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POLITICO Influence - Think Big Goes West

Originally Published in POLITICO Influence on 11/6/23

Butler opens a leadership PAC

By CAITLIN OPRYSKO | 11/06/2023 05:23 PM EST

With help from Megan Wilson and Daniel Lippman

BUTLER FORMS A LEADERSHIP PAC: New California Sen. Laphonza Butler may have bowed out of the race to remain in her seat long term, but the former EMILY’s List head appears not to be letting fundraising opportunities pass in her new role. Butler last week filed paperwork with the FEC to open a leadership PAC called Make Every Day Count.

— A leadership PAC gives Butler a vessel through which she can fundraise and build goodwill within the party by passing along that money to support colleagues who may be facing tougher races.

— “Senator Butler intends to maximize her opportunity to serve the people of California by actively supporting her colleagues and the next generation of Democratic leaders in the upcoming election,” Stephen Kaufman, Butler’s counsel and the treasurer of her leadership PAC, told PI. “Among other things, she will also be promoting an agenda that empowers workers and engages young people in government and our democracy.”

— The new committee allows Butler to haul in $5,000 per individual donor both this year and next, which is more than the $6,600 maximum that she could collect from an individual donor through an official campaign committee. That money “can be doled out to help like-minded pols, including their vulnerable colleagues and candidates in contested races who are in need of all the cash they can muster,” noted Issue One’s Michael Beckel.

— That’d be a boon to Senate Democrats, who are defending a number of seats in red states next year, especially after the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s retirement announcement and prolonged health issues earlier this year effectively sidelined her as a fundraiser.

— There are also way fewer strings attached to how money from a leadership PAC is allowed to be spent, since they’re not subject to the usual prohibition on using funds for personal use — a distinction that’s led some campaign finance watchdogs to deride leadership PACs as “slush funds” for politicians.

Happy Monday and welcome to PI. Send tips: And be sure to follow me on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter: @caitlinoprysko.

HOW K STREET SEES TRADE: A new memo from Alex Perkins of Mehlman Consulting urges trade proponents to ramp up engagement with the federal government if they want to see improvements in trade policy. “It may not be the trade agenda some folks want, but it’s the one that we’ve got for the foreseeable future unless stakeholders lean in and expend some political capital persuading the administration and Congress to change course,” Perkins argues.

— A new slide deck from Perkins chronicles moves from the Biden administration and the Hill aiming to push business out of China, including export controls and sanctions and new outbound investment rules, along with oversight and competition pushes in Congress.

— But he adds that neither Congress nor the executive branch are offering the business community meaningful alternatives to doing business in China and warns that the potential revocation of China’s permanent normal trade relations status is a “sleeper risk” should certain Republican presidential candidates make it to the White House.

— The deck goes on to call for a lobbying strategy that advocates “a more nuanced” U.S. trade policy and is clear about what stakeholders view as potential threats to their business. Perkins also suggests organizations “embolden congressional trade champions” like Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Todd Young (R-Ind.) and Reps. Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.), Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.) and Jake Auchincloss (D-Mass.) “to pursue an ambitious trade agenda.”

THE AI RACE ON K STREET: “The government’s burgeoning interest in artificial intelligence policy is turning into the next big payday for K Street,” POLITICO’s Hailey Fuchs and Brendan Bordelon report.

— “Lobbyists are rushing to sign up AI companies as clients. And K Street firms also are being enlisted by a sprawling constellation of industries and interest groups that want help influencing AI policy.”

— “Cashing in on the latest policy fight is a classic Washington narrative. But unlike, say, cryptocurrency or marijuana regulation, AI policy touches just about every industry. Groups as disparate as the NFL Players Association, Nike, Amazon and the Mayo Clinic have enlisted help from firms to lobby on the matter.”

— “Lobbyists in the AI space said others across town are angling themselves as subject matter experts as the new work becomes available. Nearly every industry has realized they will be affected by artificial intelligence, and the business community is aggressively looking for intel, they said.”

— “‘Every lobbying firm in town is trying to make themselves out to be an expert in everything to try and lure in clients, so AI is just one of them,’ said one lobbyist granted anonymity to discuss dynamics on K Street. ‘I’d be hard-pressed to name you an AI expert downtown. It’s hard enough to pick the AI experts in policymaking positions.’”

— “Another lobbyist said that this past spring, lobbyists without any tech clients began bringing up artificial intelligence at political fundraisers as a means to attract new clients. The same tactic happened with cryptocurrency two years ago, the person said. ‘The whole point of the business is to find people who need your services and will pay you to do that,’ the lobbyist said, laughing.”

THINK BIG GOES WEST: Public affairs firm Think Big Media is launching new West Coast operations led by a pair of public affairs veterans poached from the e-cigarette maker Juul Labs. Jon Berrier, a former vice president of state government affairs for Juul and an Edelman alum, will oversee West Coast operations from Sacramento.

— He’ll be joined by Ryan Fitzpatrick, who was most recently responsible for building and directing Juul’s grassroots, coalition and political giving programs, and is a U.S. Chamber of Commerce alum. Fitzpatrick will be based in Southern California.

FLYING IN: Seafood industry representatives are in town this week as part of a fly-in organized by Stronger America Through Seafood. Reps from Blue Ocean Mariculture, Cargill, Forever Oceans, Fortune Fish Group, JBS, Mote Marine Laboratory, Ocean 14 Capital, Zeigler Bros, Inc. and more will press Congress to ease permitting requirements that the industry says is constraining the growth of the aquaculture industry in the U.S., which they argue will make seafood consumption more sustainable.

— The coalition is set to meet with members of the House Natural Resources Water Oceans and Wildlife Subcommittee and the Senate Commerce Committee as well as more than a dozen other offices, including those of Reps. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.), Joe Neguse (D-Colo.) and Mary Peltola (D-Alaska) and Sens. John Fetterman (D-Pa.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

AB INBEV TAPS NEW COMMS CHIEF FOLLOWING BUD LIGHT FLUB: AB InBev, the parent company of Bud Light maker Anheuser-Busch, has hired veteran strategic and crisis communications expert Donna Lorenson to be the company’s chief communications officer.

— Lorenson was most recently chief corporate affairs officer at Kenvue, the entity split off from Johnson & Johnson whose brands include Tylenol, Neutrogena and Listerine. Before that, she led U.S. communications at Alcon and worked at PR giant Edelman for nearly a decade.

— Lorenson’s hire comes as part of a broader rearrangement of the AB InBev senior leadership team “designed to elevate the focus on Communications,” the company said in an announcement. Months earlier, the company became a target of fierce backlash on the right after Bud Light partnered with transgender actress and social media personality Dylan Mulvaney for a social media campaign.

— The company said in its third quarter earnings report last week that slumping Bud Light sales drove a 13.5 percent decline in U.S. revenues, adding in a presentation for investors that its engagement with customers found they want “Bud Light to focus on beer” and prefer “[t]heir beer without a debate.”

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