January 6, 2020

TRUMPONOMICS!:

How Trump's Trade War Is Making Lobbyists Rich And Slamming Small Businesses (Lydia DePillis,  Jan. 6, 2020, ProPublica)

Overall, Trump's tariffs have not had the effect that the self-described "Tariff Man" promised. Companies have moved manufacturing out of China -- and it has mostly gone to Vietnam, Taiwan and Mexico. Tariffs are chiefly behind a months-long decline in domestic manufacturing, Federal Reserve researchers have found. The total loss of jobs across the economy may be as high as 300,000.

But constantly up-in-the-air trade agreements and the byzantine, opaque exclusion process has been a blessing for one set of players: Washington's influence industry, including the firms of former Trump officials and allies like inauguration committee chief Brian Ballard, former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus and Trump fundraiser Marc Lampkin.

Ballard was once Trump's lobbyist in Florida. He's since been dubbed "the most powerful lobbyist in Trump's Washington." A cancer therapy firm, Varian Medical Systems, paid Ballard and a colleague $540,000 to lobby the White House, the trade office and Vice President Mike Pence on trade issues, filings show. The outreach included a meeting with Trump's director of trade and manufacturing policy, Peter Navarro.

Since then, four of Varian's five exclusion requests have been approved -- which, the company said in an SEC filing, boosted revenues by $23 million. (Navarro said he doesn't intervene in the exclusion process.)

Priebus' firm, Michael Best Strategies, was hired by a Wisconsin company, Primex, to handle exemptions for its timekeeping and temperature measurement devices. "You're not gonna do it on your own," Primex CEO Paul Shekoski said in an interview. "It's suicide actually."

Shekoski said he wanted help understanding the process and making sure all the requests were filed correctly. With Michael Best's guidance, he personally wrote letters to and met with his representatives in Washington.

The collective effort may have made it all the way to the Oval Office. Shekoski said in an email last fall that he heard from his lobbyist at Michael Best, Denise Bode, that Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis. cited Primex as an example of a Wisconsin company suffering from tariffs when the senator took the issue to the president. "He not only called USTR, he was able to bring our specific case up to Trump directly," Shekoski said. Bode did not respond to a request for comment, and a Johnson spokesman did not respond to questions about the Trump contact, saying only that Johnson had advocated for many Wisconsin companies.

Days before this story was published, Shekoski denied knowing whether Johnson brought up the issue with Trump. He said he was just trying to give his elected representatives concrete stories about small businesses struggling with tariffs that they could use to advocate for tariff relief.

Lobbying records show that Primex paid Priebus' firm, Michael Best Strategies, $85,000 in 2018 and 2019 for its services. "I'm not selling access," Priebus once told Politico. "I'm merely providing strategic advice and helping them handle their problems."

Posted by at January 6, 2020 5:58 PM

  

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