With help from Daniel Lippman
SBA TO SHUTTER RESTAURANT RELIEF FUND: The Small Business Administration told restaurants Wednesday night that on July 14 it will shut down the portal for businesses to apply for pandemic relief through the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, after it failed to provide grants to more than two-thirds of applicants for the aid.
— The winding down of the program comes as a pair of industry groups, the Independent Restaurant Coalition and the National Restaurants Association, continue to push heavily for a bill that would pour another $60 billion into the depleted fund on top of the initial $28.6 billion infusion. Both groups said today that they hope the fund’s closure adds more urgency to that effort, which has the support of 175 lawmakers so far, by reinvigorating grassroots support for refilling the program’s coffers.
— Sean Kennedy, the top lobbyist for the association, acknowledged in an interview that it could be difficult breaking through the intense focus in Washington on infrastructure negotiations — and Kennedy didn’t think it likely the extra funding would be included in any infrastructure bill. Still, he said the trade group would continue to fight to get lawmakers’ attention. In the meantime, he said the group is lobbying on a number of other fronts to help the industry recover — from encouraging visa reforms to help staff restaurants looking for workers to pushing for loosened international travel restrictions to get tourists back into establishments.
— Erika Polmar, executive director of the IRC, called on Congress to “finish the job” to assist restaurants that were turned away from the program due to lack of funding. “The pandemic is not over and we still need help,” she said in a statement. In the agency’s email to grant applicants on Wednesday, SBA said it had received more than 370,000 requests for aid, though it was able to provide funding to only around 105,000 — fewer than a third of applicants. SBA said it would keep businesses’ applications in the portal for processing if the program receives more funding.
— One of the program’s chief sponsors in Congress, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), also called for speedy action in a statement to PI. “Hundreds of thousands of local restaurants still desperately need help to keep their doors open,” he said, applauding the refill bill’s broad bipartisan support. “But time is ticking,” he added. “We need to act now before it’s too late.”
EXXON DISAVOWS LOBBYIST’S SECRETLY RECORDED COMMENTS ON CLIMATE: ExxonMobil’s chief executive on Wednesday rushed to clean up secretly recorded comments from one of the oil giant’s longtime in-house lobbyists, Keith McCoy. McCoy unknowingly told a green activist group posing as headhunters that the company’s support for a carbon tax is underpinned by the belief that it would never be enacted and discussed watering down clean energy provisions in infrastructure bills while describing trade associations as an industry “whipping boy.” (The latter claim will surely only energize shareholder groups who have already won a record number of votes this year seeking to compel greater transparency into corporations’ political spending, Roll Call reports.
— The assertions from McCoy “in no way represent the company’s position on a variety of issues, including climate policy and our firm commitment that carbon pricing is important to addressing climate change,” CEO Darren Woods said in a statement, which described McCoy as having never been involved with developing Exxon’s policy positions.
— In recordings of a conversation with an arm of Greenpeace U.K. published by the group and a British news outlet, McCoy, who previously spent more than a decade as an energy lobbyist for the National Association of Manufacturers, likened plying lawmakers to fishing, using issues like infrastructure as “bait” to get in the door before he would “reel them in.” He boasted that “I make sure I get them the right information that they need so they look good. And then they help me out,” calling lawmakers a “captive audience. They know they need you. And I need them.” McCoy also described crafting relationships with lawmakers to enable requests for staff to help with anything from sending letters to introducing legislation. “You name it, we’ve asked for everything,” he said.
— “We condemn the statements and are deeply apologetic for them, including comments regarding interactions with elected officials,” Woods said in his statement, calling them “entirely inconsistent with the way we expect our people to conduct themselves.” In a post on his LinkedIn page McCoy sought to walk back some of the comments, of which McCoy said he was “deeply embarrassed.” McCoy apologized but argued that some of his remarks were taken out of context and “clearly do not represent ExxonMobil’s positions on important public policy issues.”
FIRST IN PI — ACCOUNTABLE.US CALLS FOR PROBE OF PERDUE LAND DEAL: Liberal watchdog group Accountable.US is joining calls for an investigation into former Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue’s purchase of a grain storage plant from agriculture giant Archer-Daniels-Midland for a fraction of what the land was worth just after being nominated to head the USDA. The transaction was chronicled in a Washington Post investigative report this week after the group tipped off the paper to the sale, and its publication quickly raised ethics concerns about whether ADM, a lobbying force in Washington, was seeking to curry favor with the likely secretary — an accusation the company denied.
— The watchdog sent letters today to DOJ’s chief of the Public Integrity Section, as well as the leaders of the House and Senate Agriculture committees; the House USDA operations subcommittee; the House Oversight Committee and Government Operations Subcommittee; and the Senate Homeland Security and Permanent Subcommittee On Investigations, asking officials to “examine whether Archer-Daniels-Midland benefited from any inappropriate special treatment during Perdue’s time with the Trump administration.”
— Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), who chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee, had already called Wednesday on the Office of Government Ethics, in coordination with the Justice Department, USDA and the agency’s internal watchdog, to review the deal and “get to the bottom of this.”
HOW THE FEDS AND BIG TECH TEAMED UP TO BEAT BACK EUROPE’S DIGITAL TAX PUSH: POLITICO’s Mark Scott and Emily Birnbaum peel back the curtain on how together, the U.S. government and American tech giants “succeeded in convincing countries to agree on a tax regime that requires the world’s largest companies, digital or not, to pay more tax in countries wherever they have local operations” — and potentially avoided “the worst-case scenarios that had initially appeared likely, including national taxes in countries like France and the U.K. that would have solely targeted American tech companies.”
NRA DIRECTORS TO LOSE INSURANCE COVERAGE: U.K. insurer Lloyd’s of London will not renew its coverage of directors and officers of the National Rifle Association when the gun rights group’s policy expires in August, The Reload’s Stephen Gutowski reports. Instead, the trade association is forming a $5 million fund “to cover potential lawsuits against executives and board members while it searches for a replacement policy. The money will be drawn from current NRA investments.”
— “NRA board member Phillip Journey told The Reload the fund was announced during the closed executive session of the gun group’s Saturday board meeting,” and that he “believes the fund was created to alleviate concerns about liability raised by a number of board members. ‘It was apparent from the comments that there are several board members that have expressed concerns,’ Journey said. ‘This was their attempt to address the concern, knowing that the policy expires in, golly, less than 40 days.’”
— The National Association of Chemical Distributors has promoted Doug Leigh to senior director of legislative affairs, Jenni Jenkins to director of membership and Aileen Smith to communications director.
— Finsbury Glover Hering has added Beth Fouhy as a partner based in the New York office. She was most recently a senior politics editor at NBC News and MSNBC.
— Management consulting firm ScottMadden has promoted Molly Donofrio to partner.
— Steven Choi is now executive director at One for Democracy. He was most recently at the New York Immigration Coalition, which he led for seven years.
— Capitol Hill Consulting Group has named Kristina Wilcox a partner. She previously served as senior vice president since 2015.
— Max Bronstein is now assistant director for health innovation at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, per Playbook. He most recently was principal at MGB Consulting.
— Brian Levine is now global head of government relations at Riot Games, Playbook reports. He most recently was head of regulatory affairs and public policy at Hulu, and is a Biden alum.
Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld: Jet Set Sports Holdings
Ballard Partners: Weatherstem
Bighorn Public Affairs Group: Iberdrola, S.A.
Clark Hill, Plc: Air Marshal Association
Cornerstone Government Affairs, Inc.: Abbvie Inc.
Cornerstone Government Affairs, Inc.: Archimedes Innovations, Pbc Dba Justlight Pbc
Cornerstone Government Affairs, Inc.: Hsbc Technology & Services USa Inc.
Cornerstone Government Affairs, Inc.: Iheartmedia, Inc.
Cornerstone Government Affairs, Inc.: Iridium Satellite LLC
Cornerstone Government Affairs, Inc.: Land O’Lakes, Inc.
Frost Brown Todd LLC: US Justice Action Network
Green Capitol LLC: Tomorrow Companies
Holland & Knight LLP: Velocys, Inc.
Steptoe & Johnson LLP: Plantronics, Inc., And Its Subsidiaries
Water Strategies, LLC: A&W Maintenance And Coatings, LLC
Water Strategies, LLC: Lower Rio Grande Valley Water District Manager’s Association
Envision Strategy: Ventech Solutions, Inc.
Gray & Oscar, LLC (Formerly Bob Gray, LLC): Sdc States Ratification Committee
Greydiant Consulting LLC: Xcalibur Aerospace Ltd
Grq, LLC: American Association Of Cardiovascular & Pulmonary Rehabilitation
Jack C. Peterson: Neste US, Inc.
North South Government Strategies F/K/A Jdm Public Strategies, LLC: Wells Fargo & Company
Tai Ginsberg & Associates, LLC: Alloy Property Company, LLC
Tai Ginsberg & Associates, LLC: Fleet Portfolio, LLC
Whitaker Strategies (Stephen B. Whitaker Dba Whitaker Strategies, Formerly Whitak: Arrow Electronics, Inc.