Johnson assumes speakership with few ties to K Street

With Daniel Lippman

K STREET SCRAMBLES TO FIGURE OUT MIKE JOHNSON: Mike Johnson has won the House speaker’s gavel with an unusual calling card: Up until a few days ago, K Street was largely unaware of the man. Lobbyists are scrambling to read up on the four-term Louisiana Republican, who comes to the role of House GOP leader without the sprawling network of downtown alumni — or fundraising operations — of his predecessors in the role.

— “Looking at his PAC and overall cash raised, I’d say he doesn’t have a huge network in DC,” BGR Group‘s Dave Urban wrote in a text to PI earlier today. “But obviously, that’s all about changing.”

— Among the small group of former Johnson staffers downtown are Jason Samuelswho was previously Johnson’s communications director and now lobbies for TikTok as the embattled video platform’s deputy director of campaigns and impact.

Dan Zieglera longtime executive director of the Republican Study Committee, including during Johnson’s time as the conservative group’s chair, is now a principal at the lobbying firm Williams and Jensenwhere he represents clients like Visa, Novo Nordisk, Pfizer and Owens & Minor.

— Johnson’s former operations director and policy advisor Ruth Ward now works in government affairs for the Family Policy Alliancewhile his most recent communications director, Taylor Haulseerecently joined the public affairs firm MORE Communications.

Brittany Walshone of Johnson’s former legislative assistants, now lobbies for the Bipartisan Policy Centerwhile another former legislative assistant Marcie Haber is an in-house lobbyist for the energy company Oklo.

— There are other lobbyists in Johnson’s orbit, including former Louisiana Sen. David Vitter, who is now a partner at Mercury Public Affairs, according to a familiar source.

— “There are members who, it’s a high priority for them to work lobbyists, [or] hand-in-hand with downtown on legislative initiatives, and they prioritize PAC contributions,” said one veteran lobbyist who knows Johnson well. “Johnson’s just never been that guy before.” The lobbyist, who was granted anonymity to speak candidly about the new speaker, predicted that “there’s going to be a learning curve for him on how to manage the vast number of downtown organizations that want to have a relationship with him.”

— “Client-wise, the conversations we’ve been having — until the last 72 hours, Mike Johnson was never in them,” said Kevin O’Neillthe chair of Arnold & Porter‘s lobbying practice. The firm has been working through its client list to determine where Johnson stands on each client’s matrix of issues, though he cautioned that Johnson’s vote history as a rank-and-file member may not be prescriptive of how he might come down on issues now that he’s speaker.

— “He’s been elected to be somebody who can consolidate opinion around a common position, not somebody who’s been elected because he has an overarching vision that everyone is committed to follow,” O’Neill said.

— Otherwise, only around two dozen K Streeters have donated at least $1,000 to Johnson in his entire career in Washington — which allows plenty of them to max out to the congressman now. The Roosevelt Group‘s Chris Goodewho represents clients including RTX Corp. and Arizona State University, leads the pack with $12,600 in donations. A smattering of other lobbyists who’ve donated have cut checks between $250-$500 to Johnson over the years.

— Sure enough, in an email to donors obtained by PI, Johnson’s fundraising firm announced that it is rescheduling two upcoming fundraisers next month — one of which was a lunch with a cap of six attendees — presumably to search for some larger venues and hike up the price of admission.

— “Please stay tuned as we work on compling [sic] new opportunities for the Speaker moving forward,” Fundraising Inc.‘s Alexandra Kendrick said in the email, which was sent minutes after Johnson’s elevation to speaker became official, and provided contact information for those looking to host an event with the new speaker.

— “Those events are a lot to be about being a hell of a lot more expensive,” O’Neill predicted.

— Johnson’s ascension also puts politically conscious major companies in a pickle thanks to his involvement in efforts to challenge the 2020 election results.

— “There are too many corporate PACs who are still sort of reluctant to” donate to members viewed as too close to former President Donald Trump, regardless of whether they voted to certify the election or not, one lobbyist said. Now, “I’m sure there are people all over DC who are looking around saying, ‘Wow, we need to revise the criteria that we’re using to give.’”

Happy Wednesday and welcome to PI, where we like to think yesterday’s chatter is what finally jinxed the speaker battle to its finale. What does PI need to know about the new speaker? My inbox is open: [email protected]. And be sure to follow me on Xthe platform formerly known as Twitter: @caitlinoprysko.

MEA CULPA: In yesterday’s Influence, we miscalculated TikTok parent company ByteDance‘s lobbying expenditures. The companies collectively spent $3.8 million on lobbying last quarter, which still ranks in the top 15 spenders from July through September and marks an 80 percent increase from its second-quarter spending.

Alex Haureka spokesperson for TikTok, shed more light on the surge in spending, telling PI that it stemmed from “a unique settlement of Restricted Stock Units that are part of our employee compensation,” as part of a stock buyback program opened up over the summer.

NSO GROUP HIRES STEPTOE: Israeli spyware company NSO Group added white shoe law and lobbying firm Steptoe & Johnson to its bench of outside lobbyists last month, according to a newly filed disclosure.

— The spyware firm was blacklisted by the Biden administration in 2021 for allowing its Pegasus hacking tool to fall into the hands of authoritarian governments, accusations NSO Group has denied as the company’s hired guns push for the administration to reverse its decision.

— According to a disclosure filing, Stewart Baker, a former NSA and DHS official, and Jeff Weisswho co-chairs Steptoe’s international trade policy practice and leads its supply chain team, will work at “addressing US national security and export control policy in an international context” on NSO Group’s behalf.

— The company also retains the white shoe law firm Paul Hastingslobbying disclosures show, but the rest of NSO Group’s lobbyists at Chartwell Strategy Group and Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman are registered under FARA.

JOHNSON’S AN OIL AND GAS FRIEND: The new speaker “has the support of the oil and gas industrybut environmentalists are sharply criticizing his elevation to the role due to his denial of climate change,” POLITICO‘s Ben Lefebvre, Kelsey Tamborrino and James Bikales postponement.

— “While previous candidates for the position, including fellow Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalisehave a long history working with the oil and gas industry, Johnson’s record was thinner although he is still expected to be a champion of the industry that plays a crucial role in his state.”

— “Stephen Browna long-time energy lobbyist who now heads consulting firm RBJ Strategies pointed to Johnson’s reputation as a policy wonk, then added the Louisiana native was ‘an [Louisiana State University] alumni, so that has to be good for the energy industry.’”

— “Others in the industry had little to say about Johnson per se, only noting that he had broad support among the fossil fuel industry. ‘Don’t know him too well, but glad they are hopefully getting someone into the job,’ said one long-time industry official who spoke before the vote was completed and was granted anonymity to speak frankly.”

SMBC OPENING AT DC OFFICE: Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp. is opening at Washington office, our friends over at Morning Money report. The bank has hired Randy Rossthe former Swiss credit head of US public policy, as its head of government affairs and public policy, and Althea Pietersanother Credit Suisse alum, as head of regulatory strategy.

— They will be joined by Kazuhiro Yoshimi as executive director of government and regulatory affairs, and Kevin Parker as vice president of government and regulatory affairs.

PI BOOK CLUB: Phil Elwooda PR operative who has worked for Levick and BLJ Worldwideis releasing a memoir next July from Henry Holt called “All the Worst Humans: How I Made News for Dictators, Tycoons, and Politicians.”

— “After nearly two decades in the Washington PR business, Elwood wants to come clean, by exposing the dark underbelly of the very industry that’s made him so successful,” according to the book’s description. “The first step is revealing exactly what he’s been up to for the past twenty years―and it isn’t pretty. Elwood has worked for a murderer’s row of clients, including Gaddafi, Assad, and the government of Qatar―namely, the bad guys.”

SPOTTED at a celebration for Denham Carr & Reid Kountoupes‘s 16th anniversary last night, per a tipster: Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Maggie Hassan (DN.H.), Ben Ray Lujan (DN.M.), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Reps. Frank Pallone (DN.J.), Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), John Joyce (R-Pa.), Annie Kuster (DN.H.), Grace Meng (DN.Y.), Scott Peters (D-Calif.), Marilyn Strickland (D-Wash.), Mike Boots of Breakthrough Energy, Bruce Andrews of Intel, Laura McPherson of T-Mobile, Shannon Penberthy of CVS Healthand Austen Jensen of the Retail Industry Leaders Association.

Cory Ann Wind is joining Clean Fuels Alliance America as director of state regulatory affairs, focused on the West Coast, Morning Energy reports. She previously served as clean fuels program manager for the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.

– Tea Autonomous Vehicle Industry Association announced that Renee Gibson is joining the organization as director of government affairs. Gibson previously worked at the American Traffic Safety Services Association‘s state advocacy program.

Dave Bloom is launching Decibel Strategies, a new strategic comms shop focused on clean energy and climate-focused organizations. He most recently was lead speechwriter for Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm.

Ilse Zunigathe senior adviser for public health communications at the Department of Health and Human Services, is leaving the administration to join AARP as its director of media relations.

Kevin McColaugh is now director of federal relations at Northeastern University. He previously was director of government affairs at 6K Inc. and is a Charlie Baker alum.

Stefanik-Esposito NY Victory (Reps. Elise StefanikEsposito for Congress, E-PAC, NY Republican Federal Campaign Committee, NRCC )

Granite State Write-In (PAC)


RightPath USA (Super PAC)

Adams And Reese, LLP: Sterlite Technologies, Inc.

Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP: American Multi-Cinema, Inc. (Amc) Theaters

Bramer Group LLC: Ksat Inc.

Foley & Lardner LLP: Dallas Sports Commission

Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton: Miller Industries, Inc.

Mml&K Government Solutions: Kentucky Distillers’ Association

Olsson, Frank, Weeda, Terman & Matz, Pc: Southwest Meat Association

Steptoe & Johnson LLP: NSO Group Technologies Ltd.

Vectis Dc: The News Literacy Project

Better World Fund: Better World Fund

National Council Of Higher Education Loan Programs, Inc: National Council Of Higher Education Loan Programs Inc

Pitta Bishop & Del Giorno LLC: The Transport Workers Union Of America, Afl-Cio

Robert Gerber: Arctic Trucks North America

Troutman Pepper Strategies, LLC (Fkatroutman Sanders Public Affairs Group, LLC): Kurin, Inc.

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