Sierra Space hires Cornerstone

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SIERRA SPACE HIRES CORNERSTONE: Sierra Space, the aerospace contractor developing the reusable Dream Chaser space plane, has added Cornerstone Government Affairs to its roster of outside lobbyists.

— The company retained Cornerstone in November to lobby on NASA and defense authorization and appropriations bills, and a bill to establish an orbital debris removal program, as well as other issues related to space and launch policies at FAA and the Commerce Department, according to a newly filed disclosure.

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Joe Barton, a former aide to former House Speaker John Boehner and Chris Hodgson, former Vice President Mike Pence’s director of legislative affairs and a former Steve Scalise staffer, will work on the account, along with Mike Smith, John Crumbliss and John Scott, per the filing.

— Sierra Space — which also notched a contract with the Space Force in July to build a rocket engine and with the Space Development Agency last month to build hypersonic-missile tracking satellites — has built up its lobbying presence gradually since its launch as a subsidiary of Sierra Nevada Corp. in 2021, and its in-house lobbying team includes several familiar names.

— Last March, Sierra Space hired Tim Keating, Boeing’s former top lobbyist, to be its chief strategy officer and senior vice president of global government operations. The company also hired Juliane Sullivan, founder of the lobbying firm J.Sullivan Advocacy, and Danie Buckon and Dan Curran, two other veterans of Boeing’s D.C. office.

— Cornerstone is the second outside firm on retainer for the company, along with Meeks, Butera & Israel, and Sierra Space dropped $180,000 on federal lobbying last quarter — up from $100,000 in Q3 and $80,000 in Q2.

Happy Monday, and welcome to PI. Send lobbying tips: [email protected]. And be sure to follow me on the platform formerly known as Twitter: @caitlinoprysko.

ANNALS OF FUNDRAISING: More than 120 Republican members of Congress have signed on to be hosts for a Donald Trump fundraiser in D.C. next month thrown by GOP lobbyist and fundraiser Jeff Miller, according to an updated invite obtained by PI.

Punchbowl News first reported the fundraiser, which will feature Donald Trump Jr. as the guest of honor rather than his father, last week. Since then, 90 more lawmakers have signed on for the reception, which costs $1,000 to get in the door, with the option to kick in $5,000 to be a co-host or $10,000 to be named a host.

— The fundraiser is sure to draw more of K Street off the sidelines now that the once sprawling presidential primary field has narrowed to a two-person race between the senior Trump and former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley, and given that its 127-person roster of hosts has already cleared the $1 million mark for the former president’s joint fundraising committee.

FIRST IN PI — COALITION SQUEEZES SENATE JUDICIARY ON SWIPE FEES: Nearly three dozen trade groups are ratcheting up pressure on the heads of the Senate Judiciary Committee to take up the bipartisan swipe fees bill from Chair Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) ahead of a possible hearing on the issue this month.

— “Our coalition partners have identified exorbitant credit card interchange fees — also known as ‘swipe fees’ — as a top issue undermining the ability of their small business members to serve their communities because these growing fees are eating into their margins,” the groups, which are part of the Small Business Rising coalition and include the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, the Independent Restaurant Coalition, the National Community Pharmacists Association, the National Grocers Association and more, wrote in a letter to Judiciary members this afternoon.

— The coalition urged lawmakers “to heed the calls of the small business community for this lifeline, which would spur competition and curtail the outsized power of the big banks and dominant credit card companies.”

— Marshall told POLITICO last month that the Judiciary panel will “most likely” hold a hearing in February on the bill, which aims to dilute the market dominance of Visa and Mastercard but has faced fierce opposition from the banking industry, airlines and more. A hearing has yet to be announced.

— Today’s letter comes as the main industry coalition opposing Durbin and Marshall’s bill — the Electronic Payments Coalitionreleased a new one-pager arguing that it amounts to “legislative insanity: repeating the same failed policy, expecting different results.”

IF YOU MISSED IT FRIDAY: “Nonprofit groups founded by or affiliated with conservative power broker Leonard Leo have paid more than $100 million over a decade to the consulting firm that he took over four years ago, watchdog group Accountable.US said in a new report,” whose findings were independently verified by Bloomberg’s Emily Birnbaum using tax flings.

— “The sums paid to CRC Advisors by seven nonprofit groups have doubled since Leo came aboard as co-owner and chairman in 2020, according to the figures in the report, which marks the most recent and comprehensive accounting of the money flowing from a number of Leo-connected nonprofits to CRC. Leo founded five of the groups, is co-chair of another and has done fundraising for the seventh.”

— “CRC announced in 2020 it was creating a new advocacy network with the consulting firm at the center. Since Leo joined the firm, the seven groups have paid it at least $69 million, according to the report and the tax filings. Between 2012 and 2019, they paid CRC about $34 million. One group, the 85 Fund, increased payments to more than $21 million in 2022 from $5.8 million in 2019, the figures show.”

— “The payments have drawn an IRS complaint from another ethics group, Campaign for Accountability. The groups say Leo and his firm are being improperly enriched through an extensive network of tax-exempt organizations, a claim he has denied.”

— “The close relationship between Leo’s nonprofit network and CRC is also the subject of an investigation by DC Attorney General Brian Schwalb, according to people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified discussing a confidential probe. The investigation was reported earlier by Politico.”

THE STATE OF THE NRA IS … DIRE: The Washington Post’s Beth Reinhard and Silvia Foster-Frau are out with a new deep dive on the NRA’s political and financial standing heading into the election year, writing that as Trump, whose first term in office likely would not be possible without the support of the gun rights group, “stages his political comeback, the NRA has tumbled from power.”

— “The NRA has never faced a more perilous moment: It is hemorrhaging money and members, uncertain about the next generation of leadership and facing the possibility of court-ordered oversight, all at a time when gun-control groups are gaining strength amid frequent mass shootings. As Trump closes in on the Republican presidential nomination, some current and former leaders concede the organization is too depleted to spend significantly on his campaign.”

RAIL SAFETY BILL STALLED AFTER INDUSTRY LOBBYING:Nearly one year after a Norfolk Southern freight train derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, releasing toxic chemicals into the air and soil, the rail operator’s top executive returned to the scene of the accident — and reiterated his promise of change,” the Post’s Tony Romm writes.

— “In the nation’s capital, however, Norfolk Southern often has sounded a more defiant note: It has joined some of the nation’s leading freight railroads in a bid to weaken newly proposed safety legislation, threatening to leave millions of Americans nationwide at risk of deadly derailments and dangerous chemical spills.”

— “The target of the lobbying is a bipartisan proposal from Ohio’s two senators: Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, and J.D. Vance, a Republican. Unveiled last spring as a direct response to the accident in East Palestine, the Railway Safety Act aims to toughen rail inspections, improve derailment-detection technology and ensure greater safeguards for hazardous materials.”

— “Publicly, Norfolk Southern and its peers have pledged to work with lawmakers on the bill. But the companies have still labored to severely weaken or eliminate some of its core provisions, according to 15 lawmakers, congressional aides, union officials and others, many of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations.”

Jobs Report

Kristina Ishmael has restarted her education consulting firm Ishmael Consulting. She most recently was deputy director of the ed tech office at the Department of Education.

Stuart Delery is returning to Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher as partner and co-chair of the crisis management practice group and administrative law and regulatory practice group. He most recently was counsel for President Joe Biden.

Ashley Carpenter is joining ROKK Solutions as executive vice president. She most recently was vice president of leadership and public policy at WaPo.

Kyle Innes is joining SIFMA as managing director and associate general counsel for the state government relations team. He previously was associate director in the office of government affairs at the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.

Luka Ignac now works for the Transatlantic Security Initiative at the Atlantic Council ahead of NATO’s Washington summit. He most recently was an assistant director for the Europe Center at the think tank.

Alex Daugherty is now director of communications at the Transport Workers Union. He most recently was a transportation reporter at POLITICO.

Costa Samaras is now director of Carnegie Mellon’s Energy Innovation Institute. He previously was principal assistant director for energy and chief adviser for the clean energy transition at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Moses Cook is now president of Families Against Mandatory Minimums. He previously was director of operations and development at DC Justice Lab, and is a Rising for Justice alum.

Stuart Portman is now Medicaid director in Georgia. He previously was senior health policy adviser on the Senate Finance Committee.

Amy Mushahwar is joining Lowenstein Sandler as partner and chair of its data, privacy and cybersecurity practice. She previously was a partner at Alston & Bird.

Geralyn Ritter has been named president and CEO of Crowell & Moring International. She most recently was executive vice president for corporate affairs, sustainability and ESG at Organon & Co.

— Investment banking firm D.A. Davidson announced today that its aerospace, defense and government services practice is adding Toby Albright as managing director for diversified industrials.

Taylor Playforth has joined the government affairs team at Williams. He previously was senior legislative assistant to Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.).

Jock Gilchrist is now vice president of sustainability at J.P. Morgan. He previously was senior associate.

Vernessa Pollard is now a partner and co-chair of DLA Piper’s FDA Practice. She previously has been a partner and FDA practice leader at McDermott Will & Emery.

— Dr. Marketa Wills has been named the next CEO and medical director of the American Psychiatric Association. She’s currently chief medical officer of Johns Hopkins Health Plans and will assume the new role in June.

Christopher Bandy is now director of public affairs at the law firm Taft. He most recently was government affairs manager at Accelerate Indiana Municipalities.

New Joint Fundraisers

Adelante Fund (Defend The Dream, DSCC)

JKLC VICTORY FUND (Reps. Juan Ciscomani, Jen Kiggans, John James, Mike Lawler)

Gottheimer Horsford Victory Fund (Reps. Steven Horsford, Josh Gottheimer)

New PACs

Committee to Elect Vincent Cuevas for Delegate (PAC)

Donald Trump IS a Sick Fuck (Super PAC)

Inclusive Democracy (Super PAC)


Nextmech (PAC)

Protect Democracy Project (Leadership PAC: Julia Brownley)

Take Back 5 PAC (Super PAC)


Hillnorth LLC: Amgen Inc.

J M Burkman & Associates: Zona Specialties

Mehlman Consulting, Inc.: Careforth

Mehlman Consulting, Inc.: Substrate Inc.

Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough: Pipefusion Cipp Corp.

Perseus Strategies: Solway Investment Group

Strategic Capitol Group, LLC: Fortress Information Security

New Lobbying Terminations

Asian American Hotel Owners Association: Asian American Hotel Owners Association

Dunham Law & Policy Pllc: Green Chemistry & Commerce Council, Inc.

Edington, Peel & Associates, Inc.: American Councils For International Education

Edington, Peel & Associates, Inc.: Gavi Alliance (Formerly Known As The Gavi Fund)

Foley Hoag LLP: The International Medical Graduate Taskforce

Somatus, Inc.: Somatus, Inc.

Strategic Capitol Group, LLC: Thompson Advisory Group On Behalf Of Relx, Inc

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