Two weeks after spending more than half a million dollars lobbying the federal government on issues including the coronavirus, the medical-device industry celebrated the appointment of several members to Pres. Trump’s task force on restarting the economy, disclosure forms show.
AdvaMed, the medical-device industry trade group, reported spending at least $630,000 in the first three months of 2020 lobbying Congress, the White House, federal agencies, and Vice President Mike Pence, who heads the federal coronavirus task force, on issues including the coronaviris, according to the federal lobbying database.
AdvaMed did not respond to emailed questions, but presumably most of its coronavirus spending occurred in March, as federal and legislative responses began to take shape. The lobbying was performed by several different K Street firms.
One disclosure form shows that the trade group’s lobbying was carried out by political veterans from both sides of the aisle now working at Brownstein, Hyatt, Farber, and Schreck (BHFS). The form says AdvaMed paid BHFS $520,000 in the first quarter of 2020 to lobby on issues including the coronavirus stimulus bill known as the CARES Act.
On April 15, AdvaMed applauded the inclusion of seven med tech executives on Pres. Trump’s task force for reopening the economy. The following day, AdvaMed CEO Scott Whitaker thanked Trump for his plan to resume elective surgeries.
It’s not clear whether AdvaMed’s lobbying included those or other issues, such as Trump’s decision to rely only sparingly on the Defense Production Act (DPA), which authorizes him to order companies such as AdvaMed’s members to produce needed equipment, such as ventilators or masks.
AdvaMed opposes such use of the DPA. Whitaker previously told reporters that utilizing the DPA could “signal…to other countries that they should limit their own production.”
BHFS lobbyists advocating on Advamed’s behalf included political veterans who have worked for both Republicans and Democrats, in office and as candidates, including Hillary Clinton, George W. Bush, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Sen. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), and former speakers John Boehner (R-OH) and Paul Ryan (R-WI).
Kyle Simmons, former chief of staff to Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), also lobbied on coronavirus issues for AdvaMed. Simmons and his partner, former Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AK) Chief of Staff Bob Russell, billed AdvaMed for $30,000, according to their filing.
And politically connected lobbyists at Williams and Jensen disclosed lobbying the White House directly for AdvaMed on coronavirus issues. The firm disclosed receiving $30,000 from AdvaMed for the first quarter. Its AdvaMed lobbyists also included Capitol Hill veterans. Its CEO was chief of staff to then-House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-TX).
Ladd Wiley, a former lawyer for the Bush Health and Human Services Department, did $50,000 worth of lobbying for AdvaMed on the coronavirus and other issues. The filing for his firm, OFW, says Wiley lobbied HHS, the White House, the Office of Management and Budget, and other agencies.
One of AdvaMed’s members, 3M, got into a bitter and public dispute over the DPA before Trump ultimately decided earlier this month to use it narrowly, ordering 3M to produce millions of face masks. 3M CEO Mike Roman had called it “absurd” to suggest his company was not doing everything possible to produce respirator masks.
Roman was one of the AdvaMed members named the following week to the economic revival task force.
Federal disclosure rules do not require lobbyists to break down how much was spent on specific issues, or even to indicate what positions they took on the issues. Advamed’s lobbying spending overall does not appear to have risen in the first few months of the coronavirus.
In fact, AdvaMed reported spending more in the last quarter of 2019 than it did in the most recent quarter.
That may change, however, according to one lobbyist working for AdvaMed on the coronavirus. Marc Lampkin, a Boehner and Bush veteran who now heads government relations for BHFS, told Roll Call the industry is worried that the coronavirus will hit their clients, and therefore the bottom line, but that struggling companies will need federal aid--and the lobbyists who secure it.
Lampkin said, "Our forecast is that at least through this next quarter you will see a continued and steady pace of clients coming to Washington, trying to understand and shape the government’s response to COVID-19."