With Daniel Lippman and Theodoric Meyer
FIRST IN PI — MEHLMAN ADDS 2: Victoria Flood and Alex Perkins have joined Mehlman Castagnetti Rosen & Thomas as principals, adding bipartisan Senate experience to its roster of staffers. Flood joins the firm after more than a decade working for Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), most recently as a senior policy adviser working on the senator’s Commerce Committee portfolio. She’ll work mostly on similar issues at Mehlman Castagnetti, especially on rural broadband as infrastructure talks between her former boss and President Joe Biden continue.
— Perkins spent seven years as counsel for the House Ways and Means Committee and to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), and most recently spent nearly a decade on the government affairs team at Stellantis (formerly Fiat Chrysler) working on trade, customs and supply chain issues, the latter being one that Perkins predicts a lot of action on in the coming months whether from the Hill or the Biden administration.
— The moves come a little over a month after co-founder David Castagnetti announced he would be stepping down from his leadership and managerial roles with the firm — though he’s staying on as a senior adviser — to focus on a “new chapter in my professional life,” he said in a letter to associates in April.
BALLARD TAPS WEXLER TO LEAD D.C. OFFICE: Ballard Partners, the Florida-based lobbying shop that quickly saw its D.C. office bloom into a formidable presence on K Street during the Trump administration, is naming former Democratic Congressman Robert Wexler managing partner of its Washington operation.
— Wexler, who has long been a vocal advocate on Israel issues and will remain head of the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace, was on Biden’s short list to be named ambassador to Israel before reports last month that he’d been passed over for the job.
— Part of his charge leading Ballard’s Washington office will be to oversee the firm’s beefed-up Democratic prowess and boost its congressional credentials after four years during which founder Brian Ballard’s close ties with President Donald Trump put Ballard’s fledgling Washington office among K Street’s top earners.
— The firm has added a slew of new Democratic talent since November’s election, a move that Ballard has insisted would have happened regardless of the election’s outcome. “I’m gonna focus on incorporating the new people in the firm,” Wexler told PI in an interview, with an eye toward “matching the really incredible strength in Florida with the extraordinary talent in Washington.”
Good afternoon and welcome to PI. Send your finest K Street tips and gossip: [email protected]. And be sure to follow me on Twitter: @caitlinoprysko.
RETAILERS PLEAD FOR CONSISTENT COVID GUIDELINES: One of the retail industry’s most prominent lobbying groups urged the nation’s governors today to coordinate uniform policies for businesses on public health measures — from mask mandates to vaccination requirements — in the wake of CDC’s surprise announcement last month that fully vaccinated Americans in most cases no longer need to wear a face mask.
—As the country moves to reopen its economy, the industry has been hobbled by a patchwork of state restrictions that are “inconsistent, not grounded in sound science, and, in some circumstances, wholly unworkable,” David French, the National Retail Federation’s top lobbyist, wrote in a letter to National Governors Association heads Andrew Cuomo and Asa Hutchinson.
— French pointed as one example to the Oregon Legislature’s enacting a requirement that employers must verify that workers have been fully vaccinated before they can be at work without a mask. In Montana, though, lawmakers passed a bill recognizing Covid inoculation status as protected, barring employers from requiring their workers to get vaccinated or show their vaccination status. “In short, that which is mandated in Oregon is prohibited a few miles east in Montana,” he said.
— The trade group also warned governors against placing retail workers in charge of verifying customers’ vaccination status, arguing that such confrontations could lead to violence. “Customers may feel strongly about their decisions regarding whether to get vaccinated; these states are wrong to ask retail employees to question such beliefs,” French wrote.
MEANWHILE IN FLORIDA, A MICROCOSM OF THE GOP’S CLASH WITH CORPORATE AMERICA: “Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s refusal to allow cruise ship operators to require proof of passenger vaccinations reflects a mounting willingness by top Republicans to demonize and defy corporations that have been among the party’s closest allies,” The Washington Post’s David Lynch reports.
— The clash stems from a recent executive order from DeSantis, a likely 2024 presidential contender, that blocks Florida businesses from requiring customers be vaccinated. “In recent days, the cruise ship industry has splintered into different camps after beginning the year largely unified behind the idea of compulsory vaccines. Now, some companies are backing down while others such as Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings remain adamant.”
— “DeSantis’s resistance to companies’ use of so-called vaccine passports, which would certify an individual’s immunization, is just the latest rejection of corporate preferences in favor of cultural appeals that resonate with Trump voters” — in this case, going toe to toe with one of his state’s largest industries. “The Florida governor remains at odds with certain cruise ship operators such as Frank Del Rio, chief executive of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings. Del Rio, with more than 25 years industry experience, says vaccinating 100 percent of the crew and passengers is the key to winning back customers spooked by the pandemic.”
REPORT ON BILLIONAIRES’ TAX BILLS SPARKS IRS PROBE: “The IRS has opened an investigation into apparently leaked tax documents showing that ultra-rich Americans like Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Tesla CEO Elon Musk and business tycoon Warren Buffett paid very little or no taxes, while Democrats seized on the report to further their call for higher taxes on the wealthy,” POLITICO’s Aaron Lorenzo reports.
— “The revelations by ProPublica will undoubtedly put a sharp focus on the debate in Congress over raising taxes on wealthy people and revive calls for a ‘wealth tax’ that supporters say would capture a greater amount of the assets held by the rich. If the information was leaked by someone with access to IRS data, it would be one of the biggest breaches in the agency’s history.”
INVARIANT ADDS BIDEN, BLOOMBERG STRATEGIST TO LEAD DIGITAL EXPANSION: Heather Podesta’s Invariant has added longtime digital strategist Rebecca Christopher to head up its expanding digital media practice and help fold the burgeoning practice into its current comms and public affairs offerings. Christopher was involved in several presidential campaigns last year, developing creative and digital paid media strategies and fundraising plans for clients like Biden and managing former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s national email content and strategy.
— In an interview, Christopher told PI she sees the digital component of influence campaigns as “definitely” becoming “more of a necessity for other organizations in this space. I was really excited that Invariant wanted to move in this direction and I think it can be, you know, something that could really [be] additives for all of their clients, and for the kind of comms practice that they’re building.”
— Ryan Walker is joining Shumaker Advisors as senior vice president of federal affairs. He was most recently senior director of U.S. government affairs at BP and previously served as chief of staff to Rep. Bob Latta.
— DDC Public Affairs has hired Katie Chipps as vice president of PAC services. She was previously second vice president of external relations at Travelers.
— Reese Goldsmith has joined Holland & Knight as a senior public affairs adviser on its energy policy team. She previously was an associate and policy adviser at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck.
— The National Association of Chain Drug Stores has promoted Sara Roszak to senior vice president of health and wellness strategy and policy; she was also elected president of the NACDS Foundation. She most recently served as NACDS’ vice president for pharmacy care and health strategy and as the NACDS Foundation’s vice president of research programs.
— Prime Policy Group has promoted Mitch Vakerics to managing director. He was previously a director.
— Lynda Tran is now senior adviser and director of public engagement at DOT. She most recently was a partner at 270 Strategies and a CBS News political contributor.
— Morgan Butler is now engagement and outreach manager for public policy at Twitter, Playbook reports. She most recently was digital director for House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.).
— Jack Karsten recently joined the Progressive Policy Institute as managing director of PPI’s Innovation Frontier Project. He was previously a senior research analyst at the Center for Technology Innovation at the Brookings Institution.
Bergman Moolenaar Leadership Committee (Reps. Jack Bergman, John Moolenaar)
Defend Medicare (PAC)
Prosper Families Political Action Committee (PAC)
Arena Strategies, LLC: Monroe Energy, LLC
Arena Strategies, LLC: Pbf Holding Company LLC
Capitol Hill Policy Group LLC: Purse Seine Vessel Owners’ Association (Psvoa)
Commonwealth Strategic Partners, LLC: Shipt
Dentons US LLP: Canadian National Railway Company
Grassroots Political Consulting LLC: Comet Media
No Fluke Fishing LLC: American Saltwater Guides Association
Tga Association Management Solutions, LLC: Railway Engineering Maintenance Suppliers Association
The Ferguson Group, LLC: Scout Clean Energy
Thegroup Dc, LLC: Everytown For Gun Safety Action Fund
The National Coalition Party Of Canada (Ncpc): The National Coalition Party Of Canada (Ncpc)
Thomas Marquez: City Of Brawley
Venable LLP: The Vision Council
Dmm Strategies: Enterprise Holdings, Inc.
Duncancounts, LLC: Charlottesville Albemarle Airport Authority
Duncancounts, LLC: Charlottesville Albemarle Airport Authority