With Daniel Lippman
MONKEY SEE, MONKEY DO?: A coalition of travel and business groups is urging the Biden administration to nudge the federal workforce back into their offices, and to jump-start business travel among federal workers as well, as business travel continues to rebound more slowly than the broader travel industry following the pandemic.
— In a letter to President Joe Biden, Airlines for America, the American Hotel and Lodging Association, the Global Business Travel Association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Travel Association argued that by encouraging the resumption of in-office work and business travel among government employees, “the federal workforce would serve as a model for the rest of the country.”
— The coalition praised Biden’s emphasis on returning workers to offices in his State of the Union address earlier this year. But the groups pointed out that business travel has struggled to rebound at the same pace as leisure travel since the pandemic began to wane, “which has a disproportionate impact on the travel economy. Despite making up just 20% of total trip volume, business travelers accounted for 40-60% of lodging and air revenue pre-pandemic,” they wrote.
— “Government travel spending traditionally supports tens of thousands of jobs and more than $4 billion in travel spending, lifting up communities in every pocket of the country,” they added, meaning that “this segment will continue to struggle until we return to the office, resume business travel, and get back to in-person meetings.”
HARTZLER’S CHIEF HEADS BACK DOWNTOWN: Chris Connelly, who most recently served as chief of staff to Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.), is returning to K Street after more than a decade back on the Hill. Connelly is joining the American Society of Mechanical Engineers as senior director of government relations for the trade group.
— He previously spent six years as the top aide to Hartzler, who is running for Senate, and prior to that was chief of staff to former Reps. Scott Rigell and Jo Ann Davis, who along with Hartzler were members of the House Armed Services Committee. Connelly also served as senior director of communications and research at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Intellectual Property Center and in the George W. Bush administration.
FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO PLEAD GUILTY FOR ROLE IN QATARI LOBBYING: “Richard Olson, a former U.S. ambassador to Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates, has been criminally charged for his alleged role in an undisclosed lobbying campaign for the Qatari government,” Axios’ Lachlan Markay reports.
— “Prosecutors accuse Olson of courting foreign work while he served as ambassador, and using his political influence to advance Qatari interests in Washington after leaving office. The Justice Department has charged him with making false statements in ethics paperwork and violating laws restricting foreign lobbying by ex-federal officials, both misdemeanors. In court filings, Olson has said he plans to plead guilty.”
— According to court documents filed earlier this month, “Olson received monthly $20,000 payments from an unnamed Pakistani-American lobbyist for the work. They agreed on that work ‘either just prior to, or shortly after’ Olson left government service, prosecutors say.” After leaving government service, Olson allegedly lobbied U.S. officials to take Qatar’s side when several Gulf nations cut ties with it and launched a blockade of its only land border in 2017.
— “According to the information, Olson personally contacted the U.S. ambassador to Qatar and ‘several sitting members of the U.S. House of Representatives’ as part of the effort. Prosecutors say he also provided behind-the-scenes support for a Qatari government lobbying campaign aimed at establishing U.S. Customs and Border Protection pre-clearance facilities at the Doha airport.”
— The Associated Press reports that Olson also allegedly “failed to disclose certain financial benefits he received from a California businessman named Imaad Zuberi,” a Pakistani-American businessperson and political donor currently serving a 12-year prison sentence for FARA violations, tax evasion, illegal campaign contributions and obstruction of justice. Mother Jones reported last year that Zuberi paid for Olson and a former military official to travel to Doha during the 2017 diplomatic crisis.
FLY-IN SZN: More trade associations are in the midst of their first in-person fly-ins since before the pandemic. The Mortgage Bankers Association is wrapping up its first in-person advocacy push on the Hill since 2019, with more than 400 real estate finance professionals meeting with congressional offices and hearing from speakers, including Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and John Thune (R-N.D.) and Reps. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), Tom Emmer (R-Minn.), Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.) and Young Kim (R-Calif.).
TIME FOR A LITTLE CHAIRMANSHIP KREMLINOLOGY: Sure, some congressional districts have yet to be finalized. But it’s never too early to try to game out who the next leaders of key congressional committees might be next year, especially with both chambers of Congress so narrowly divided and so many gavel-holders set to retire. Plurus Strategies is out with two new memos to help its clients keep track of the complicated dynamics in both the House and Senate.
— While the campaign to become the top Republican on House Ways and Means is one of the chamber’s marquee races, the top GOP spot on the Financial Services Committee could also see changes. Current Chair Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and ranking member Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) “could remain the top Democrat and Republican on the committee, respectively, in the 118th Congress,” one memo notes. “There was speculation Rep. McHenry was interested in pursuing a role in House GOP leadership, which would force him to give up his leadership role on the committee. However, if Republicans win the majority, Rep. McHenry has indicated he would keep his top spot on Financial Services.”
— “If Democrats keep the majority, Rep. McHenry could run for leadership,” meaning Emmer could seek McHenry’s top committee spot, “though Rep. Emmer would need to get through many senior committee members,” like House Science ranking member Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), who would be next in seniority but who “has indicated he is not interested in switching committees. Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) is the next most senior member of the committee.”
— In the Senate, Banking ranking member Pat Toomey’s (R-Pa.) retirement will trigger some changes. “Next in line based on seniority would be Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID). However, he is likely to keep his top spot on Finance. Next in line is 117th Congress Aging Ranking Member Tim Scott (R-SC). Sen. Tim Scott could be in a position to choose from the top spots on Aging, Banking, or Small Business. If Sen. Tim Scott chooses a committee other than Banking, Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD) would be next in line to serve in the GOP leadership slot on Banking.”
GIG COMPANIES LOOK TO CAPITALIZE ON HICCUPS AT DOL: “The Biden Labor Department has yet to clarify what approach it will take to determine whether workers qualify as independent contractors or should be employees due full benefits, and business groups see that lull as an opportunity to influence what comes next,” per Bloomberg’s Rebecca Rainey.
— “Powerful gig companies like Uber Technologies Inc. and Lyft Inc. are lobbying Washington to provide a more flexible classification standard that will allow them to continue operating their models as is, creating friction with the Biden administration’s agenda and demands of unions closely aligned with the president.”
— “Many expected the administration to take a stricter approach to independent contractor relationships,” but the Senate failed to confirm Biden’s nominee for DOL’s wage division and a Texas court recently reinstated a Trump-era rule with a more business-friendly independent contractor standard.
— The Coalition for Workforce Innovation, whose members include Lyft, Postmates and other gig companies and which challenged the repeal of the Trump rule, “said it’s actively working on a long-term legislative proposal to address independent contractor status that it hopes to release before the end of this Congress. The plan will include not only rideshare and delivery drivers, but other industries that rely on independent contractors.”
SPOTTED at the National Governors Association’s spring networking reception on Tuesday night hosted by BGR Group and featuring special guest Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt: Elissa Levin of Avangrid, Bill McManus of American Beverage Association, Stephen Parker of Gener8tor, Nadja Young of SAS Institute, Lisa Shoemaker of IDEMIA, BGR’s Haley Barbour, Loren Monroe, William Crozer, Patrick Dolan, Dan Murphy, Jonathan Mantz and Ellen Brown, the Washington representatives of nearly two dozen states, intergovernmental affairs liaisons from several federal agencies as well as NGA corporate members and BGR clients.
— Jack Cline will be vice president for federal relations at Northeastern University to help the university open its Washington office. Cline has spent the past decade as associate vice chancellor for federal relations at the University of Kansas.
— Anthony Rapa is now a partner and national security team lead at Blank Rome’s Washington office. He previously was a partner at Kirkland & Ellis LLP.
— Laura Matos is joining MAD Global as partner. She most recently was managing director and general manager in New Jersey for Kivvit.
— Laura Hobbs is joining Sirona as a director. She was most recently a principal for regulatory compliance at MedImpact and is a Capstone and UnitedHealth Group alum.
Conor Lamb Victory Fund (Rep. Conor Lamb, Good Day PAC, Pennsylvania Democratic Party)
Drew Montez Clark Victory Fund (Drew-Montez Clark for Congress, Republican Party of Florida, NRCC)
Jay Chen Victory Fund (Jay Chen for Congress, California Democratic Party)
Lisa Blunt Rochester Victory Fund 2022 (Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, I Got Your Back PAC, Democratic State Committee (Delaware))
Augusta Associates, LLC: Rights4Girls
Capitol Counsel LLC: Sight Sciences
Hogan Lovells US LLP: Computer & Communications Industry Association
Husch Blackwell Strategies: Nomi Health, Inc.
Jon Thomas Consulting: Hillsborough Recovery Coalition Inc.
Patterson Earnhart Real Bird & Wilson LLP: Upper Mattaponi Indian Tribe
The Roosevelt Group: Sparta Science
Thomas Marquez: Brandt Company
Van Scoyoc Associates: Fathom Tanks, LLC
Forethought Advisors, LLC: Bridge Counsel Strategies, LLC
Sabiston Consultants, LLC: Brown-Taylor Development
The Fiorentino Group: Jacksonville Transportation Authority