With Daniel Lippman
BUSINESS BOOMS FOR HUNTER BIDEN-LINKED FIRM: Business is booming for the Democratic lobbying firm at the center of an investigation into Hunter Biden — even as it’s engulfed in scandal. The firm, Blue Star Strategies, is facing a federal probe around its work for Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company whose board President Joe Biden’s son served on.
— It has reported 12 new clients since the beginning of 2021, around the time that Joe Biden assumed office, disclosure filings show. Comparatively, the firm filed registrations for two new clients in 2020 and none in 2019, according to LDA and FARA filings.
— Whether the clients are, in earnest, new or the result of pressure on the firm to comply with federal disclosure laws is not entirely clear. The Justice Department has questioned whether Blue Star Strategies violated FARA requirements by failing to report its work for Burisma.
— As of March, Blue Star’s new clients included “Rode un Partneri PS,” a Latvian law firm whose attorneys are working for ABLV Bank, one of Latvia’s largest banks. The Trump administration announced plans to sanction the bank in 2018 for facilitating money laundering schemes and corrupt activity related to Russia and Ukraine, along with connections to North Korea’s weapons program. Not long after, the bank announced plans to begin voluntary liquidation, or dissolve. Two attorneys at the Latvian firm are serving on the bank’s liquidation committee.
— The Treasury Department said that among the allegations against ABLV, Ukrainian businessman Serhiy Kurchenko, dubbed the country’s “gas king,” funneled billions through shell company accounts with the bank. In 2015, Treasury said that Kurchenko, among others being sanctioned, were “responsible for or complicit in, or have engaged in, directly or indirectly, misappropriation of state assets of Ukraine or of an economically significant entity in Ukraine.”
— Blue Star Strategies’ Sally Painter, a Clinton administration alum, will be “supporting the law firm to resolve financial services matters,” according to a disclosure filing, which noted that ABLV was, at least in part, footing the bill. The firm briefly represented the bank’s affiliates in 2013 and 2018. It has also represented the Association of Latvian Private Banks.
— Questions surrounding the younger Biden’s business dealings have crescendoed in recent weeks, amid a series of reports surrounding a laptop that belonged to Hunter Biden and was dropped off at a repair shop in Delaware. Joe Biden has maintained that he does not discuss his family members’ business dealings with them.
— The New York Times reported that earlier this year the younger Biden helped broker the deal between Blue Star Strategies and Burisma. The firm, which never disclosed its work for Burisma on public databases, was founded by powerful Democratic operatives from the Clinton administration. Its chief executive, Karen Tramontano, was deputy chief of staff to President Bill Clinton. Tramontano and a lawyer for Hunter Biden did not respond to requests for comment.
— In addition to the Latvian law firm, Blue Star Strategies has reported three new clients in the past month alone. Those include a French biotech company, bioMérieux, for which Blue Star will support outreach to the FDA, and Crypto.com, a cryptocurrency exchange, according to public filings.
— A number of the firm’s new clients since December 2020 have ties to east European nations, and Blue Star appears to be benefiting from whatever connections it has garnered in Ukraine. Among them, Aspect Holdings, an energy exploration and investment company, co-founded a group to invest in Ukraine’s energy sector. That work ended at the end of last year. Q Partners, a Ukrainian investment group, hired Blue Star in December to help with efforts “to resolve a governmental taking of an international school in Kyiv, Ukraine.”
— The firm also briefly worked for TIU Canada, a renewable energy company that has invested in Ukraine. TIU Canada recently removed its solar energy plant from Nikopol, Ukraine, after the company claimed the Nikopol Ferroalloy Plant illegally disconnected it from the electricity grid.
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ANNALS OF CAMPAIGN FINANCE: “At least a dozen potential candidates for president in 2024 have active nonprofit groups aligned with them, according to a review of corporate filings, campaign disclosures and financial records” obtained by POLITICO’s Scott Bland.
— “What they all have in common is the ability to pay staffers, fund polling and policy research, run ads and accept money from megadonors without divulging those funders’ names — or much information about any spending until many months after the fact. It’s the latest escalation in a fundraising arms race that has seen personal benefactors, super PACs and now secret money become common building blocks of presidential campaigns.”
— “Every candidate who seeks the White House in 2024 will have to start disclosing their campaign fundraising and spending once they officially declare their campaigns. But in the meantime, and in the absence of new legislation or an enforcement crackdown from tax or campaign-finance regulators, prospective presidents can use nonprofits to shield their donors — and much about their preparations — from the public eye.”
— Scott notes that “there’s more to the machinery than fundraising, too. The nonprofits are also housing staff and promoting policy that could become foundational pieces of presidential campaigns.”
CONGRESS EYES CRACKDOWN ON REAL ESTATE TO SQUEEZE OLIGARCHS: “As political pressure grows to crack down on Russian oligarchs,” our Katy O’Donnell reports, “U.S. policymakers are training fresh scrutiny on an industry that has long avoided anti-money-laundering rules”: real estate.
— “House Financial Services Chair Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) plans to introduce legislation in the coming weeks to shore up anti-corruption laws related to the industry, according to her staff. And Treasury’s main unit for combating such wrongdoing, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, is working on regulations to cut down on money laundering through property holdings.”
— Some of the moves, however, “are setting up a clash with the powerful industry, which warns that sweeping rule changes could end up bogging down transactions and hurting the economy,” with “representatives of the multitrillion-dollar real estate industry … cautioning policymakers not to overdo it in the heat of the moment. The National Association of Realtors, the industry’s biggest lobbying group, is advocating for ‘tailored reforms that address specific issues,’ according to spokesperson Patrick Newton.”
CRYPTO TAKES TO STATEHOUSES: TheNew York Times’ Eric Lipton and David Yaffe-Bellany have a piece out detailing how “the crypto industry, in the absence so far of comprehensive federal regulatory demands,” is working “state by state to engineer a more friendly legal system.”
— “Across the nation, crypto executives and lobbyists are helping to draft bills to benefit the fast-growing industry, then pushing lawmakers to adopt these made-to-order laws, before moving rapidly to profit from the legislative victories.”
— “At least 153 pieces of cryptocurrency-related legislation were pending this year in 40 states and Puerto Rico, according to an analysis by the National Conference of State Legislatures. While it was unclear how many were influenced by the crypto industry, some bills have used industry-proposed language almost word for word. One bill pending in Illinois lifted entire sentences from a draft provided by a lobbyist.”
— The strategy is paying off so far, in part, because even as consumer advocates express concern at the burgeoning industry’s state victories, “state legislators, many of whom have limited background in financial regulation, said they had little choice but to rely on industry experts, given the complexity of the crypto marketplace.”
SPOTTED at the Hispanic Lobbyists Association’s spring happy hour honoring the new board of the Congressional Hispanic Staff Association on the Wharf Friday night, per a PI tipster: Omar Vargas and Noel Perez of General Motors, Susie Feliz of the National Urban League, Lucia Alonzo of Michael Best Strategies, Liz Lopez of Constellation Brands, Manuel Bonilla of the American Society of Anesthesiologists, Carissa Faña of Becker, Rich Lopez of Forbes Tate Partners, Max Trujillo of MJT Policy, Javier Gamboa of the Business Roundtable, Art Motta of LULAC, Sandra Alcala of Subject Matter, Elvis Cordova of the National Recreation and Park Association, Cesar Remis of the Embassy of Mexico, Felipe Gomez-Acebo of the Embassy of Spain, CHSA board members Patricia Ordaz, Ruby Robles, Angelica Duque, Dagoberto Acevedo, Ashly Estevez Perez, Laura Muñoz Lopez, Itzel Hernandez and Jose Garcia, Christine Godinez of the House Homeland Security Committee, Jorge Rueda of House Ways and Means, Jeremy Ortiz of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Matt Gómez of the House Small Business Committee and Patrick Mocete of Rep. Young Kim’s office.
— Halie Daniels is joining BGR’s Texas office as a senior associate. She most recently was assistant attorney general in Texas.
— Andy Browne and Seth Faison have joined Brunswick Group as partners in the New York office. Browne most recently was Editorial Director of the Bloomberg New Economy Forum and will lead Brunswick’s China Hub. Faison will also advise clients on China-related matters and is a New York Times, South China Morning Post and Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria alum.
— Taniel Koushakjian is now director of government affairs at Offensive Security. He’s the CEO and founder of BreakThru Strategies.
— Rob Glenn will be vice president of global resilience at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. He previously was director of FEMA’s Office of Business, Industry, and Infrastructure Integration.
— Tom Borck is now director of U.S. federal government affairs at EMD Serono. He previously was director of federal government relations and public policy at McKesson and the U.S. Oncology Network.
— Chad Tenpenny is retiring after almost 24 years of working for Kansas senators, most recently as general counsel for Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), Playbook reports. He “plans to build a law practice that focuses on federal, state and local government affairs, general counsel services and political consulting.”
— Christina Freundlich has launched Pod 3 Strategies, a strategic communications and political consulting firm, per Playbook. She most recently was a senior adviser on Terry McAuliffe’s Virginia gubernatorial campaign, and is an Amy Klobuchar, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Obama administration and DNC alum.
— Timothy White is now a press assistant at OMB. He previously was a public affairs associate at SKDK.
— The Student Borrower Protection Center has announced several new hires and promotions: Jackie Filson, who previously served as communications director at the Open Markets Institute, will join the organization as head of communications; Ben Kaufman, who previously was SBPC’s head of investigations, has been promoted to director of research and investigations; Amy Czulada, who previously was SBPC’s outreach and advocacy coordinator, has been promoted to outreach and advocacy manager; and Claire Stein-Ross, a longtime consultant to the organization, will serve as senior adviser for operations and strategy.
Granite Canyon Committee (Sens. Maggie Hassan, Mark Kelly, New Hampshire Democratic Party, Arizona Democratic Party)
Floyd County Citizens for Better Government (Super PAC)
Upward Opportunity PAC (Super PAC)
Cornerstone Government Affairs, Inc.: Hypersonic Ground Test Center Inc
Cornerstone Government Affairs, Inc.: Travere Therapeutics, Inc.
Fbb Federal Relations: Composite Recycling Technology Center
Fgh Holdings, LLC (Formerly Known As The Glover Park Group LLC): USa Rwc Bidco, Inc
Green T Advisors: Berliner, Corcoran & Rowe, LLP
Holland & Knight LLP: Clark Street Associates On Behalf Of Qorvo, Inc.
Hologic, Inc.: Hologic, Inc.
Hsa Strategies: Comcast Corporation
Hsa Strategies: Fox Corporation
Hsa Strategies: National Association Of Broadcasters
Lewis-Burke Associates, LLC: Runx1 Foundation
Missionsquare Retirement: Missionsquare Retirement
O’Neill And Associates: Biomass Thermal Energy Council (Btec)
O’Neill And Associates: Educational Partners International
O’Neill And Associates: Pellet Fuels Institute (Pfi)
O’Neill And Associates: Revolutionary Spaces
Squire Patton Boggs: Dji Technology
Allegiance Strategies, LLC: The Trevor Project, Inc.
Carpi & Clay, Inc: City Of Barstow Ca
Carpi & Clay, Inc: Otay-Tijuana Venture, LLC
Connect 4 Strategies, LLC: Ferring Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
Genesis Partners Palm Beach LLC: Educational Partners International LLC
Holland & Knight LLP: East Texas Electric Cooperative
Holland & Knight LLP: Jo-Ann Stores, LLC
Holland & Knight LLP: Northeast Texas Electric Cooperative Of Texas, Inc.
Holland & Knight LLP: Southern Gateway Public Green Foundation
Johnston Group, LLC: City Of Carnation
Ms. Anna Aurilio: Economic Security Project/Action
The Brightup Group LLC: Cotney Construction Law