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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.

BBG picks up aide to GOP critic of Trump

Posted by Keturah Hetrick on July 14, 2017

The Broadcasting Board of Governors, which may soon come under more control by the White House, recently picked up the legislative director to a Republican congressman who is a noted Trump antagonist.

Gordon Larsen, now the agency's legislative counsel for congressional affairs, had worked as Rep. Chris Stewart's (R-Utah) legislative director since 2013.

Stewart, who last year made headlines for nicknaming Trump "Our Mussolini," is in the spotlight again this week after calling for Donald Trump Jr.'s questioning before the House Intelligence Committee, of which Stewart is a member.

This spring, the congressman held a conference on "America's Role in the World," where John Lansing, the BBG's current CEO and board director took part in a panel discussion on news and democracy.

The BBG oversees the Voice of America and all government-funded foreign broadcasts. 

Thanks to a largely unnoticed provision in last year's National Defense Authorization Act, the president will likely soon appoint a single CEO to replace the independent agency's bipartisan board of governors. Trump is reportedly considered Steve Bannon-ally Michael Pack for the position, according to Politico. Pack leads the Claremont Institute, which has defended Trump and last year published a glowing profile of Vladimir Putin, calling him perhaps the "pre-eminant statesman of his time."

A former House staffer's new job: saying no to money

Posted by Keturah Hetrick on July 12, 2017

Sean McMaster has a new employer who wants him to reject offers of billions of dollars from his old employer. 

The former House of Representatives staffer has taken a new job as the deputy assistant secretary of congressional affairs at the U.S. Department of Transportation, which is slated for billions of dollars in cuts if the Trump administration has its way. That puts McMaster on the front lines in working out budget differences between the House and his new department. 

But the House Appropriations Committee has voted on a funding level $1.5 billlion higher than the administration's request, albeit still a cut in funding of some $646 million from last year.

In addition to four years as deputy chief of staff to former Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), McMaster had spent six years with the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which oversees the DOT.

NRA lobbyist back to Hill as chief of staff

Posted by Keturah Hetrick on July 11, 2017

Less than a month after the shooting at a congressional baseball practice reignited a debate about the role of firearms in society, Rep. Austin Scott (R-Ga.) has brought a gun lobbyist on as chief of staff.

Jason Lawrence had worked as a federal liaison to the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action, the NRA's lobbying arm, since 2015. The NRA gave Scott, a lifetime member of the advocacy group, a 93 percent rating last year for his positions on gun issues.

Before moving to the NRA, Lawrence worked for Austin and a series of other Georgia Republicans: retired Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, Rep. Tom Graves and retired Sen. Saxby Chambliss.

Disgraced billionaire Trump donor lobbies for a good cause

Posted by Keturah Hetrick on July 10, 2017

A disgraced hedge-fund legend with ties to President Trump has enlisted two ex-congressmen to lobby on behalf of his pet project — PTSD research and veterans' mental-health care.

Steve Cohen hired McDermott Will & Emery to help increase federal funding for PTSD research and improve access to mental-health care for veterans, according to a newly released disclosure form. Lobbyists on the case include retired Reps. Jim Moran (D-Va.) and Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), the latter making his federal lobbying debut.

Cohen, whom Forbes ranks as one of the country's wealthiest, has thrown himself into veterans' aid in the time since his now-defunct hedge-fund group, SAC Capital Advisors, pleaded guilty to insider trading chargers in 2013. Cohen himself did not face criminal charges.

Cohen, who donated $1 million to Trump's inauguration, has since run a family-controlled investment company whose general counsel briefly worked as a member of Trump's transition team. The president has repeatedly promised to cut financial regulations. Cohen is expected to make a come-back to the hedge-fund world next year, when his restrictions on money management are lifted.

Endangered Species Act foe takes top Interior post

Posted by Keturah Hetrick on July 6, 2017

A Capitol Hill staffer with a long career of drawing ire from environmentalists has taken a new top job in the Department of the Interior.

Todd Willens, now assistant deputy secretary, comes from the office of Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.), where he has served as chief of staff since 2010. He first joined Congress in 1995, working in various positions, including legislative director, to former Rep. Richard Pombo (R-Calif.), who spent years trying to kill the Endangered Species Act.

Willens then moved to Feld Entertainment, then owner of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, where he lobbied against animal-welfare rules before returning as senior policy director to the House Natural Resources Committee under Pombo.

Willens later served two years as deputy assistant secretary in the Interior Department. His tenure there drew controversy, including questions as to whether he pressured subordinates involved in endangered-species cases. Another deputy assistant secretary, Julie MacDonald, resigned from the agency over an internal investigation into similar accusations.

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.