Manchester hires lobbyist to salvage ambassador nomination

 In Politics

With David Beavers and Garrett Ross

BILLIONAIRE HIRES LOBBYIST TO SALVAGE AMBASSADOR NOMINATION: “Papa” Doug Manchester apparently really wants to be an ambassador. President Donald Trump nominated Manchester, a San Diego real estate developer who once owned The San Diego Union-Tribune and is worth an estimated $1 billion, last year to be the U.S. ambassador to the Bahamas. But the Senate never confirmed him, and his prospects took a blow in February, when The Washington Post reported that Manchester “employed an unconventional, anachronistic management style that upended the newspaper’s culture and made many female workers uncomfortable” when he owned the Union-Tribune. Manchester emailed Donald Trump Jr., Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and several White House and State Department officials ahead of the publication of the Post story to apologize, according to the Union-Tribune.

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— A publication called Bahamas Press reported last month that Trump may nominate William Douglass for the ambassadorship instead. Two days later, Manchester’s company, Manchester Financial Group, hired Christian Whiton of Banner Public Affairs, apparently to get Manchester’s nomination back on track. The disclosure filing reports only that Whiton will be lobbying on “confirmation.” Manchester Financial Group didn’t respond to a request for comment. Neither did Whiton.

YELP HIRES BROWNSTEIN HYATT FARBER SCHRECK: Yelp is lobbying up. PI reported on Tuesday that Yelp was hiring Invariant to lobby on internet competition issues. The company has also hired a team of seven Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck lobbyists to work on the same issue, including Al Mottur, William Moschella, Greta Joynes, Marc Lampkin, Zach Pfister, Milan Dalal and Brian McGuire, according to a disclosure filing. Yelp spent just $390,000 on lobbying last year — a relatively modest sum for a well-known tech company — and employs one other lobbying firm, Bloom Strategic Counsel. So the new hires give Yelp substantially more lobbying firepower.

HSBC SNAGS TREASURY OFFICIAL: Matt Kellogg has left the Treasury Department to join HSBC’s Washington office as senior vice president for public affairs. He joined the administration last year and served as deputy assistant secretary for banking and finance in the legislative affairs office. He previously worked for House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

Good afternoon, and welcome to PI. Your tips keep us going. Don’t be shy: [email protected] and [email protected] You can also follow us on Twitter: @theodoricmeyer and @marianne_levine.

HAMBERGER WILL RETIRE FROM RAILROAD TRADE GROUP NEXT YEAR: Ed Hamberger, the president and chief executive of the Association of American Railroads, “will retire early next year, after more than 20 years at the freight rail lobby,” POLITICO’s Lauren Gardner reports. The trade group has hired “Korn Ferry to look for a successor. Hamberger ‘is committed to ensuring a smooth transition and that there is an overlap in time with his successor,’ spokeswoman Jessica Kahanek said, referring to his open-ended retirement date.” Full story.

A COHEN QUESTION: Here’s an element of the Michael Cohen mess that hasn’t attracted much attention: In a statement last week, a Novartis spokeswoman said that the company stopped working with Cohen shortly after hiring him but kept paying him $100,000 a month for a year because “the contract unfortunately could only be terminated for cause.” As far as PI can tell, that’s unusual for a K Street contract, which often can be canceled with 30 or 60 days’ notice.

— Have you ever signed a yearlong contract that can only be terminated for cause? Do you know of anyone who has? Give us a shout: [email protected] or [email protected] We’re always happy to chat off the record, of course.

OPEN YOUR CHECKBOOKS: EPA “Administrator Scott Pruitt confirmed today he’s established a legal defense fund as he faces a dozen federal investigations from government watchdogs and Congress,” POLITICO’s Anthony Adragna reports. “‘It’s been set up,’ Pruitt said in response to a question from Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.). Pruitt said donations to the fund would be made public pursuant to disclosure requirements and said he would not solicit donations from lobbyists or corporations with business before the agency. He later noted he would not personally seek contributions himself ‘since that’s done by attorneys and others.’” Full story.

— Will you be writing a check? Why or why not? Give us a shout: [email protected]

THE WHITE HOUSE AS RÉSUMÉ RISK: The Boston Globe’s Annie Linskey reports on a dynamic we’ve heard many lobbyists discuss in private: Working in President Donald Trump’s White House may not bolster your résumé the way working in previous administrations did. “One company that picked a former top Trump aide to be its chief executive tried to paper over the association, leaving the word ‘Trump’ off the press release when announcing the hire. … ‘During my time there I was thinking: “Is this experience going to hurt me or help me?”’ said one former aide who stayed about a year and was happy to land a post-White House job at a big company. ‘He is a polarizing president. Some people love what he says and some people hate it.’” Full story.

SHAHMORADI, O’KEEFFE SIGN CLIENTS: PI reported in February that Heideh Shahmoradi, a Senate Appropriations Committee staffer, and James O’Keeffe would start their own firm. They’ve signed their first lobbying clients now, according to disclosure filings: American Association of Airport Executives, General Aviation Manufacturers Association and National Concrete Masonry Association.

FLYING IN: Members of the Marketplace Lending Association are flying in Thursday to press members of Congress on the bank chartering process, IRS modernization and bank financial technology partnerships. They’ll be meeting with Sens. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), among others.

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