LaHood’s top aide heads downtown
February 9, 2023

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With Brendan Bordelon and Daniel Lippman

LAHOOD CHIEF HEADS DOWNTOWN: Steven Pfrang is headed back to the private sector after more than a decade on the Hill. Pfrang is joining BGR Group as a vice president, where he’ll represent clients in financial services and commerce. Pfrang has spent the past seven years as chief of staff to Rep. Darin LaHood (R-Ill.), who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee’s panel on work and welfare, and will advise clients on tax, trade, and health care policy issues.

— LaHood is also a member of the House Intelligence Committee and sits on the newly created House Select China Committee, which will scrutinize businesses’ ties to Beijing, among other things. Prior to joining LaHood’s office, Pfrang served as deputy chief of staff to former Reps. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) and Vito Fossella (R-N.Y.) and did a stint as a lobbyist for the Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co.

SNAP ANGLES FOR CHIPS ACT MONEY: A social media platform with a burgeoning augmented reality business isn’t the first firm that springs to mind when considering who might benefit from the $52 billion in microchip subsidies found in last year’s CHIPS and Science Act.

— But Snap, the company behind Snapchat, is planning to shoot its shot anyway. In a lobbying disclosure filed on Monday, the platform said it has retained Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld’s Josh Teitelbaum to assist the company in “navigating CHIPS Act implementation.”

— Snap’s effort to grab a slice of the microchip subsidy pie suggests it won’t just be chip firms like IntelSamsung or TSMC competing for these dollars. Social media companies could be in the mix, too — and Snap isn’t the only tech platform that’s tapping lobbyists to work on the CHIPS Act.

— At its core, the CHIPS and Science Act is meant to boost America’s domestic chipmaking capabilities and offset the industry’s concentration in Asia. Snap spokesperson Peter Boogaard told Brendan that gels with Snap’s plans to build and design “leading-edge semiconductor processing components to power our world-changing augmented reality technologies.”

— “The CHIPS Act aligns with Snap’s existing desire to manufacture these vital components in the U.S., both to further invest in our country’s technological leadership and also to reduce international semiconductor dependency,” Boogaard said.

— Snap’s not the only tech platform that appears to be exploring how, or whether, it can benefit in some fashion from the CHIPS Act (which also includes big new budget authorizations for the National Science Foundation and other R&D agencies). Fourth quarter disclosures from last month show that both Google and Meta were lobbying on issues related to the CHIPS Act as well.

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Good afternoon and welcome to PI. Send K Street gossip: And be sure to follow me on Twitter: @caitlinoprysko.

MCCARTHY HAULS IT IN FROM K STREET: “Kevin McCarthyraised $12.3 million on Wednesday evening at his first major fundraising event since his bitter battle for the House speaker’s gavel last month,” per Hailey Fuchs.

— The high-dollar event (tickets started at $50,000) brought in a record haul for McCarthy, though it fell short of the high end projection of $20 million organizers said it might raise. Still, the event featuring nearly every new House Republican committee chair, was expected to be one of his biggest in D.C. this year.

— Lobbyist and McCarthy confidant Jeff Miller hosted the fundraiser, and the list of co-hosts included some of his other top allies and former staffers now on K Street whose collective roster of clients reads like a who’s who of major companies and trade groups with stakes across major policy fights before Congress: PhRMA, Mastercard, Apple, Altria, the American Petroleum Institute and the American Investment Council.

— And while “McCarthy’s close relationship with K Street has earned him ire from his own party,” for those in his orbit, “the scene at the Conrad Hotel … offered a chance to celebrate following a speakership journey mired in tumult. His historic crusade for the position spanned four days and 15 rounds of votes, culminating with major concessions to conservative members that could threaten his hold on the post.”

— Other attendees at the fundraiser included former Attorney General Bill Barr, Rick Hohlt of the Hohlt Group and Terry Branstad and Gentry Collins of the American Free Enterprise Chamber of Commerce.

WATCH YOUR PAC: “It’s a mysterious crime wave that has cost its victims more than a million dollars. But unlike usual heists, this one is hitting political groups, with fraudsters in recent months targeting corporate PACs, national trade association committees, and campaigns,” writes the Daily Beast’s Roger Sollenberger.

— “While there are no confirmed links yet between the incidents, federal filings indicate a surge in reported activity in 2022, as criminals have exploited vulnerabilities unique to political committees. And among a few targets, some patterns seem clear. The victims include major figures in business and politics.”

— “Since September, thieves have struck national trade and lobbying organizations like the Consumer Technologies Association [sic] and the National Association of Manufacturers, corporate PACs for Trinet and Corning, and elected officials like Reps. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), and Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS), whose campaign was taken for a stunning $690,000 by what it calls a ‘cyber-criminal’ posing as a vendor in the hectic days surrounding the 2022 election.”

— The numbers are telling: FEC data “indicates about 180 instances of reported fraud during the 2021-2022 midterm cycle, around 15 more than 2019-2020—a presidential cycle. The 2017-2018 midterm saw about 83 reported incidents. That total of 83, spread over two years, is about 20 fewer fraud reports than in the last six months of 2022 alone, when a number of committees—most specifically business groups—were targeted for theft, far more than any other six-month period.”

PPE MAKERS LOOK FOR AN ASSIST: American personal protective equipment manufacturers have formed a new coalition to press the federal government for a fairer shake in the procurement process to address vulnerabilities in the PPE supply chain exposed during the early days of the pandemic.

— The American Medical Manufacturers Association will lobby for increased market access and manufacturing capacity for PPE made in the U.S., but will also work to highlight what the group says are unfair market practices by Chinese manufacturers, flooding the U.S. market with cheaply made products that box out domestic manufacturers.

— “The Covid-19 pandemic exposed a giant hole in our U.S. supply chain and highlighted our country’s reliance on foreign manufactured medical supplies and equipment,” Eric Axel, the group’s executive director, said in a statement. “We must ensure that we are prepared as a country for future pandemics — and that starts with investing in U.S. PPE. This is the only way for the U.S. to bolster our public health, security, and competitiveness.”

— Initial members of the new group include Altor Safety, Aquaspersions USA, Blue Star NBR, Lutema, Ochsner Health, Premium-PPE, SafeSource Direct, United Safety Technology and Vizient, who will back the coalition’s push to incentivize purchases of American-made PPE both in the private and public sector at the federal, state and local levels.

BANKS REV UP TO FIGHT LATE-FEE PROPOSAL: “Wall Street is ready to go to war with the Biden administration over its plan to slash credit card fees,” POLITICO’s Sam Sutton reports. “Banks, big businesses and top Republicans are fuming over the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s push to cap late fees at $8 — a move that President Joe Biden says will save borrowers billions of dollars in unnecessary penalties that are larded on top of credit card interest.”

— “Biden highlighted the issue in his State of the Union address on Tuesday, calling late fees an example of ‘junk fees’ that are due for a crackdown. ‘Americans are tired,’ Biden said. ‘We’re tired of being played for suckers.’”

— “The president’s populist rhetoric has roiled financial services and business groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that were already upset about CFPB Director Rohit Chopra’s stewardship of the consumer watchdog agency. They’re prepared to attack the proposal, with prominent banking and credit union associations pledging to mobilize their members for a grassroots advocacy campaign to enlist congressional allies and flood the agency with comment letters.”

— “Some organizations are starting to explore possible legal challenges to the proposed cap, officials at several industry organizations told POLITICO. Many groups — including the American Bankers Association and Bank Policy Institute — claim that Chopra overstepped his authority and bypassed procedural hurdles in a race to finalize the rule by the end of the year.”