Politico: GBM Hires New VP of Public Affairs

FAKE BALLARD LETTER APPEARS IN FINAL DAYS OF NIGERIAN ELECTIONS: On Wednesday morning, the Twitter user @jeffphilips1 tweeted out a letter that appeared to be signed by Brian Ballard of Ballard Partners. The letter, addressed to a top Nigerian politician, purported to share polling that showed “a very slim chance of winning” for Atiku Abubakar, the People’s Democratic Party candidate in the Nigerian presidential election set to be held on Saturday. The tweet was quickly retweeted by Festus Keyamo, a spokesperson for the Muhammadu Buhari, the Nigerian president whom Abubakar is facing in the election. “They paid millions of dollars to tell them what we already know!” Keyamo tweeted.

— But Ballard says the letter is a fake. "A letter allegedly sent by me on February 5, 2019 regarding the Nigerian presidential is fraudulent,” Ballard said in a statement. “My signature has been forged. Ballard Partners has not conducted any survey research on behalf of the People’s Democratic Party of Nigeria. The entire contents of the letter are false, and no individual employed by Ballard Partners has been involved in any of the actions cited in this phony letter."

— Ballard Partners lobbies on behalf of the People’s Democratic Party, but the work is focused on persuading the administration to help ensure free and fair elections in Nigeria — which would give the party the best chance of unseating Buhari. Disclosure filings show Ballard lobbyists met with a State Department official last year on the party’s behalf. Jamie Rubin, one of the lobbyists working for the party, told PI the firm’s denunciation of the letter as a forgery wasn’t helping Buhari ahead of the election. “It looks like it ended up backfiring on the government,” he said.

MEANWHILE: Pam Bondi, the former Florida attorney general who joined Ballard Partners after leaving office last month, has registered to lobby for her third federal client: CarnivalBrian BallardSyl Lukis and Bondi will lobby on trade issues for the cruise line.

FIRST IN PI — LOT SIXTEEN ADDS A DEMOCRAT: The lobbying and public affairs firm Lot Sixteen has hired Joseph Eaves as a vice president. He’ll register as a lobbyist. He was previously assistant vice president of government relations for the National Electrical Manufacturers AssociationJosh Lahey, a former Podesta Group principal, and Colin Hayes, a former Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee staff director, started Lot Sixteen in 2017 in the wake of the Podesta Group’s collapse. The firm now has six lobbyists and other staffers and a dozen clients, including two recently signed lobbying clients: the National Association of Water Companies and Ball Corporation.

PFIZER HIRES EMPIRE: Pfizer had added the Empire Consulting Group to its phalanx of Washington lobbying firms. Empire lobbyists have ties to the Congressional Black Caucus, and companies are increasingly eager to build relationships with the caucus, which is one of the powerful blocs of House Democrats. Pfizer spent more than $11.4 million on Washington lobbying last year and retains more than a dozen other outside firms.

Good afternoon, and welcome to PI. Happy Valentine’s Day. Don’t send me any candy hearts, just your most intriguing tips: tmeyer@politico.com. You can also follow me on Twitter: @theodoricmeyer.

SALESFORCE LEAVES INTERNET ASSOCIATION: “Salesforce has left the Internet Association, becoming the second tech company this year to separate from one of the industry’s most prominent trade groups in Washington, according to three sources familiar with the departure,” POLITICO’s Margaret Harding McGill and Steven Overly report. “Salesforce, which provides business-to-business software, was a founding member of the Internet Association when it launched in 2012. The trade group has been active on issues like privacy regulation, net neutrality and legal immunity for websites over user-generated content.” Netflix left the Internet Association last month, but the trade group still counts GoogleFacebookAmazonMicrosoft and dozens of others among its members. Full story.

FIRST IN PI — AYOTTE JOINS UNITED AGAINST NUCLEAR IRAN:Former Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) has joined nonprofit advocacy group United Against Nuclear Iran as senior adviser. Ayotte is the third former senator advising the group: former Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) serves as chairman and Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) is on the group’s advisory board. Ayotte has stayed busy since losing a tight reelection in 2016. The former senator has joined the board of directors of BAE Systems and Caterpillar and the board of advisers for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ Center on Military and Political Power. She’s also a senior adviser to Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions.

LINE-STANDING: A HISTORY: The Washington Post’s Eli Rosenberghas some context on line-standing, the practice of “paying people to wait in line to get prime seats at Capitol Hill hearings,” which so horrified Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) on Wednesday. (“Shock doesn’t begin to cover it,” she wrote in a tweet that has been retweeted more than 41,000 times.)

— It’s been going on for decades: “The Washington Post’s published a front-page story about line-standing [in 1995], noting enterprising 20-somethings who had started a company for it — and pulled in tens of thousands of dollars in one day. Lobbyists at the time spoke freely about the practice, which at the time went for $25 to $32 an hour. ‘Make sure you’ve got a full checking account before you call,’ one veteran lobbyist told The Washington Post. ‘It’s just gotten so ridiculous.’” Full story.

AHEAD OF THE FILINGS: Ballard Spahr registered to lobby for 10 former Nossaman clients, after the firm hired five Nossaman lobbyists and lawyers, as PI reported last month. They include AmerisourceBergen; the FAIR FARA CoalitionBipartisan Policy Center ActionCalifornia and Nevada Credit Union LeagueCoalition for Tax Equity, County of Monterey, Calif.; Coyote Springs Investment LLC; Globus Medical Inc.Texas Capital; and the Word & Brown Companies. Each of the 10 clients beside the County of Monterey terminated their lobbying contracts with Nossaman last quarter.

IF YOU MISSED IT ON WEDNESDAY: Bloomberg Government’s Megan Wilson has a rundown of what’s going on in the burgeoning business of lobbying for the cannabis industry. “Banks, marijuana delivery services, and veterans groups helped drive cannabis-related lobbying revenues to $2.5 million in 2018, according to lobbying disclosure filings.” Full story.

JOBS REPORT
— Lauren Aronson is returning to the Hill as communications director for the House Budget Committee Republicans. She was previously a managing director atFP1 Strategies.

— Lewis Muller has joined Go BIG Media as vice president of public affairs. He most recently served as director of public affairs and advocacy at Resonate. Go BIG also announced that President Dean Petrone will transition to CEO, and CEO and founder Phillip Stutts will become chairman and CEO of Win BIG Media, a new corporate marketing agency.

SPOTTED: At an American Property Casualty Insurance Associationbash on Wednesday night at the Willard, according to a PI tipster: House Minority Whip Steve Scalise; Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.); Reps. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), Sean Duffy (R-Wis.),Tom Emmer (R-Minn.), Ron Estes (R-Kan.), Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), Trey Hollingsworth (R-Ind.), Bill Huizenga (R-Mich.), David Kustoff (R-Tenn.), Bryan Steil (R-Wis.), Williams Timmons(R-S.C.), Scott Tipton (R-Colo.), Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), Brad Schneider (D-Ill.), Andy Barr (R-Ky.) and Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.); Dean AguillenDee Buchanan and Karissa Willhite of Ogilvy Government RelationsSam Geduldig and Mike Nielsen of CGCN GroupMike Williams of the Williams GroupSusan Neely of American Council of Life InsurersKirk Blalock of Fierce Government Relations; and David Sampson and Nat Wienecke of the American Property Casualty Insurance Association.

— At BGR Group’s office on Wednesday afternoon for a meet-and-greet with House Democratic freshmen, according to a PI tipster: Reps. Anthony Brindisi (D-N.Y.) and Joe Morelle (D-N.Y.); Mark Reiter of the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries; and Jonathan MantzMark TavlaridesMaya SeidenAndy LewinRemy Brim and Ryan Dalton of BGR Group.

NEW JOINT FUNDRAISERS

Senate Firewall 2020 (Sens. John Cornyn, Steve Daines, Joni Ernst, Cory Gardner, Thom Tillis and Martha McSally, Legacy Political Fund)

NEW PACS

Montana Freedom Fund (Super PAC)
BajaAZ PAC (Leadership PAC: Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick)
PSC Blue PAC (PAC)
Doctors Say Health Cannot Wait (SUPERPAC) (PAC)

NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS

Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP: Connecticut Children's Medical Center
Ballard Partners: Carnival North America LLC
Ballard Spahr LLP: Bipartisan Policy Center Action
Ballard Spahr LLP: California and Nevada Credit Union League
Ballard Spahr LLP: County of Monterey, CA
Ballard Spahr LLP: Coyote Springs Investment LLC
Ballard Spahr LLP: Globus Medical, Inc.
Bridge Public Affairs, LLC: Electric Power Board
Bridge Public Affairs, LLC: Permobil, Inc.
Carpi & Clay, Inc.: Mission Springs Water District
Economic Policy Strategies: International Franchise Association
Empire Consulting Group: Pfizer Inc.
J M Burkman & Associates: John Dolkart, ESQ
J M Burkman & Associates: The Lakes Treatment Center
Lobbyit.com: D.A.R.E. America
Lobbyit.com: Embrace Families
Lobbyit.com: Tile Council of North America, Inc.
Lot Sixteen LLC: Ball Corporation
Lot Sixteen LLC: National Association of Water Companies
McGuireWoods Consulting (A Subsidiary of McGuireWoods LLP): Amazing Healthcare Holdings, LLC
North Star Strategies, LLC: Warrior MET
Ogilvy Government Relations: Plastics Industry Association, Inc.
Randall Davis Associates LLC: BP America, Inc.
Rulon & White Governance Strategies: Cloud Computing Technologies, LLC
Rulon & White Governance Strategies: MXsquared, LLC
Rulon & White Governance Strategies: Pink Summit,LLC
Rulon & White Governance Strategies: Rishaank, LLC
Rulon & White Governance Strategies: Vigilant Technologies, LLC
The Affordable Housing Tax Credit Coalition: The Affordable Housing Tax Credit Coalition
The Glover Park Group LLC: Altice USA Inc.
Thorn Run Partners: Horizon Pharma USA, Inc
Venable LLP: Medici Ventures, Inc.
Waymo LLC: Waymo LLC

NEW LOBBYING TERMINATIONS

Harlow Government Relations LLC: Korein Tillery LLC
Jochum Shore & Trossevin PC: Cannabis Trade Federationa (Formerly New Venture Fund)
Newfield Exploration Company: Newfield Exploration Company
PAW and Associates: AirLand Enterprises LLC