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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.

Microbiome company hoping veterans will spill guts

Posted by Keturah Hetrick on Sept. 6, 2016

A company is lobbying to analyze our veterans' gut bacteria, according to a recent lobbying filing.

uBiota offers analysis of individuals' gut bacteria, which it receives by mail-in kit. The link between microbiomes and physical and mental health has recently exploded in popularity.

"When we receive your sample our technicians will prepare it for the analysis by extracting the genetic material of organisms in your microbiota," their website explains. "When the analysis is complete, you will be notified by email and can view the make up of your biota on our secure website. We will inform you of any reliably studied and documented risk factors that your particular microbial makeup may put you at risk for."

uBiota is working with lobbying firm J. M. Burkman and Associates through firm founder Jack Burkman and Ralph Palmieri, formerly chief operating officer of Lockheed Martin-owned Sytex, to help the company seek contracts with veterans hospitals.

Delivery-robot maker lobbying for nationwide penetration

Posted by Keturah Hetrick on Sept. 2, 2016

The company behind a new Washington law that will bring self-driving delivery robots to the city this fall is reaching out to the federal government to spread their autonomous delivery bots to the rest of the country. 

Starship Technologies, which has offices in the U.K. and Estonia, is lobbying the federal government on "congressional and administrative outreach and monitoring on issues involving general transportation and autonomous vehicles," according to a disclosure form.

Greenberg Traurig is handling the company’s advocacy work. Lobbyists working on the matter include former Rep. Charlie Bass (R-N.H.), who's been the law firm's senior director since 2014.

In Washington, the existing rule will reportedly limit the robots to speeds of 10 miles per hour and weights of 50 pounds (excluding their cargo) per robot.

Big Kombucha lobbying for tax code reforms

Posted by Keturah Hetrick on Sept. 1, 2016

Kombucha Brewers International, a trade organization for makers of the fermented tea drink beloved by hipsters everywhere, is lobbying the federal government for reforms to the Internal Revenue Code.

Sales of the slightly alcoholic beverage are subject to the same Internal Revenue Code rules as other alcohol sales when the drink's alcohol levels reach 0.5 percent or higher.

The trade group is contracting with law firm McDermott Will and Emery to lobby on its behalf for "legislative changes to the Internal Revenue Code to enhance the marketability of kombucha." 

Lobbyists listed on the disclosure form are David Ransom, who formerly worked as communications director to Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and to the House Administration Committee, and Erica Stocker, previously deputy chief of staff to former Rep. Jim Saxton (R-N.J.).

Sweetener company lobbying after Customs misstep

Posted by Keturah Hetrick on Aug. 31, 2016

After a not-so-sweet run in with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Malaysia-based sweetener company PureCircle is lobbying the federal government on "trade enforcement issues."

In June, Reuters reported that Customs had seized a shipment of the sweetener stevia imported from China. The agency had reportedly received information that forced prison labor had been involved in the sweetener's production, an alleged violation of a new law prohibiting the importation of products made by slave labor.

PureCircle disputed the claims, and Customs reportedly released the impounded shipment later that month.

Bill Simmons, previously an aide to former Rep. Jim Hansen (R-Utah) and the House Natural Resources Committee, is handling the lobbying work through public relations firm Grayling Communications.

Railroad company's Chinese ties spur lobbying effort

Posted by Keturah Hetrick on Aug. 30, 2016

A U.S. railcar manufacturer is lobbying the federal government on "railcar manufacturing" issues only weeks after members of Congress called for an investigation into the company's ties with a large Chinese railcar maker.

Last month, 55 members of Congress submitted a letter to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, requesting an investigation into ties between Vertex Railcar Corp. and the China Railroad Stock Corp., the world's largest railcar manufacturer.

The members claim that the state-owned China Railroad Stock Corp. is subsidizing Vertex, allowing the company "to underbid private competitors for railcar contracts."

"Furthermore... China's cybercrimes constitute a threat to national security," the letter states, "[that] leave us concerned that critical rail infrastructure and the sensitive cargo that it carries will become increasingly vulnerable to hackers as the proliferation of Chinese state investment continues without adequate scrutiny."

To carry out its lobbying work, Vertex has hired the Podesta Group, whose head, Tony Podesta, is the brother of John Podesta, chairman of Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign.

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.