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U.S. pro-Ukrainian group hosts Hill delegation

Posted by J. Todd Foster on April 14, 2016

A nonprofit recently sent to Kiev congressional aides who work for House members who advocate that the U.S. arm Ukraine in its war against pro-Russian separatists.

The American Center for a European Ukraine paid for the U.S. delegation, which included Deborah Weigel, legislative director for Rep. Reid Ribble (R-Wis.). The lawmaker joined a bipartisan coalition of representatives last year in demanding that President Obama send to Ukraine lethal aid, including light anti-armor missiles.

Weigel visited Ukraine from March 28 through April 2 and attended several seminars aimed at furthering the center's mission to pull Ukraine fully into Europe and away from Russia, according to Weigel's trip report, filed Tuesday. The American Center for a European Ukraine is headquartered in Washington. Ribble chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee's Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats Subcommittee.

Ukraine's parliament today approved Volodymyr Groysman as prime minister in that country's largest political shakeup since the 2014 uprising that ushered in a pro-Western government. Ukraine has been mired in political deadlock that has delayed foreign loans worth billions of dollars from propping up Ukraine's economy, which has been decimated by its war with Russian-backed separatists.

Other House staffers who made the Ukraine trip were Ryan Canfield, legislative director for Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.); Maria Bowie, deputy chief of staff for Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.); and Carly Frame, legislative assistant to Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.). They had not filed their trip reports as of Thursday. Rogers, Cole and Boyle also have called on the U.S. to send lethal aid to Ukraine.

The seminars the delegation attended included "Defending truth: Information war with Russia" and "The corruption fight." 

"Ukraine has been a special point of focus for Congress since the EuroMaidan Revolution and now the military conflict in Eastern Ukraine," the center wrote in a pre-trip filing. "Both the Foreign Affairs Committee and Appropriations Committee ... are heavily involved in dealing with Ukraine. These individuals were invited to be part of the delegation as their work deals directly with Ukraine and the [Kiev] trip will be an excellent opportunity to be educated firsthand about the situation on the ground and to make valuable contacts."

TEDxMaui founder named Gabbard's Maui field rep

Posted by J. Todd Foster on April 13, 2016

A wedding planner, marketing guru and founder of TEDxMaui, a spinoff of a global nonprofit that brings together inspiring speakers from the worlds of technology, entertainment and design, is now the Maui field representative for Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii).

Kaie McMillan ran TEDxMaui for five years and produced three "successful" conferences that cultivated Maui's intellectual community and spread the perspective of the Hawaiian Islands to the global stage. Two of those conferences gained an Internet audience of potentially millions at

TED is an international set of conferences run by the nonprofit Sapling Foundation under the slogan "Ideas Worth Spreading." Attendees pay thousands of dollars to listen to inspiring talks, which have been viewed more than 1 billion times on the Internet. The speakers have included Bill Clinton, Jane Goodall, Al Gore, Billy Graham, Bill Gates, Bono and Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin.

McMillan bills herself as a "marketing and special events consultant with a knack for creating uplifting experiences through food, art and music." She recently spent two months as a field organizer for presidential contender Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) ahead of the Democratic Primary in Hawaii. Her new boss, Gabbard, resigned in February as vice chair of the Democratic National Committee to endorse Sanders over front-runner Hillary Clinton. 

Ex-congressman lobbies for Puerto Rican bondholders

Posted by J. Todd Foster on April 12, 2016

Former Rep. Connie Mack IV (R-Fla.) and his lobbying firm Mack Strategies is going to bat for the bondholders who stand to lose their investments if Puerto Rico defaults on its massive debt.

The lobbying firm disclosed that it is working "to advance the importance of upholding the Puerto Rico constitution" on behalf of "G.O. Bondholders of Puerto Rico," although it doesn't get more specific about who those bondholders might be. The Puerto Rican constitution makes reference to guaranteeing debt.

Investors who have almost $5 billion of Puerto Rico general-obligation bonds recently disclosed a plan to stave off a July 1 loan default by offering up $750 million in new debt.

Mack, who served in the House from 2005-13, has been chief executive officer of Mack Strategies since 2014.  He is the great-grandson of the late Hall of Famer Connie Mack, the manager and owner of baseball's Philadelphia Athletics during the first half of the 20th century and the longest-serving manager in Major League Baseball history.

Mack Strategies' clients include American Task Force Argentina and Las Vegas Sands Corp. 

New comms director wrote the book on senator

Posted by J. Todd Foster on April 11, 2016

While North Dakota lawmakers aren't typically the subject of literary intrigue, the new communications director for Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) has written a 560-page book on a legendary North Dakota politician.

Andrea Winkjer Collin authored the 2010 biography "Mr. Wheat: A Biography of U.S. Senator Milton R. Young." The late Young was North Dakota's longest-serving senator (1945-81) and earned the nickname "Mr. Wheat" for his advocacy of wheat farmers in the Upper Midwest and for his strong alliance with Southern Democrats on the Agriculture Committee.

Collin and her husband, Richard, a senior policy analyst for Cramer, currently own Smoky Water Press, a book publisher in Bismarck, N.D.

Andrea Collin was a part-time communications assistant for Cramer from July 2015 until earlier this month. She also has been web, publications and communications coordinator for the State Bar Association of North Dakota and deputy and director of communications for the North Dakota Office of the Treasurer. She earned her bachelor's in journalism from the University of North Dakota.

Richard E. Collin also joined Cramer in July 2015 and worked about a year as deputy state director for Rep. Rick Berg (R-N.D.) He has a master's in space studies from the University of North Dakota. He edited his wife's book on the late Sen. Young and, in 1994, he edited and revised the 1973 Ben Innis book "Bloody Knife: Custer's Favorite Scout."


Libyan government quits after hiring lobbying firm

Posted by J. Todd Foster on April 8, 2016

A rival government in Libya has shut down just days after it hired a lobbying firm to sway Capitol Hill.

The Tripoli-based National Salvation government issued a statement this week saying, "We put the interests of the nation above anything else, and stress that the bloodshed stop and the nation be saved from division and fragmentation."

Yet, earlier this week, the National Salvation government agreed to pay Alexandria Group International a monthly retainer of $14,000 over the next year to make Libya a greater priority in Washington and to increase its exposure among lawmakers, the media and think-tank and academic communities. Alexandria Group received nearly $42,000 up front from National Salvation, according to Foreign Agent Registration Act records.

The agreement was between Libyan Foreign Minister Aly Ramadan Abuzaakouk and Alexandria Group's Marshall Harris, a foreign policy adviser to former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole at Alston & Bird as well as a U.S. State Department official in the Executive Secretariat and European Bureau and a special assistant in the Office of Secretary of State James Baker. It's not known how the National Salvation's resignation affects the agreement with Alexandria Group.

The resignation by the National Salvation government was in response to a United Nations-brokered unity government created to stem Libya's chaos and combat an Islamic State affiliate, which has taken over the central city of Sirte.

Militias have dominated Libya since dictator Muammar Gaddafi was ousted and killed in 2011.

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.