With Daniel Lippman, David Beavers and Garrett Ross
FIRST IN PI — SPHERE CONSULTING SUED OVER UNPAID BILLS: A billing dispute between the law firm Lewis Baach Kaufmann Middlemiss and Sphere Consulting, a public affairs firm, has spilled into court, POLITICO’s Daniel Lippman reports. Lewis Baach, in a civil complaint filed in late March in the District’s Superior Court, alleges that Sphere — founded by Jim Courtovich — owes the firm roughly $573,000 in unpaid legal bills. The complaint by the law firm says Sphere has paid the firm twice, once in 2015 for about $15,000 and again in 2016 for nearly $76,000. Sphere says the two firms never came to a final agreement on financial terms for their work.
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— Sphere has worked with Lewis Baach on joint projects for more than a decade, according to the consulting firm. The firms fired counter-proposals back and forth last week but haven’t reached a final agreement. “Sphere Consulting has been a major source of business referrals to Lewis Baach and is absolutely stunned with the value they placed on their services. We appreciate their response to the concerns we have raised and their offer to reduce their fees by $300,000, to what we have always believed to be reflective of their services,” Mahmood Abu-Rubieh, a Sphere spokesman, said in a statement. “We had always agreed to come to a final assessment of fees when the need for their services was completed, which was clearly in 2017. Sphere has also agreed to waive hundreds of thousands of dollars of unpaid services provided to Lewis Baach at their request.”
— Lewis Baach declined to elaborate on the version of events laid out in the suit. “The facts are as stated in the complaint,” said Jeffrey Robinson, a senior counsel at the firm. “The statements by Sphere regarding other agreements or waiver of any fees due are simply not accurate. The firm has never previously sued a client and sought for months to negotiate a resolution of this dispute without success. We will not negotiate or litigate in the media.”
GINGRICH LEAVES DENTONS: Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich will leave his role as a senior adviser to Dentons, the mammoth law firm, at the end of the month. “They had a great three-year run together and it just ran its course,” Anne Woodbury, a spokeswoman for Gingrich’s company, Gingrich Productions, wrote in an email to PI. Gingrich called his time at the firm “fascinating” in a statement released by Gingrich Productions and said he looked “forward to serving as a resource to others as the global legal marketplace grows and matures.” Dentons, meanwhile, still has another former presidential candidate on staff: former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, who’s a senior adviser to the firm.
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FINANCIAL SERVICES FORUM HIRES FED ECONOMIST: “The Financial Services Forum, a group representing CEOs from eight of the nation’s largest banks, has hired a veteran economist away from the Federal Reserve as it tries to bulk up its Washington lobbying efforts,” POLITICO’s Zachary Warmbrodt and Victoria Guida report. “The group announced Monday that Sean Campbell will be its new director of policy research after a 14-year career at the Fed, where he helped craft regulations that had a major impact on the banking industry. … Campbell’s recruitment rounds out a string of high-profile hires by the Forum since its members began overhauling the organization last year, when they tapped former Treasury Department official and HSBC Executive Vice President Kevin Fromer to be its new CEO.” Full story.
MONUMENT POLICY GROUP’S TAKE ON ZUCKERBERG TRIP TO WASHINGTON: Monument Policy Group is out with a client memo on Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s visit to Washington last week. The main takeaways are that we could see more legislation introduced but that Congress is not likely to pass anything this year; there could be some regulatory action from the Federal Trade Commission; Congress is likely to hold more hearings with other tech CEOs; members and their staffs are likely to read up more on how tech platforms work; and there’s likely to be more discussion on artificial intelligence soon. In addition, the memo predicted that the technology industry is likely “to redouble efforts to distinguish themselves” and said that “the Mueller investigation remains a huge wild card in how past events and future tech trends are viewed, and could exacerbate partisan views on the technology industry.” Read the memo here.
EDELMAN HIRES FORMER CHIEF AGRICULTURAL NEGOTIATOR FOR USTR: Darci Vetter, who was the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative’s chief agricultural negotiator and deputy undersecretary of Agriculture during the Obama administration, is now general manager for public affairs in Edelman’s Washington office. She is also vice chairwoman for Edelman’s agriculture, food and trade division. She was previously a strategic consultant on international trade and agriculture issues.
CONSUMER TECHNOLOGY ASSOCIATION GETS WHITE HOUSE MEETING: “White House officials will get a briefing today from the Consumer Technology Association on a new task force the group and member companies including Amazon have formed to improve tech skills training for American workers,” POLITICO’s Li Zhou reports. “CTA will meet this afternoon with White House Deputy CTO Michael Kratsios; Trump tech and telecom aide Abigail Slater; and Trump technology adviser Matt Lira, a spokesperson for the group told POLITICO. The group will meet with members of Congress on Tuesday, the spokesperson said. Members of the task force, dubbed the 21st Century Workforce Council, include Amazon — a frequent target of President Donald Trump‘s ire — and companies like Hewlett Packard and Sprint, the spokesperson said.” Full story.
WHO’S GIVING TO RICK SCOTT’S SUPER PAC: New Republican, a super PAC that’s expected to back Florida Gov. Rick Scott in his Senate campaign, “got its biggest cash boost last quarter from the financial services industry,” POLITICO’s Matt Dixon reports. “It received a $300,000 contribution from Greg Lindberg, founder of Eli Global, a North Carolina-based investment firm that partners with entrepreneurs, and another $150,000 from Thomas McInerney, CEO of Bluff Point Associates, a Connecticut-based private equity firm.” Full story.
— Kristin Westmoreland has joined JPMorgan Chase as executive director for public affairs. She was previously vice president and chief of staff for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Center for Capital Markets Competitiveness.
— AdvaMed has added Wendy Siminski as senior vice president for conferences and events. She’s a former vice president for the Biotechnology Innovation Organization.
SPOTTED: Lunching at Charlie Palmer today, according to a PI tipster: Mark Halperin and Kellyanne Conway.
NEW JOINT FUNDRAISERS:
American Growth and Opportunity Committee Inc. (PAC)
Blue Wave PAC (Super PAC)
Help Elect Conservatives (Super PAC)
Me Too Defenders (PAC)
PRC PAC (PAC)
Preserve Protect and Defend PAC (Super PAC)
Suburban Virginia Republican Coalition (SUV GOP) (PAC)
Texans Removing Outdated and Unresponsive Politicians (Super PAC)
NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS:
APCO Worldwide LLC: StrategEast
Capitol Counsel LLC: Baystate Health
CGCN Group LLC (formerly known as Clark Geduldig Cranford & Nielsen LLC): Huntsman Corporation
CGCN Group LLC (formerly known as Clark Geduldig Cranford & Nielsen LLC): Tex-Isle Supply Inc.
NEW LOBBYING TERMINATIONS:
Andreae & Associates: Lapis Middle East and Africa
Compass Consulting Group LLC: Voices for Ohio’s Children
Cornerstone Consulting Partners: Boon LLC
Holland & Knight LLP: City of Edinburg, Texas
Holland & Knight LLP: Sam Rayburn G&T Cooperative Inc.
Holland & Knight LLP: Tex-LA Electric Cooperative of Texas Inc.
Merit Medical Systems Inc.: Merit Medical Systems Inc.
Perkins Coie LLP: Ligado Networks
Plurus Strategies LLC: ML Strategies LLC (on behalf of Charter Communications Operating LLC)
Robin Tallon & Associates: R J Reynolds
The Majority Group LLC: Bockorny Group (on behalf of Swift Fuels LLC)
The Petrizzo Group Inc.: Frontier Communications Corporation