Here’s who lobbies for the biggest baby formula providers- POLITICO

With Daniel Lippman

WHO’S LOBBYING FOR BABY FORMULA PROVIDERS: As Washington kicks into high gear to try and address a nationwide shortage of baby formula, disclosure filings showing that the four companies who dominate the market for formula — a dynamic that has prompted concerns from a number of lawmakers — they spend relatively little on lobbying federal lawmakers compared to deep-pocketed industries like tech, financial services and the tangentially related health care and drug industries.

Abbott Nutrition produces Similac, one of the top formula brands on the market. But an already-strained supply chain worsened when FDA this winter shuts down one of the company’s largest production facilities and recalled Similac and products from two other brands of formula, after agency inspectors an investigation of the facility in response to complaints that four infants who had consumed formula made there had been hospitalized with a rare bacterial illness.

— Abbott Nutrition is just one division of Abbott Labs, whose other products include the rapid Covid-19 tests that have become ubiquitous during the pandemic, as well as other diagnostics, medical devices and adult nutrition brands like Ensure. The company spent more than $4.3 million on lobbying in 2021, and close to $1 million during the first three months of 2022, though lobbying disclosures make it difficult to determine how much of those expenditures went toward lobbying on issues affecting baby formula specifically.

— Abbott has a large stable of outside lobbying firms on retainer, but out of its dozen hired firms, only food and ag lobbying firm The Russell Group has reported lobbying on issues related to “infant formula” this year, according to a PI analysis of disclosures. Abbott reported paying The Russell Group $200,000 last year, and $60,000 in the first quarter of 2022 and its team of lobbyists there includes a former USDA chief of staff, an aide to former House Speaker John Boehner and a longtime Senate FDA appropriations staffer.

— Another leading formula manufacturer is Mead Johnson, the company behind Enfamil. Mead Johnson also spends relatively little on federal lobbying — $200,000 in 2021 and $60,000 in the first quarter of 2022. Its representatives in Washington include former Sen. Blanche Lincoln and her firm Lincoln Policy Groupwhich the company retained last year — its first federal lobbyists since 2017 — to work on trade issues for the company.

— At Nestlethe parent company of Gerber, only one in-house lobbyist, former Senate Agriculture aid Hanna Abou-El-Seoud, is listed as lobbying on issues like nutrition, food safety and baby food safety in particular. Nestle reported spending close to $900,000 on lobbying in 2021, though it’s not possible to break out lobbying spending on baby food issues specifically from that amount. One of the last major formula providers, Perrigodoes not currently retain lobbyists in Washington, disclosures show, and last lobbied on infant formula regulations in 2014.

— Those four companies were the focus of a letter Thursday from Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) to the FTC to ask for a “wide-ranging study” of market dynamics and competition in the industry, POLITICO reported. And earlier today, the head of the House Oversight Committee and its Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy sent letters to Abbott, Mead Johnson, Nestle and Perrigo demanding to know how the companies are addressing the shortage, including how the manufacturers are working to address price gouging.

— Senators also sent a letter Thursday to the head of the industry group the Infant Nutrition Council of Americawhich retains the association management company Kellen Company but consistently lobby reports spending less than $5,000 oning each quarter.

Happy Friday the 13th and welcome to PI. Send tips: [email protected]. And be sure to follow me on Twitter: @Catlinoprysko.

EMILY’S LIST TARGETS CUELLAR: “The super PAC arm of EMILY’s ListDemocrats’ flagship pro-abortion rights group, is going on the air in Texas targeting Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar ahead of his primary runoff this month,” POLITICO‘s Ally Mutnick reports.

— “Women Vote! booked $526,000 in TV ads Friday to support Jessica Cisnerosan immigration attorney challenging the longtime incumbent, according to AdImpact, a firm that tracks media buys. Cuella the only House Democrat who opposes abortion rights, inched into first place in the March primary by less than 1,000 votes, but he did not clear the 50 percent threshold needed to avoid the one-on-one May 24 runoff against Cisneros. And the release this month of a draft decision that revealed the Supreme Court had decided to overturn Roe upended the race again, placing an uncomfortable spotlight on Cuellar.”

— “But he had air support from AIPAC’s super PAC and Mainstream Democrats, a group funded by donors including LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman. Together those groups and Cuellar had been largely outspending Cisneros each week — until this week, when the challenger placed a huge ad buy. Notably, the first ad from Mainstream Democrats muddied the waters on abortion policy in the race, saying that Cuellar ‘has made it clear that he opposes a ban on abortion.’”

— “That comes from Cuellar’s statement after POLITICO reported the draft Supreme Court opinion that would overturn Roe, in which he said he does not support abortion but ‘we cannot have an outright ban. There must be exceptions in the case of rape, incest and danger to the life of the mother.”

— “EMILY’s List trashed the Mainstream Democrats ad in a statement earlier Friday. ‘No matter what this ad says, Henry Cuellar’s record on abortion rights is clear: he will advance his anti-choice views at the expense of our health, futures, and bodily autonomy,’ EMILY’s List president Laphonza Butler said.”

CRYPTO LOBBYISTS FRET MARKETS’ LATEST ‘BLACK EYE’: “As crypto executives and retail investors pick through the wreckage” of a collapse in the crypto market that’s erased hundreds of billions of dollars from investor portfolios in less than a week, “industry leaders fear that the latest blow-up will provide ample fodder for powerful skeptics like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Gary Gensler to crack down on an industry that has presented itself as the future of financial services,” POLITICO‘s Sam Sutton reports.

— “’Crypto haters, anti-crypto regulatory enthusiasts will use this as a marching signal,’ said Anthony Scaramuccia pro-crypto financier best known for his 10 days as former President Donald Trump‘s communications director in 2017. ‘Gary Gensler and Elizabeth Warren are going to use it as totems to block, curtail, slow down the industry — no question that they’re going to do that.’”

— “Crypto lobbyists, executives and prominent investors are warning that this week’s turmoil — which coincided with steep losses in traditional financial markets — will serve as a wake-up call to Congress about the dangers of a largely unregulated digital asset ecosystem. As small investors are wiped out, it could also force a harsh examination of venture capitalists and other financiers behind crypto projects that are now failing.”

— The collapse of the algorithmic stablecoin TerraUSD has also prompted “concern among other stablecoin companies that Washington policymakers might not see the difference between their products and those that led to Terra’s collapse, said Dante Dispartechief strategy officer and head of global policy for the stablecoin startup Circle. ‘I don’t think it’s emblematic of the total market, any more than it is emblematic of all stablecoins,’ he said. … ‘This was always exactly the risk scenario for them,’ Sam Bankman-Friedthe billionaire founder of the global crypto exchange FTXsaid in an interview.”

FLYING IN: The American Land Title Association, which represents the land title industry, is set to begin its annual fly-in starting Monday. More than 150 members of the trade group are set to meet virtually with lawmakers. The summit will include a reception on Tuesday with nearly four dozen members of Congress including Sens. Jack Read (DR.I.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Kevin Cramer (RN.D.), John Hoeven (RN.D.), John Boozman (R-Ark.) and Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.).

— Meanwhile advocates with the American College of Rheumatology completed their fly-in on Thursday, where they asked lawmakers to pass several bills to lower drug costs and address health care worker shortages. One of the bills, the Help Ensure Lower Patient (HELP) Copays Act, would bar insurers from using “copay accumulators” to prevent manufacturer cost-sharing assistance from counting towards a patient’s deductible or out-of-pocket maximum, while another would expand the number of Medicare-funded medical residency slots, including for specialties like rheumatology. The group met with House Ways and Means Vice Chair Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.) and Boozman, a co-sponsor of the physician shortage bill, among others.

SPOTTED at a party last night to open Applied Intuition‘s new DC office, per a PI tipster: Ukrainian Defense attache Borys KremenetskyiEstonian Defense attache Vahur ValjamaePolish Defense attache Krzysztof Nolbert; the Pentagon’s Krishnan Aiyer, Ian Cron and Jaret Riddick; Preston Dunlapformer chief architect for the Air Force; Microsoft‘s Katya Volkovskathe House Armed Services Committee’s Jeff Bozman, TechCongress’ Travis Moore and Rebellion Defense‘s Marianne Bellotti.

Keaghan Ames is joining the Commodity Futures Trading Commission as counselor and senior policy adviser to Commissioner Caroline Pham. He is currently the director of government affairs at the Institute of International Bankers.

Na Eng has joined People for the American Way as chief communications officer. She was previously communications director at the McKnight Foundation.

— The Troops First Foundation has named Frank Larkin as its chief operating officer. Larkin will also serve as the chair of its Warrior Call initiative, which focuses on curtailing suicides among active-duty service members and veterans. He’s a Senate, Secret Service and SAP National Security Services alum.

None.

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