PROGRAMMING NOTE: We’ll be off this Monday for the Fourth of July but will be back in your inboxes on Tuesday.
With Daniel Lippman
McCONNELL’S HOLIDAY EVE THREAT: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell threatened on Thursday to lob a bomb into talks to strike a deal on a package to boost U.S. economic competitiveness when he tweeted that “there will be no bipartisan USICA as long as Democrats are pursuing a partisan reconciliation bill,” using an acronym that has become shorthand for the China bills.
— While the White House said it would not back down from what it called an “outrageous threat,” lobbyists whose clients have pushed hard for the package over the past year warned against calling McConnell’s bluff.
— “I always take Leader McConnell seriously and literally,” Mehlman Castagnetti Rosen & Thomas’ Bruce Mehlman told PI. “And while he clearly supports the USICA effort he voted to pass, this statement increases the risk for all other Senate business including the China bill.”
— He “rarely marches out on a limb without measuring how strong it is,” Monument Advocacy’s Stewart Verdery said of the GOP leader. “We’ve generally thought that Republicans might try to drag this out to deny the Democrats that win anyway, before the election.”
— “So I think McConnell is really just saying out loud, what everyone has been talking about privately that, you know, the stars have to align really neatly for this bill to get accomplished when there’s no deadline” such as an expiring program or urgent humanitarian crisis, he added, which put it at high risk for becoming a political football from the get go, despite bipartisan support.
— Another lobbyist working on the bill suggested that the fact that McConnell issued his threat publicly rather than behind the scenes may be an indicator the ultimatum is political posturing intended to pressure negotiators over the finish line.
— But apart from USICA, the person added, there are only a handful of other must-pass bills that McConnell would be able to dangle as leverage in the event Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) are able to strike an eleventh-hour deal on a climate and social spending package.
— None of the other must-pass bills have been as closely watched by the business community as the China package, whose centerpiece is $52 billion in funding to attract more investment in U.S. semiconductor manufacturing but which was delayed and loaded up in the House with numerous Democratic wishlist items.
— “I think when the minority leader says something and has 50 votes to back it up, you take that seriously,” said Izzy Klein, a co-founder of the Klein/Johnson Group and a former Schumer aide. “He also has 19 Republicans who voted to pass the USICA bill, multiple times. There’s a path to get this done soon and I think a lot of people are hoping Congress chooses that path quickly.”
Happy Friday and welcome to PI. A quick programming note: This newsletter will be off on Monday for the Fourth of July, and your host will be off Tuesday, July 5 through Friday, July 8. You’ll be in more than capable hands with Hailey Fuchs filling in, so send your PI tips and scoops to [email protected] or on Twitter @hailey_fuchs. In the meantime, send any Miami recommendations to: [email protected]. And be sure to follow me on Twitter: @caitlinoprysko.
CVS LEAVES NACDS: CVS Health has left the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, leaving the retail pharmacy trade group without one of the country’s largest drug store chains amid a push to rein in pharmacy benefit managers, the largest of which CVS owns.
— “While we have made the decision to step away from the association, we are fully committed to advancing and supporting the value of pharmacy and the critical role that pharmacists play as health care providers in their communities,” CVS spokesperson Matt Blanchette told PI.
— CVS pharmacies made up almost a quarter of the nearly 40,000 pharmacies NACDS says it represents, and the company’s departure will also cost the trade group a nice chunk of change. CVS Health reported paying $1.6 million in dues to NACDS last year, less than only its membership dues for America’s Health Insurance Plan, Better Medicare Alliance and the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association.
— Blanchette did not explain the reason behind CVS’ split with NACDS, but it comes amid a broader push in the pharma ecosystem to blame rising drug costs on PBMs, which health insurers, employers and the government hire to manage prescription benefits for their health plans. CVS Caremark controls the largest chunk of the market among PBMs, one of three companies that controls 80 percent of the PBM market, according to Health Industries Research.
— NACDS has applauded state legislation to regulate PBMs and last month, it praised an announcement that the FTC would probe PBM practices as contributing to momentum for PBM reforms. NACDS did not respond to a request for comment.
IT’S A BOLD STRATEGY, COTTON — CAMPAIGN FINANCE EDITION: “A new political group led by veteran Republican strategist Ed Rollins is looking to jump-start a potential Ron DeSantis presidential bid with a legally extraordinary attempt to beef up his donor contact list,” Axios’ Lachlan Markay reports.
— “The group, Ready for Ron, says it plans to gather the names and contact information of more than 1 million DeSantis supporters nationwide by the end of the year — then provide that potent political asset, free of charge, to the DeSantis camp. Campaign finance experts say its proposed tactics are legally questionable, and, if accepted by federal regulators, would remake how candidates ‘test the waters’ before runs at public office.”
— “Ready for Ron, which Rollins founded in May, detailed its plans in a letter to the Federal Election Commission last month. It asked for an official ruling on the tactics it plans to use to boost a potential White House bid by the Florida governor.”
— Though it’s not uncommon, “ordinarily, any independent group that wants to give such a list to a candidate must either report it as an in-kind contribution or receive a fair market value payment.” The committee argues that “neither should be required, as the petition it plans to share with the DeSantis camp would merely be a public communication in support of DeSantis’ candidacy, and unbound by campaign contribution limits.”
LAWMAKERS ASK FOR PROBE OF INTUIT LOBBYING: OpenSecrets’ Anna Massoglia reports that “members of Congress are calling for an investigation of Intuit, the company that owns TurboTax, after it failed to adequately respond to questions from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) in an April letter that cited Massoglia’s previous reporting on the subject.
— “Intuit has spent decades lobbying against free government-sponsored tax filing services, and the tax prep company’s lobbying efforts have ramped up significantly in recent years. Along with its subsidiary, Credit Karma, Intuit spent $840,000 during the first quarter of 2022 — more than any prior first quarter.”
— Last month, Warren and Reps. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) and Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) wrote to Acting Treasury Department Inspector General Richard K. Delmar, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George and Acting Inspector General at the Federal Trade Commission Andrew Katsaros, calling on them “to mount an in-depth investigation into Intuit’s use of the revolving door to influence policy decisions’ and the ‘extent to which Intuit—and other Free File Alliance members—have used the revolving door to exert undue influence on department and agency policies, particularly Free File.’”
— “The lawmakers contend that ‘Intuit’s response [to the initial letter] was inadequate, failing to dispel any of the concerns about its unethical behavior or to provide information on any employee that had made a trip through the revolving door, despite the extensive reporting on specific egregious cases,’ highlighting ‘troubling reports of Intuit’s abuse of the revolving door and the company’s hiring of former federal regulators and influence-peddlers to defend its shady business practices.’”
— “The tax prep company’s current K Street contingent boasts an impressive slate of ‘revolving door’ lobbyists, with 41 of Intuit’s 55 lobbyists previously holding federal government positions,” a roster that over the years has included former Reps. Randy Forbes (R-Va.), Charles Boustany (R-La.), Albert Wynn (D-Md.) and former Sen. Tim Hutchinson (R-Ark.).
HOW STATES ARE MOVING TO REIN IN SOCIAL MEDIA COMPANIES: “Efforts to police speech on social media are spreading across the country, with lawmakers in 34 states pushing bills that are already setting up court battles with tech giants over the First Amendment,” POLITICO’s Rebecca Kern reports.
— “State legislators have introduced more than 100 bills in the past year aiming to regulate how social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter handle their users’ posts, according to POLITICO’s analysis of data from the National Conference of State Legislatures. However, only three bills have become law, including statutes in Texas and Florida aimed at punishing platforms that Republicans accuse of censoring conservatives — and federal courts have blocked those two states’ measures from taking effect.”
— “Blue states are joining the trend as well, though Democrats’ emphasis is pressing social media companies to establish policies for reporting hate speech, violent content and misinformation.”
— “The states’ efforts — in the absence of federal action — could test governments’ ability to regulate speech, while forcing some of the nation’s wealthiest tech companies to fight an array of legal battles against laws that could upend their business models,” with industry groups warning “that some of the laws — especially the ones in Texas and Florida — could wreak havoc on how they handle content worldwide.”
SAY SOMETHING, I’M GIVING UP ON YOU: Content moderation is not the only issue that is seeing increased attention at the state level. POLITICO’s Zack Colman writes that “the climate advocates who cheered President Joe Biden’s arrival at the White House last year are preparing to give up on Washington.”
— “Instead, environmentalists and many of their Democratic allies are starting to shift their focus to state capitals as the places to press for action on climate change — going back to a strategy that they employed with some success during the Trump era.”
— “The flight from D.C. is in large part a response to 18 months of frustration with major setbacks to Biden’s climate agenda, capped by Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling that hobbled the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases. Even before that decision, Democrats’ ambitious plans for hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of climate action wilted in the Senate. And November’s midterms are giving off vibes of a Republican sweep — similar to the rout that Democrats suffered in 2010, the last time they tried and failed to pass major climate legislation.”
— “While greens hope Thursday’s ruling could bring new urgency to a Capitol Hill push for sizable clean energy incentives, the doors to major federal action are either shut or closing rapidly in both Congress and the executive branch. That’s left them looking for alternatives — no matter that Democrats nominally remain in charge in the capital.”
— Maggie Suniewick was named as Twitter’s vice president of partnerships. She previously worked for 16 years at NBC Universal, having served as the president of distribution and business development most recently.
Duarte Victory (NRCC, California Republican Party Federal Acct., John Duarte for Congress)
Brand New Government (PAC)
Charles C. Pang For President (PAC)
Florida First Values PAC (Super PAC)
Federal Hall Policy Advisors, LLC: The Majority Group, LLC (On Behalf Of Sagent)
Federal Hall Policy Advisors, LLC: U.S. Mortgage Insurers
Heartflow, Inc.: Heartflow, Inc.
Insight Public Affairs, Inc.: Upcodes
Midfield Consulting LLC: American Highway USers Alliance
Munk Policy & Law: American Industrial Partners
O’Brien, Gentry & Scott, LLC: Motiv Space Systems
The Majority Group, LLC: Sagent M&C, LLC
The Vogel Group: Dji Technology
The Vogel Group: Dollar General
The Vogel Group: The Mosaic Company
The Vogel Group: Yescare Corp.
Arena Strategies, LLC: Monroe Energy, LLC
Arena Strategies, LLC: Pbf Holding Company LLC
Crossroads Strategies, LLC: Intellia Therapeutics
Mayo Clinic: Mayo Clinic
The Majority Group, LLC: Dr. Michael Rimwali
The Majority Group, LLC: Integrated Strategies Group On Behalf Of Bob Jones University
The Majority Group, LLC: Rudy Baldoni (On Behalf Of Big Brothers & Big Sisters Of America)
The Smith-Free Group, LLC: Lcr Capital Partners LLC