Restaurants renew push for relief fund


With David Beavers and Daniel Lippman

RESTAURANTS RENEW PUSH FOR AID: As Congress prepares to hash out the next coronavirus relief bill, the National Restaurant Association is urging lawmakers to include a variety of measures to shore up the industry. “In just the past two weeks alone, state and local government mandates have shut down almost 100,000 restaurants,” Sean Kennedy, the trade group’s top lobbyist, wrote in a letter today to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. “Many are advising us they cannot survive this ongoing on/off approach to operations and will permanently close.”

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— Among the trade group’s asks: a $120 billion relief fund for the restaurant industry, a second round of Paycheck Protection Program loans, a tax break that would allow businesses to deduct expenses paid for with forgiven Paycheck Protection Program loans and more funding for Economic Injury Disaster Loans. There’s already a bill backed by Sens. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) that would set up a dedicated relief fund for restaurants, for which the National Restaurant Association and the Independent Restaurant Coalition have lobbied for months.

NEW BUSINESS: The pandemic is — unsurprisingly — still driving business on K Street. Wellforce, a Massachusetts health care system, has hired its first Washington lobbying firm. Five Washington Council Ernst & Young lobbyists will lobby on “issues related to COVID-19 relief legislation and implementation,” according to a disclosure filing. And the Catholic University of America has retained Cornerstone Government Affairs as its first lobbying firm in a decade. Two former Democratic congressional staffers, Heather Molino and Mike Goodman, will push “for policies and funding that support higher education institutions in these trying times,” according to an admirably direct disclosure filing.

Good afternoon, and welcome to PI. Send lobbying tips, gossip and long, anguished essays about Bari Weiss’ resignation to [email protected]. You can also follow me on Twitter: @theodoricmeyer.

DEFENSE INDUSTRY ASKS FOR MORE CORONAVIRUS AID: “Eighty defense industry executives are pleading with top lawmakers to allocate more emergency funding to help cope with the costs of the coronavirus pandemic,” POLITICO’s Connor O’Brien reports. “In a letter Tuesday obtained by POLITICO and led by the Aerospace Industries Association, industry executives called for top House and Senate leaders to include more funding for a program designed to buoy the defense sector in a new round of economic assistance that’s expected to be considered this month.”

— “The program, set up in March, requires the Pentagon to reimburse contractors for sick or paid leave that companies offered employees who can’t access federal facilities during the pandemic. The executives called for the program to be extended through December. But lawmakers didn’t allocate extra money for the payments, which Pentagon and industry leaders have warned could eat into major defense programs as the pandemic drags on.”

HOW MIKE GULA WORKED HIS CONNECTIONS: “A former political fundraiser reached deals to sell roughly $630 million in Covid-19 medical supplies to government entities after using Republican political connections to facilitate business, according to emails and contract documents,” The Wall Street Journal’s Brody Mullins reports. “The emails, obtained in response to public-records requests by The Wall Street Journal, show that Mike Gula landed some large deals with states after parlaying his connections to lobbyists and fundraisers to score introductions and recommendations to state procurement officials, who later signed contracts with his company, Blue Flame Medical LLC.”

— In March, for instance, “Mr. Gula pitched his business to an ex-fundraiser for the Republican National Committee who now is a senior adviser to Maryland’s Republican Gov. Larry Hogan. On Sunday, March 29, the ex-fundraiser, Tiffany Waddell, emailed Ellington Churchill, Maryland’s chief procurement official for coronavirus supplies: ‘Please meet a good friend of mine, Mike Gula,’ the email began. Ms. Waddell referred questions from the Journal to Mr. Hogan’s office, which declined to comment.”

HOW McKINSEY IS ADVISING ON THE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE: The Department of Veterans Affairs hired McKinsey & Co. on March 20 through a no-bid contract to advise the agency on how to respond to the pandemic, ProPublica’s Ian MacDougall reports. The Defense Health Agency and the Air Force have also hired the consulting firm. “Altogether, in the four months since the pandemic started, the firm has been awarded work for state, city and federal agencies worth well over $100 million — and counting.”

— McKinsey’s work hasn’t gone uncriticized by the governments that have hired the firm. “‘Basically, they are compiling data for us,’ a top official in Florida’s Miami-Dade County wrote in an internal email obtained by ProPublica. ‘And putting it in pretty formats.’ That contract was for up to a month of work, with a price tag of up to $568,000, and the confusing set of reopening guidelines that emerged with McKinsey’s help has been widely panned.”

SKDKNICKERBOCKER ASKS STAFFERS TO DELETE TIKTOK: “The Democratic consulting firm SKDKnickerbocker “has asked its employees to delete the app TikTok from their phones because of possible security risks, three people familiar with the request said,” The New York Times reports. The firm “did not detail a specific threat from the video-sharing app, which is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance and has come under intensifying scrutiny in recent months. In December, the Pentagon warned branches of the military that it regarded TikTok as potentially dangerous, and last week Amazon asked employees to delete the app before backtracking.”

MEHLMAN’S LATEST: Bruce Mehlman of Mehlman Castagnetti Rosen & Thomas is out with his latest slidedeck, in which he breaks down how political and economic trends might affect Washington and K Street. One point he makes: Washington still has an enormous amount to get done this year, including passing another coronavirus relief bill, keeping the government funded past Sept. 30, passing the National Defense Authorization Act and other spending bills, and reauthorizing the National Flood Insurance Program and half a dozen other programs — all as Nov. 3 gets closer and closer.

CORRECTION: Tuesday’s edition misstated the details of Desirée Cormier Smith’s new position at Open Society Foundations. She doesn’t anticipate registering as a lobbyist.

— ROKK Solutions has hired John Brandt as vice president of public affairs. He was previously manager of policy communications and corporate responsibility for the Public Affairs Council.

— Assurant has promoted Jay Rosenblum to chief legal officer. He was previously senior vice president for government relations and regulatory affairs, and he’ll continue to oversee government affairs.

SPOTTED: At Hogan Lovells‘ “Politics & Bagels” discussion this morning (which was held via Zoom and did not include bagels), according to a PI tipster: Ivan Zapien of Hogan Lovells; Fred Turner, who’s chief of staff to Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.); Dana Gresham, who’s chief of staff to Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.); Andrew Szente of Best Buy, Jennifer Hatcher of the Food Marketing Institute and Todd Young of U.S. Steel.

Republican Senate Problem Solvers Fund (Sens. Bill Cassidy, Susan Collins, John Cornyn and Todd Young, No Labels Problems Solvers Political Action Committee (No Labels Problem Solvers PAC))

Every American PAC (PAC)
ORD2 Indivisible Action Fund (Super PAC)

Arent Fox LLP: American Steamship Owners Mutual Protection and Indemnity Association, Inc.
Bridgeway Advocacy: Summit Public Affairs (for Vanda Pharmaceuticals, Inc.)
CGCN Group, LLC (formerly known as Clark Geduldig Cranford & Nielsen, LLC): Stress Engineering Services, Inc.
Cornerstone Government Affairs, Inc.: Kistefos AS
Cornerstone Government Affairs, Inc.: The Catholic University of America
Cypress Advocacy, LLC: Pipeline Health System
Dentons US LLP: BMNT Inc.
Ernst & Young LLP (Washington Council Ernst & Young): Wellforce Inc.
FDJ Solutions, LLC: Eaves Law Firm, LLC
Greenberg Traurig, LLP: MAXIMUS, Inc.
Kutak Rock LLP: Sarpy County, Nebraska
Marshall & Popp, LLC: AICPA Association of International Certified Professional Accountants
Summit Public Affairs: Bridgeway Advocacy (for City of Memphis, Tennessee)
YellowstoneStrategies: In Our Hands Action Fund

Cassidy & Associates, Inc.: University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Health System
Cypress Advocacy, LLC: Managed Funds Association
DCI Group, L.L.C.: Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness
Debevoise & Plimpton LLP: American Investment Council
Holland & Knight LLP: Skyryse, Inc.
K&L Gates LLP: Clark Street Associates on behalf of Complete Genomics, Inc.
K&L Gates LLP: Commonwealth Research Associates, LLC
K&L Gates LLP: National Water Supply Alliance
K&L Gates LLP: Tarrant Regional Water District
Las Vegas Public Radio Inc.: Huawei Device (Shenzhen) Co., Ltd.
Mehlman Castagnetti Rosen & Thomas, Inc.: Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE)
Raytheon Company: Raytheon Company
Squire Patton Boggs: Hammack, Barry, Thaggard & May, LLP
Squire Patton Boggs: Republic Metropolitan (ReMet)
The Livingston Group, LLC: 50 Cities Inc
The Livingston Group, LLC: Falcon Specialized Industrial Services Inc.
The Livingston Group, LLC: Greater America LLC (on behalf of Engense, Inc./dba DFNDR Armor)
Vantage Knight, Inc.: CITGO Petroleum Corporation





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