Consultants sue APCO Worldwide for breach of contract

 In Politics

With David Beavers, Garrett Ross and Josh Gerstein

CONSULTANTS SUE APCO WORLDWIDE FOR BREACH OF CONTRACT: Three consultants filed suit against APCO Worldwide, a lobbying and public affairs firm based in Washington, on Thursday for breach of contract. The consultants — Erick Sanchez, Carson Sieving and Stephanie Ruby — were hired by APCO in March as subcontractors to help plan events in New York and Washington for one of APCO’s clients, according to the suit. They allege that APCO canceled the events days before they were scheduled to take place and never paid them for the expenses they incurred. They’re suing for more than $200,000.

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— The suit includes emails and text messages that offer a glimpse into how Washington firms throw extravagant parties for international clients with money to burn. The client, in this case, was the International Performance Hub, which describes itself as an interactive data platform developed by Saudi Arabia’s National Center for Performance Management. Anthony DeAngelo, a media relations manager at APCO, texted Sanchez on March 9 to ask whether he’d be interested in working on the project. “Very tight turn around, but could be a blast,” DeAngelo wrote. APCO and the consultants hashed out plans for events in New York and Washington, working with a budget of $540,000. The Washington event was scheduled to be held at Fiola, a fancy Italian restaurant, on March 22.

— On March 19, an APCO staffer emailed Sieving to tell her that “we are getting a bit concerned and uncomfortable with our client’s lack of confirmation and communication around a number of details for [the Washington] event and we know we are cutting it extremely close for comfort.” The next day, Liam Leduc Clarke, APCO’s managing director for Saudi Arabia, emailed Sieving to scrap the Washington event: “Neither APCO nor our client has authorized or agreed to the services relating to the event on Thursday evening in DC. Accordingly, please immediately cease all work for this client, whether in DC or elsewhere.” APCO declined to comment.

Good afternoon, and welcome to PI. Where are you headed for Memorial Day? We’re staying around here, but let us live vicariously. Tips always welcome to: [email protected] and [email protected] You can also follow us on Twitter: @theodoricmeyer and @marianne_levine.

PROGRAMMING NOTE: PI is off on Monday for Memorial Day. We’ll be back on Tuesday, May 29!

POLITICO and the South China Morning Post are partnering to expand coverage of U.S.-China relations. Read our note from POLITICO Editor-in-Chief John Harris and Editor Carrie Budoff Brown to learn more.

WHY SQUIRE PATTON BOGGS GAMBLED ON MICHAEL COHEN: “When Edward Newberry, a top lobbyist for Squire Patton Boggs, started telling people last year that his firm planned to team up with President Donald Trump‘s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, several people tried to talk him out of it,” POLITICO’s Theodoric Meyer reports. “Cohen was unpredictable, three people who spoke with Newberry — and who were familiar with both the firm and Cohen’s reputation — say they told him at the time. One described Cohen as ‘a bull in a china shop.’ Another warned that Cohen could be the next Jack Abramoff, who was sentenced to four years in prison in 2008 on corruption charges.

— “Squire Patton Boggs — a top Washington firm that lobbies for blue-chip clients, including Coca-Cola, Samsung and UnitedHealth — struck up a ‘strategic alliance’ with Cohen, anyway. Cohen never did any lobbying, according to the firm, but he gave Squire Patton Boggs an undeniable connection to the new administration. Cohen would use his clout to help Squire Patton Boggs land clients; in return, the firm would give him an office and a $500,000 retainer, plus commissions on the business he brought in. … The firm’s gamble on Cohen was supposed to help position Squire Patton Boggs — which spent more than a decade as the top firm on K Street but has struggled in recent years with declining lobbying revenue — for success in the Trump era.”

— “The firm hasn’t said much about what Cohen’s work entailed. Squire Patton Boggs has said Cohen referred to it five clients, but it won’t divulge their identities or say whether any of them remain clients. (The Wall Street Journal revealed that one was U.S. Immigration Fund, a Florida company that paid the firm $370,000 last year in lobbying fees.) Angelo Kakolyris, a spokesman for the firm, wrote in a text message that ‘they are almost all legal clients’ for which the firm isn’t lobbying. Newberry, who did not respond to requests for comment, and other leaders at the firm have given no interviews about why they teamed up with Cohen and kept working with him after he was swept up in the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.” Full story.

SPEAKING OF MICHAEL COHEN: The New York TimesWilliam K. Rashbaum, Ben Protess and Mike McIntire report that 11 days before Trump’s inauguration, Viktor Vekselberg, a Russian oligarch, met with Michael Cohen at Trump Tower. Vekselberg and Cohen “discussed a mutual desire to strengthen Russia’s relations with the United States under President Trump, according to Andrew Intrater, an American businessman who attended the meeting and invests money for Mr. Vekselberg. The men also arranged to see one another at the inauguration, the second of their three meetings, Mr. Intrater said. Days after the inauguration, Mr. Intrater’s private equity firm, Columbus Nova, awarded Mr. Cohen a $1 million consulting contract, a deal that has drawn the attention of federal authorities investigating Mr. Cohen, according to people briefed on the inquiry.” Full story.

RV INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION STARTS PAC: As you’re headed out for Memorial Day weekend, we thought we’d highlight a new PAC registration: the RV Industry Association political action committee. Michael Ochs, treasurer of the PAC and director of government affairs for the trade association, said that the group started the PAC to increase the group’s effectiveness. “Now we’re doing a lot more in the federal arena, traditionally in the past most of our issues have been at the state level,” he told PI. Among the issues that the trade association is focused on are tariffs and infrastructure. Ochs said that the trade association is pushing for modernization of RV sites at national campgrounds. The PAC will not participate in the midterm elections, he said. Instead, the group is looking to prepare for 2020.

WITH BIG INFRASTRUCTURE PLAN ADRIFT, LOBBYISTS LOOK TO NEXT YEAR: “With President Donald Trump’s big infrastructure vision resigned to claiming small wins among expected reauthorizations, lobbyists are beginning to look toward the next highway and transit bill to get what they wanted all along — a fix to the insolvent Highway Trust Fund,” POLITICO’s Lauren Gardner reports. “With the likelihood of a wide-ranging infrastructure bill being enacted this year virtually nil, infrastructure advocates are increasingly looking ahead to the next Congress for action on their pet issues, the most high-profile of which is the cash-strapped Highway Trust Fund.

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