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From a Butter Company to Lobbying for Mujahedin-e-Khalq Terrorists

Why a butter company is lobbying on broadband access

paid advocacy

WHY LAND O’LAKES IS LOBBYING ON BROADBAND ACCESS: When most Americans hear the name Land O’Lakes, they think butter, not broadband. But the dairy co-op is getting into the connectivity game, or at least using its company resources to expand access in the communities where its employees work. The company back in April retained the lobbying help of a team at Cornerstone Government Affairs to assist in that effort, according to new disclosure filings, as lawmakers work to fill out a bipartisan infrastructure framework that is expected to include a hefty investment in expanding Americans’ access to high-speed internet.

— The push stems from a listening tour with farmer-owners that Land O’Lakes chief executive Beth Ford embarked on when she assumed the role several years ago, when she heard complaints across the country about challenges with connectivity, said Stacy Rich, who leads the account for Cornerstone. When the pandemic hit, exacerbating issues with access to internet, the company partnered with other corporations from Microsoft to Tractor Supply Co. to the Mayo Clinic as part of the American Connection Project, which then set up thousands of free wifi locations nationwide.

— Now, the coalition is looking to do more, but because its membership is so broad, the group has coalesced around a number of goals rather than any particular bill. The group is calling for $80 billion for broadband infrastructure, more than the $65 billion included in the bipartisan framework. The group also wants improved mapping, ways to address digital literacy, and the extension of some of the telehealth provisions that Congress approved during the pandemic.

FARA FRIDAY: Here are a couple of notable recent Foreign Agents Registration Act filings, as part of our occasional Friday roundup. BGR Group has inked a $40,000 contract with the Washington office of the National Council of Resistance of Iran to help put on the controversial group’s (somewhat) annual conference, according to documents filed with the Justice Department this week. The council is an affiliate of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, a opposition group that’s waged a decades-long campaign against Tehran’s theocratic regime. The MEK was designated in the U.S. as a terrorist outfit for 15 years before it was delisted in 2012 after an intense lobbying campaign, and some analysts now describe the group as a cult.

— The group’s “Free Iran” conference is set to take place virtually on July 10 and will focus on calling for the investigation and prosecution of Iran’s newly elected Ebrahim Raisi over Raisi’s alleged role in overseeing the mass execution of Iranian political prisoners in the 1980s, BGR’s Jeff Birnbaum, who is working on the account, said in an interview. This week, the U.N.’s investigator on human rights in Iran backed such a probe. The conference is set to draw more than two dozen bipartisan members of Congress, according to a filing this week, including at least nine lawmakers slated to speak at the event: Reps. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), Brad Schneider (D-Ill.), Tom McClintock (R-Calif.), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.), Scott Perry (R-Pa.) Don Bacon (R-Neb.) and Joe Wilson (R-S.C.). The event is also set to feature former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and former national security adviser James Jones; past attendees have included Rudy Giuliani and former Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Happy Friday and welcome to PI. We’ll be off Monday for the holiday, but I’ll be back in your inboxes Tuesday. Send me a lobbying tip and let me know how you’ll be spending the weekend. I’ll be taking a stab at the axe throwing trend so also send any advice on how not to maim myself: coprysko@politico.com. And be sure to follow me on Twitter: @caitlinoprysko.

WHITE HOUSE DEPARTURE LOUNGE?: During an interview with POLITICO Playbook co-author Ryan Lizza this morning, Biden senior adviser Anita Dunn said her time in the administration is winding down and that she would return to SKDKnickerbocker “very shortly.” Dunn ping-ponged from Biden’s campaign back to the strategic comms firm and then to the administration for what she said in an email to staffers at the time would be a temporary post. “I do believe when the president asks you directly to come serve, that you have a responsibility to serve, but this was not my intention to be at the White House full time for a longer stint,” she said this morning.

BUYER WANTED: Precision Strategies, the Democratic consulting firm founded by President Joe Biden’s deputy chief of staff, Jen O’Malley Dillon, Stephanie Cutter, a top adviser on the Biden-blessed outside group Building Back Together, and Obama campaign alum Teddy Goff, is in preliminary talks with potential buyers, POLITICO’s Theo Meyer and Alex Thompson report.

— “It’s unclear whether the firm ultimately will decide to sell” and Precision — which has done work for the DNC, corporate clients like General Electric and Lyft, and is representing the Independent Restaurant Coalition in its fight for industry pandemic aid — is staying quiet on the matter. “But two people familiar with the conversations said Cutter has discussed the possibility with associates. At a time when the political world is still adjusting to the Biden era, Precision provides some major muscle with the party in power. Its acquisition would also continue a long Washington, D.C., tradition of big firms snapping up smaller ones with ties to a new administration.”

— One such firm that has had discussions about buying Precision, per a person familiar, is British conglomerate WPP, which owns dozens of firms in D.C. and throughout the globe. Precision’s chief operating officer, Tom Reno, previously worked for Burson Cohn & Wolfe, which is owned by WPP, and the conglomerate has a record of snapping up well-connected firms in the past: During President George W. Bush’s first term, it “bought a lobbying firm co-founded by Ed Gillespie,” a top aide to his campaign and who later went to work in his White House.”

LEAKED REPORT BLAMES INDUSTRY LOBBYING, MISINFORMATION FOR CLIMATE INACTION: “A recently leaked draft report written by some of the world’s top climate scientists blamed disinformation and lobbying campaigns — including by Exxon Mobil — for undermining government efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increasing the dangers of global warming to society,” POLITICO’s Zack Colman and Karl Mathiesen report. “The draft report, which has been reviewed by POLITICO and other news organizations in recent days, is part of an upcoming review of climate science by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a body that brings together scientists from around the globe to examine the state of climate research.”

— The draft began leaking days before an environmental activist group put out footage of one of Exxon’s lobbyists admitting the company worked with “shadow groups” that waged disinformation campaigns around climate science. It “blamed think tanks, foundations, trade associations and other third-party groups that represent fossil fuel companies for promoting ‘contrarian’ science that misleads the public and disrupts efforts to implement climate policies needed to address the rising threats.”

LOBBYING ON SURPRISE BILLING MOVES BEHIND THE SCENES: The Biden administration on Thursday published its first major regulation laying out how the federal government will implement last December’s hard-won ban on so-called surprise medical bills, but the pricey and public lobbying battle that delayed a deal on the practice has continued — this time, out of the public eye, The New York Times’ Sarah Kliff and Margot Sanger-Katz report. “Passage of the ban set off another aggressive lobbying effort over how exactly billing conflicts between providers and insurers will be resolved when the law takes effect in 2022. The same actors that made their case to Congress are now equally engaged in a behind-the-scenes effort to nudge the regulations in a more favorable direction. ‘The lobbying is very much still going on,’ said Loren Adler, an associate director of the U.S.C.-Brookings Schaeffer Initiative for Health Policy, whose research on the issue was influential among lawmakers.”
Jobs Report

— Michael Blake Bezruki is joining Lobbyit as vice president of government relations, focusing on issues related to infrastructure, housing and construction, and financial services. He was previously part of Wells Fargo’s government relations team and is a National Association of Home Builders alum.

— Deloitte has hired Logan Tucker as a senior consultant in its Federal Human Capital practice. She most recently served as deputy chief of staff and communications director for Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Nev.).

— Hamilton Place Strategies has promoted Julia Decerega and JinAh Kim to directors.

— Veronica Bonilla will be director of media relations for BAE Systems. She was most recently media director at the Aerospace Industry Association.

— Public affairs firm Prism Group recently added Maggie Ambrose, who previously worked with the European Parliament Liaison Office in Washington, as a senior associate, along with senior associate Alexis D’Amato and associate Olivia Lucanie.

— Kathryn Mitchell-Thomas is now team chief for research and engineering in the office of the assistant secretary of Defense for legislative affairs, per Playbook. She most recently was a strategic comms consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton, and is a Jim Langevin and Albio Sires alum.

— Michael Pratt is now senior group director for strategic policy, advocacy and government communicationss at Real Chemistry, Playbook reports. He previously was chief communications officer for Operation Warp Speed in the Trump administration.

Politico.com ,By CAITLIN OPRYSKO

Presented by Obesity Care Advocacy Network

With Daniel Lippman

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