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Caught Our Eye items are posted daily. LegiStorm Pro subscribers have access to all posts a few hours before other users, and are also able to search the full Caught Our Eye archive. Log in as a LegiStorm Pro user or learn more about subscribing.

Interest groups continue to spend big on congressional travel

Posted by Keturah Hetrick on Jan. 16, 2018

Congressional members and staff sure wanted to escape Washington last year — and private travel sponsors spent the most money since 2005 helping them do just that.

Interest groups spent more than $6.30 million on congressional travel in 2017, up from $4.46 million and $6.20 million spent in 2016 and 2015, respectively.

Travel among Republican members and their aides cost more overall ($3.37 million vs. $2.90 million spent on Democrats), with private groups spending $939,000 on domestic trips for Republicans compared to only $534,000 for their Democratic counterparts. International travel saw smaller partisan spending differences, with $2.43 million spent on Republican travel and $2.37 million spent on Democrats.

While domestic trips made up three-quarters of congressional travel, the U.S. was far from the most expensive travel destination: 147 trips to Israel cost $2.16 million, dwarfing the $1.49 million spent on all domestic travel combined.

That's thanks almost entirely to the American Israel Education Foundation, a sister organization to the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee lobbying group. AIEF spent nearly $1.92 million on congressional travel last year, more than any other single sponsor.

AIEF and other interest groups spend big on international travel in the hopes of making and influencing congressional allies, who get immersed for days in issues from the organization's point of view.

Electrifying new job for ex-aide to Rep. King

Posted by Keturah Hetrick on Jan. 12, 2018

After six months off the Hill, Rep. Pete King's (R-N.Y.) former legislative director is on the grid.

Jamie Matese is now a federal government relations specialist at National Grid USA, the stateside arm of the U.K-based National Grid Gas utility company. She had worked for King since 2010.

National Grid spent an estimated $2.45 million, mainly through its in-house team, to lobby the federal government on a wide range of issues, including energy-efficiency laws, tax reform and cybersecurity.

Rep. Young farms pork-policy expert

Posted by Keturah Hetrick on Jan. 11, 2018

Rep. David Young's (R-Iowa) new legislative assistant has spent her whole career bringing home the bacon.

Stephanie Carlson previously worked for the Iowa Pork Producers Association, most recently as federal policy director. She has also worked as a pork field manager at Cargill, the behemoth agriculture conglomerate. She has not registered as a federal lobbyist for either company.

Carlson, who started with Young's office this month, handles his agriculture, energy and environment portfolios, among other issues.

Rep. Rooney press secretary toasts to state-policy job

Posted by Keturah Hetrick on Jan. 10, 2018

Rep. Tom Rooney's (R-Fla.) press secretary is trading in D.C. for Malibu.

Max Moody is now director of state policy at Pernod Ricard. The beverage producer ― one of the world's largest - is the name behind brands like Absolut Vodka, Jameson Irish Whiskey and Malibu Rum.

Pernod Picard is on track to report about $1.1 million in federal lobbying. But it's at the state level where beverage-industry players exert the most clout, with distributors and wholesalers engaged in long-standing political turf wars in virtually every state.

Turkish bank hired PR team for U.S. legal case

Posted by Keturah Hetrick on Jan. 9, 2018

A state-owned Turkish bank has hired a U.S. public-relations team to help with its legal issues. The bank was implicated in a corruption trial that culiminated last week in the conviction of one of its former top executives.

Halkbank has paid McGinn and Co. an undisclosed amount of money for "communications advice" since December, according to a lobbying disclosure filed yesterday. The registration is McGinn and Co.'s first federal lobbying disclosure.

On Wednesday, a former Halkbank executive was found guilty in a New York court of helping Iran evade U.S. sanctions. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogen has labeled the trial an "international coup attempt."

About Caught Our Eye

We spend a large part of our days looking at data. Documents often come in by the dozens and hundreds. And while most are boring - how interesting can staring at a phone directory or salary records be, for example? - we find daily reasons for interest, amusement or even concern packed in the documents. So we are launching a new running feature that we call "Caught our Eye."

Longer than tweets but shorter than most blog posts, Caught our Eye items will bring back the interest in reviewing documents and researching people. Some items might bring hard, breaking news. Others will raise eyebrows and lead some into further inquiry. Others might be good for a joke or two around the water cooler. All will enlighten about the people or workings of Capitol Hill.

Caught our Eye items will be published each morning for LegiStorm Pro subscribers. Non-Pro site users will be able to receive the news items a few hours later. In addition to having immediate access to the news, LegiStorm Pro users will have a handy way to search and browse all past items.