With Daniel Lippman
ANNALS OF HALLOWEEN LOBBYING: A coalition of haunted house operators has hired Hogan Lovells to convince Congress to change the Paycheck Protection Program so their industry can take advantage of it. The Alliance for Interactive, Seasonal, and Location-based Entertainment sent letters to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and more than two dozen other lawmakers making the case that the “industry has been unable to benefit from PPP in any meaningful way” and asking for changes.
— The Paycheck Protection Program’s rules allow seasonal employers the option to use any 12-week period between May 1, 2019, and Sept. 15, 2019, when determining the maximum loan amounts for which they’re eligible. That’s a problem for haunted houses because their business doesn’t pick up until the fall. “I don’t know if folks imagined that the Covid crisis would extend this long” when the rules were written, said Aaron Cutler, one of the lobbyists representing the coalition. The lobbyists are pushing to get the changes included in any extension of the loan program and might expand the effort to include holiday-season businesses as well.
FORMER MCCONNELL AIDE STARTS HIS OWN FIRM: Brian Forest, a former chief speechwriter for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, has started his own communications firm, Arboreal Communications. (“Arboreal” is a nod to his last name.) He’ll consult on messaging and write for trade groups, nonprofits and companies. Forest was previously the National Association of Manufacturers’ director of strategic messaging and before that spent several years on the Hill working for McConnell as well as former Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.). The firm is a one-man shop for now but Forest said he’s looking to hire.
ADMINISTRATION INDICATES U.S. COMPANIES CAN KEEP USING WECHAT IN CHINA: “The Trump administration is signaling that U.S. companies can continue to use the WeChat messaging app in China, according to several people familiar with the matter, two weeks after President Donald Trump ordered a U.S. ban on the Chinese-owned service,” Bloomberg News’ Jennifer Jacobs, Shelly Banjo, Saleha Mohsin, Jenny Leonard and Naomi Nix report.
— “The administration is still working through the technical implications of how to enforce such a partial ban on the app, which is owned by Tencent Holdings Ltd., one of China’s biggest companies. A key question is whether the White House would allow Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google to carry the app in its global app stores outside of the U.S., according to the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The intention is to prohibit any downloads or updates of the WeChat app in U.S. app stores, two of the people said. U.S. companies with China operations such as Starbucks Corp. could still advertise and process transactions with Chinese consumers via the app, they said.”
WHO KAMALA HARRIS KNOWS IN SILICON VALLEY: The New York Times’ Daisuke Wakabayashi, Stephanie Saul and Ken Vogel take a closer look at Kamala Harris’ relationship with Silicon Valley, including her personal ties to the industry. “Lartease Tiffith left his position as a senior counsel in Ms. Harris’s Senate office in late 2018 and became an in-house lobbyist for Amazon, focusing on privacy and security issues. Rebecca Prozan, who ran Ms. Harris’s first campaign for district attorney in San Francisco, is a top government affairs official for Google in California. Tony West, Ms. Harris’s brother-in-law and a former Justice Department official, is the chief legal officer for Uber.”
— “‘There are familial connections and a level of mutual affection with Silicon Valley that goes above and beyond the fact that she is a San Francisco politician,’ said Jeff Hauser, executive director of the Revolving Door Project, a left-leaning watchdog group that has criticized Ms. Harris’s ties to Big Tech and other corporate interests.” (PI noted Tiffith’s role at Amazon last week in a roundup of former Harris aides on K Street.)
ZUCKERBERG TESTIFIED BEFORE FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION: Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, “testified this week at a Federal Trade Commission investigative hearing as part of the agency’s antitrust investigation into the social network, according to three people familiar with the case,” POLITICO’s Leah Nylen and Betsy Woodruff Swan report. “FTC staff often interview witnesses under oath as part of their investigations in a process similar to a deposition and nearly always in cases they expect to lead to a lawsuit.”
— “The people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the confidential nature of the probe, said the step doesn’t necessarily signal that the agency will ultimately pursue an antitrust lawsuit. Nevertheless, the testimony, conducted under oath and remotely over the course of two days this week, could be used to help the FTC and state attorneys general build a case against the social network.”
REGIONAL AIRLINES STILL WAITING ON CORONAVIRUS RELIEF: “The Treasury Department’s process for getting emergency loans out to small air carriers and others has been so shambolic that many companies are struggling to stay afloat as they await relief, as others go out of business,” POLITICO’s Tanya Snyder reports. “After initially applying for a loan program for air carriers and other eligible businesses, in July — more than three months after many companies had applied for relief — aviation applicants were informed that they needed first to apply to the Main Street lending program, a general loan fund aimed at providing support for small and mid-sized businesses.”
— “Since the CARES Act was signed into law, three regional airlines have ceased operation — Compass Airlines, Trans States Airlines and RavnAir Group — and ExpressJet is winding down by the end of the year. Other small air carriers and providers are still waiting, hemorrhaging money and trying to survive.”
— Boeing is reshuffling its communications team, tapping Gordon Johndroe, a former White House spokesperson in President George W. Bush’s administration, as vice president of global media and public affairs. Bradley Akubuiro is now the company’s chief spokesperson and senior director of global media relations and Betsy Andres Stewart is senior director of global public affairs communications.
— The financial technology company Plaid has hired Meredith Fuchs to lead its legal and risk teams, per POLITICO’s Morning Tech. She was previously Capital One’s senior vice president and chief counsel for regulatory advisory.
Baker & Hostetler LLP: Weber-Stephen Products LLC
Bracewell LLP: Kingspan Insulation LLC
Foley & Lardner, LLP: Team Cymru, Inc
Forbes-Tate: Arcturus Therapeutics
Forbes-Tate: Criteo Corporation
Holland & Knight LLP: Noveome Biotherapeutics
Invariant LLC: Merlin Labs
Invariant LLC: TriNet USA, Inc.
K&L Gates LLP: Groundfish Forum
Mr. Louis Cherington: Bagley Development Group LLC
BGR Government Affairs: Freedom Capital LLC
Capitol Agendas: Village of Bellwood
RNL Consulting LLC: Genworth Financial