, his first in-person fundraiser since mid-June,” The Washington Post’s Josh Dawsey and Michelle Ye Hee Lee report. “The invitation does not name the owner of the home hosting the $580,600-per-couple event.”

— “The fundraiser would inject millions of dollars into Trump’s reelection coffers at a time when putative Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s high-dollar fundraising is ramping up. But it could also bring the president additional scrutiny for holding an event in a coronavirus hotspot while the country is reeling from the virus’s renewed spread. … A person familiar with the fundraiser who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the private event said all guests will be tested before interacting with the president.”

Airbnb has promoted Alexandra Dagg to senior policy director for the Northeast U.S. and Canada and Josh Meltzer to head of strategic engagements and policy partnerships for North America.

Massachusetts New Jersey Victory Fund (Sens. Ed Markey, Cory Booker)
The Squad Victory Fund (Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib; Power of Us PAC; Courage to Change; Inspiring Leadership Has A Name PAC; Rooted in Community Leadership PAC)
Way to Lead State Power Committee (Way to Lead PAC)

Community Care Health Network, LLC/Matrix Medical Network Political Action Committee (Matrix Medical PAC) (PAC)
Concerned Americans for America (Super PAC)
Georgia United Victory (Super PAC)
Opportunity Matters Fund, Inc. (Super PAC)
Phoenix Congress 2020 (Super PAC)
Plains PAC (Super PAC)
The National MENTOR Holdings, Inc. Fund (PAC)
United Forward (Super PAC)
United Forward PAC (Super PAC)

Cornerstone Government Affairs, Inc.: Eaves Law Firm, LLC obo Vieques, Puerto Rico
Cornerstone Government Affairs, Inc.: Louisiana Travel Association
Cornerstone Government Affairs, Inc.: Mental Health America
G2G Consulting: Advanced Animal Diagnostics Inc
G2G Consulting: Dascena
G2G Consulting: Drawbridge Health
G2G Consulting: Invitae Corporation
Mercury Public Affairs, LLC: ABLV Bank AS in Liquidation
Paul Schroeder: National Federation of the Blind
The Prenda Group LLC: Arkansas Lithium Corporation

Capitol Hill Advocates LLC: American Association of Radon Scientists and Technologists
Capitol Hill Advocates LLC: National Concrete Masonry Association
Crossroads Strategies, LLC: Alitheon, Inc.
Crossroads Strategies, LLC: B.E. Meyers & Co, Inc.
Mr. Gary Elmestad: City of St. Charles
O’Brien, Gentry & Scott, LLC: PolarityTE, Inc.
Sonosky, Chambers, Sachse, Endreson & Perry, LLP: Arctic Slope Native Association
Sonosky, Chambers, Sachse, Endreson & Perry, LLP: Cherokee Nation
Sonosky, Chambers, Sachse, Endreson & Perry, LLP: Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma
Sonosky, Chambers, Sachse, Endreson & Perry, LLP: Citizen Potawatomi Nation
Sonosky, Chambers, Sachse, Endreson & Perry, LLP: Chickasaw Nation
Tahrir Alnisa Foundation: Tahrir Alnisa Foundation
The Tomhave Group, Inc.: Tuba City Regional Health Care Corporation





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