After taking more than a million dollars from corporate PACs over his congressional career, Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-Mass.) pledged to stop accepting money from these PACs in his primary against incumbent Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.). But it appears he is not going to turn away money from corporate lobbyists.
Kennedy will attend a “D.C. Kickoff” fundraiser on Oct. 15 that will be hosted by, among others, former Rep. Joe Crowley, the New York Democrat who was ousted by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in his 2018 primary election. The invitation states that hosts are expected to donate the maximum allowed amount for the primary and general elections, $5,600, to Kennedy’s campaign.
Crowley is not just the guy whom AOC beat; he is now senior policy advisor at Squire Patton Boggs, a powerful D.C. lobbying firm that represents large corporations such as oil company Royal Dutch Shell, Management and Training Corp.—the third largest private prison company in the U.S.—and insurer UnitedHealth Group. Crowley joined the firm in February despite not being allowed to formally lobby his former colleagues in Congress until January 2020 under congressional ethics laws. However, Crowley has already begun working on think-tank efforts that further the interests of—and are partially funded by—Squire Patton Boggs’ clients.
Crowley is leading an initiative at the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC), a corporate-funded D.C. think tank, focused on “developing potential long-term solutions to fully fund America’s critical infrastructure programs, up to and including ending the federal government’s reliance on the gas tax.” Shell Oil Company, a subsidiary of Squire Patton Boggs client Royal Dutch Shell, has endorsed a bill that would end the gas tax and replace it with a carbon tax, and Royal Dutch Shell has paid Squire Patton Boggs subsidiary the Breaux-Lott Leadership Group to lobby Congress on “issues related to carbon pricing proposals” and “general issues related to transportation and infrastructure development.” Shell is listed as a donor to the BPC in its 2018 annual report, along with other fossil fuel companies including Exxon Mobil, Chevron, and Koch Industries.
[Related from Sludge: Crowley Poised to Advance Shell Oil’s Interests]
Crowley is also pushing President Trump’s revised North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) as an honorary co-chairman of Pass USMCA, a coalition of trade associations and corporations that advocates for the passage of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement’s (USMCA) in Congress. The coalition’s members include health industry lobbying groups Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) and Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) that, along with Squire Patton Boggs client UnitedHealth Group, oppose Medicare for All.
Markey is considered one of the most progressive members of the Senate, being a co-sponsor of Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All Act and the chief Senate sponsor of the Green New Deal resolution and the Save the Internet Act, a bill to restore net neutrality rules.
Kennedy is a co-sponsor of Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal resolution in the House, but he is also personally invested in the fossil fuel industry. Kennedy owns up to $1.75 million worth of stock in fossil fuel companies, including ExxonMobil and Chevron, according to Sludge’s review of financial disclosure documents. The stocks are held in family trusts over which Kennedy has told reporters he has no control.
Ocasio-Cortez endorsed Markey in the race, saying in a video that he “has a very critical role in making sure that climate change, as well as a bevy of other issues—health care and beyond—are critical core issues in how we fight for working people and working families in the United States.”
Kennedy has been endorsed by Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), a centrist who was co-chair of the conservative Blue Dog PAC while she was a House representative and one of three Democrats to vote against Markey’s Green New Deal resolution in March.
Kennedy’s Oct. 15 fundraiser is organized by Tracy Spicer, a lobbyist at Avenue Solutions who represents many health companies that are members of trade groups opposing Medicare for All. Spicer lobbies for health insurers Blue Cross Blue Shield, UnitedHealth Group, and Scan Health Plan; pharmaceutical companies Merck, Jazz Pharmaceuticals, and Sage Therapeutics; and trade groups the American Medical Association, the Healthcare Leadership Council, and the National Health Policy Group. Spicer also lobbies for NCTA – The Internet and Television Association, a telecom industry trade group, on issues including Markey’s net neutrality bill, which NCTA opposes.
In the first half of 2019, Spicer bundled $32,000 for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), which recently endorsed Markey in the race.
Other hosts listed on the invite include: Stephanie Cutter, a former Obama administration official who is partner at Precision Strategies, a D.C. consultancy that works with liberal politicians and corporations like Pfizer and Charter Communications; David Bowen, a former Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee staffer who is executive vice president at Hill + Knowlton Strategies, a public relations firm that has lobbied for Bristol-Myers Squibb, Enbridge, and Lockheed Martin; and Tom Lopach, a former Senate staffer who worked at lobbying firm Subject Matter (Lopach’s clients included Facebook, Goldman Sachs, and Verizon) until becoming chief of staff to Montana Gov. Steve Bullock in 2017.